PHANTOM ORCHESTRA'S TOUR
Conductor Says Orchestra Is a Phantom
By DANIEL J. WAKIN
Published: April 24, 2011
The Web site photograph depicted an elegant array of orchestra musicians in a glowing hall. A video clip showed an earnest young conductor leading players in a Tchaikovsky symphony. Below the picture, an official biography described the “Tschaikowski” St. Petersburg State Orchestra as “an ensemble with unlimited musical possibilities.”
But according to one of Russia’s best-known conductors, Yuri Temirkanov, there is a problem: The images depicted were of orchestras unrelated to the Tchaikovsky. The photograph was of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, and the video showed the St. Petersburg State Academic Symphony Orchestra. Both were playing in the city’s Philharmonic Hall, where the Tchaikovsky orchestra does not perform.
The materials appeared on the site of Columbia Artists Management in advance of a major American tour planned for next year.
“This Tchaikovsky orchestra doesn’t exist,” said Mr. Temirkanov, the music director of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, a storied orchestra that recently finished its own American tour. “Nobody knows who plays there. Maybe they got some sort of band. Maybe students. But they put the word ‘state.’ But there is no such orchestra, neither private or state.”
Roman Leontiev, identified as the Tchaikovsky orchestra’s music director, begged to differ. In a telephone interview last week he insisted on the orchestra’s existence. Mr. Leontiev called Mr. Temirkanov a “celestial creature” who perhaps preferred not to recognize any orchestras other than his own. The orchestra has no Web presence of its own, Mr. Leontiev said, because a site is still under construction.
He referred further questions to the orchestra’s manager, Yelena Kostychenko. Ms. Kostychenko said the orchestra was founded seven years ago, although the orchestra’s biography on the Columbia Artists site says it was founded “in the years following World War II,” adding that it has undergone a name change. Ms. Kostychenko said it played about 15 concerts this season, in smaller halls and other spaces, and has 9 planned for next season.
The photograph was on the site, stripped across the top of the page devoted to the orchestra, as recently as Tuesday, but it had disappeared by Wednesday after calls were made to Andrew S. Grossman, who was listed as its Columbia Artists manager. The video remains. Ms. Kostychenko said she had no information about the photograph and referred questions to Columbia Artists. She confirmed that the video was of Mr. Leontiev conducting the Academic Symphony.
Whatever the case, the dispute makes one thing clear: St. Petersburg has a lively (and mutable) musical scene. It includes the famed Mariinsky Theater and its orchestra, led by Valery Gergiev. Other orchestras have St. Petersburg in the title. The Naxos label has recordings with the St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra, saying it was founded in 1969 as the Russian State Concert Orchestra. A St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra “Klassika” also exists.
Mr. Temirkanov contacted The New York Times to point out the images on the Columbia Artists Web site, which he called deceptions. He said protests to the Columbia Artists executive who is listed as the orchestra’s manager for the United States, Mr. Grossman, were ignored. Mr. Grossman, who produces long concert tours in the United States by lesser-known orchestras, did not respond to an e-mail or to several messages left at his office.
Last year Mr. Grossman arranged a nine-week, 53-concert tour by the Moscow State Radio Symphony Orchestra. Musicians on that tour complained of low pay, no per diems, long bus rides and few days off, and said that most of the players were freelancers, a claim the Moscow orchestra’s manager denied.
“I’m angry because I’m a musician,” Mr. Temirkanov said. “What they do a) is immoral, and b) is legally wrong.”
The official who oversees tours by the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Galina Logutenko, said she wrote to Mr. Grossman on March 17 to protest the use of the photo and video clip but did not receive a response. She said she feared the confusion would hurt the Philharmonic’s reputation.
“Our orchestra is one of Russia’s great orchestras and has a great history,” said Ms. Logutenko, who is deputy director for foreign affairs for the St. Petersburg Philharmonia, the umbrella organization for the Philharmonic and the Academic Symphony. She said she checked with culture officials in St. Petersburg, and they did not know of a “Tschaikowski” St. Petersburg State Orchestra.
The Columbia Artists Web site biography of the orchestra says its repertory is “extremely diverse” and lists “distinguished soloists and conductors” who have worked with the ensemble, including Montserrat Caballé, Sviatoslav Richter and Elena Obraztsova. The orchestra is said to have commissioned many works, to tour regularly and to play a subscription series.
For next year it is listed as appearing at places like George Mason University’s Center for the Arts in Fairfax, Va. (Feb. 4); the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas, Va. (Feb. 8); the State Theater in New Brunswick, N.J. (Feb. 12); and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kan. (March 4).
Nikolay Khalip contributed reporting from Moscow
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Russian Orchestra booked for US tour ‘does not exist’
April 25, 2011
A dispute has erupted over the identity of the “Tschaikowski” St. Petersburg State Orchestra, which is scheduled to tour the States next year. According to Russian conductor Yuri Temirkanov, the orchestra does not exist, and the images of it that have appeared on the Columbia Artists Management website are of other ensembles.
“This Tchaikovsky orchestra doesn’t exist,” said Mr. Temirkanov “Nobody knows who plays there. Maybe they got some sort of band. Maybe students. But they put the word ‘state.’ But there is no such orchestra, neither private or state.”
The website originally showed a photograph of an orchestra, which has since been identified as the St Petersburg Philharmonic, of which Temirkanov is Musical Director, and a video, which turned out to be of the St. Petersburg State Academic Symphony Orchestra. The photograph has since been taken down, but the video remains.
But according to Roman Leontiev, who describes himself as the orchestra’s Music Director, the orchestra does indeed exist, and the only reason for its lack of web presence is that their website is currently under construction.
The New York Times began investigating the story after being contacted by Temirkanov, who was protesting the use of the photograph of his orchestra in the publicity. The Times then contacted Yelena Kostychenko, whom Leontiev had named as the orchestra’s manager. She said that the orchestra had existed for seven years, considerably shorter than is suggested on the Columbia Artists Management website, which states it “was founded in the years following World War II.”
The seven year age of the orchestra also calls into question another of the claims on the CAM website: that they worked with Sviatoslav Richter, a pianist who died in 1997.
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