TSO controversy: it’s not about the music anymore

The similarities between Valentina Lisitsa and Justin Bieber were noted years ago.

  • They’re self-made stars
  • They get millions of hits on youtube
  • Their overconfidence has led them into trouble

Perhaps Lisitsa needs to have a celebrity roast, as she seeks forgiveness and redemption in the public eye. Right now? She appears unrepentant, unaware that her tweets are in any way problematic.

No, I haven’t seen the tweets in question (except for a couple), but on CBC’s afternoon drive-home show Here and Now, the Toronto Symphony’s Jeff Melanson gave an interview in which he claimed that the Lisitsa dossier contains over 200 offensive tweets, quoting a couple on air.

I miss the good old days, when it was clear who was right and wrong. When Baryshnikov defected here in Toronto, we knew that the USSR were the villains, the artists the heroes of the story. It’s not so clear now, however. However offensive the remarks may be –and I’m not arguing with Melanson—I wanted to hear her play the piano, not speak.   While we’re talking about Bieber (let alone popular culture), nobody usually  cares when an artist sometimes transgresses. Indeed, that’s a great way to generate publicity & buzz. We’re always hearing about actors and rappers getting in trouble with the law or worse. On this occasion I congratulate Melanson for a canny choice, that will increase the attention –and ticket sales—for this concert even as he manages to take the high road. At the same time I’m frustrated, because I was looking forward to hearing Lisitsa. I love Wagner’s music too, speaking of people with views that offend some people.

Protest outside the Metropolitan Opera / Adam Kredo (click image for article “Pro-Israel Protesters Disrupt Anti-Semitic Met Opera”)

A friend of mine observed that the precedent for this cancellation may be the decision by Peter Gelb of the Metropolitan Opera to omit John Adams’ Death of Klinghoffer from the high definition broadcast schedule. Gelb couldn’t ignore pressure from groups calling the opera anti-Semitic.

Lost in all of this is the music.  It’s not about  Mahler or Rachmaninoff anymore.

Stewart Goodyear and Valentina Lisitsa are both wonderful artists, indeed I mentioned them both in a piece awhile ago, assessing the best pianistic talents in history. I regret that Goodyear’s performance is in some ways overshadowed by the sensational story. Similarly, Jukka-Pekka Saraste’s return to his old orchestra to conduct Mahler’s titanic Fifth Symphony is almost an after-thought: a work that dwarfs the piano concerto at the centre of the story.

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One Response to TSO controversy: it’s not about the music anymore

  1. There are corrupt right wing racist governments one is allowed to criticize and corrupt right wing governments that are sacrosanct. Lisitsa picked the wrong one to criticize. This is called “freedom of speech”.

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