A change has been announced for the Toronto Symphony concerts this week on April 8 & 9, a concert I was eagerly anticipating, wanting to hear Valentina Lisitsa in person (as I wrote yesterday).
But today the announcement was made that it will be Stewart Goodyear instead of Lisitsa, a performance that I’m just as eager to hear, even if these are hardly ideal circumstances for Goodyear.
There are critics lined up on each side of the question, perhaps rushing to judgment before all the facts are known. Norman Lebrecht questions the TSO’s actions.
On one side you can read something supporting Lisitsa. The language of this post is as hyperbolic as a Soviet era diatribe.
It is no secret that nowadays many alternative media activists face appalling state-sponsored censorship in many nominally free and democratic Western countries. Now it seems that such censorship has penetrated much deeper than we have come to expect. Art itself, the truest form of free expression, is being silenced.
On the other side you can read an analysis that’s much more even-handed, simply quoting the pianist and some of her remarkable comments.
On August 28, 2014 Ms. Lisitsa Tweeted despicable racist commentary with photos of African villagers juxtaposed with Ukrainian schoolteachers. Her snide remarks scoffed at African stereotypes because they wear “tribal dress” as being inferior and unworthy of “Europe”.
I recall the old adage that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. This concert was already news, but the TSO have taken the extraordinary step of paying Lisitsa her fee even as they cancel her appearance. That she’s being replaced by someone who is a favourite son in Toronto mitigates the cancellation. I’m an even bigger fan of Goodyear, even if I am disappointed that we didn’t get to hear Lisitsa.
While I don’t know who to believe, it’s nothing new to have artists –especially the great ones–who are fools, monsters, jerks. Wagner was a notorious anti-Semite. I wrote about Lisitsa in context with Justin Bieber, never suspecting that maybe she too will need a celebrity roast to persuade us to feel sorry for her, and maybe to forgive her.
And overshadowed in the circus, does anyone remember that Jukka-Pekka Saraste is coming back to Toronto? I’m looking forward to hearing him conduct the Mahler 5 with the TSO.