Edinburgh International Festival severs links with Russian conductor

The Edinburgh International Festival has severed its long-standing links with a Russian conductor who is said to be a close friend of Vladimir Putin.

Monday, 28th February 2022, 7:42 pm
Updated Monday, 28th February 2022, 8:35 pm
Russian conductor Valery Gergiev has been ditched by the Edinburgh International Festival as its honorary president. Picture: Ryan Buchanan/Edinburgh International Festival
Russian conductor Valery Gergiev has been ditched by the Edinburgh International Festival as its honorary president. Picture: Ryan Buchanan/Edinburgh International Festival

Valery Gergiev, who was appointed honorary president of the festival in 2011, was asked to resign the role following the invasion of Ukraine.

The 68-year-old, who is seen as Russia’s star conductor, had already been dropped by his management company and replaced as the conductor of an American tour by the Vienna Phiharmonic Orchestra.

Organisers of the festival, which is preparing for its 75th anniversary season, said the action was taken in sympathy with, and support of, the people of Ukranian capital Kyiv, a twin city of Edinburgh since 1989.

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    Gergiev has made regular appearances at the festival over more than 30 years, most recently last year, alongside the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, when the EIF returned in scaled-back form after its Covid-enforced cancellation in 2020.

    However a statement from the festival said: “Our board of trustees has asked for, and accepted the resignation of, Valery Gergiev as honorary president of the festival.

    “Edinburgh is twinned with the city of Kyiv and this action is being taken in sympathy with, and support of, its citizens.”

    When Gergiev was appointed to the EIF role in 2011, he said: “I can easily celebrate my 20 years with the Edinburgh International Festival, it is a wonderful place to visit.

    “We artists come here with a tremendous sense of responsibility and excitement. I very much hope that the festival continues to thrive and flourish and I am very privileged to be part of its future.”

    The Scotsman music critic Ken Walton said: “This was inevitable. The ramifications of Gergiev’s close links with Putin, the pressure on orchestras around the world to disassociate themselves with him, and the decision by his Munich-based agent to cease representing him, leave the Edinburgh International Festival with no other choice than to cease its own long-standing association with him.”