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Pact with the Dictator

In the summer of 2009, Valery Gergiev organized an exhibition in St. Petersburg called “Wilhelm Furtwängler: Maestro, Man, and Myth” as part of the White Nights Festival. At the opening, Gergiev gave a speech noting that Furtwängler had been attacked all his life because of his biography, yet “he served a great cause with all […]

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The Desire to be Human

Andreas Scholl is one of the best-known German countertenors. His popstar potential can be measured by the fact that he was the first countertenor to be a guest at Last night of the Proms and on a few late-night talk shows. He’s played a key role in shaping the countertenor renaissance of the last 30 […]

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“We Cannot Just Sit and Be Terrified”

In conversation, Ukrainian concert pianist Anna Fedorova is controlled, which belies the expressive style with which she usually plays. Her disposition is unfailingly sweet, and the hint of a kind smile is ever-present—but her face is also understandably lined with stress and sadness, in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As a follow-up to […]

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Dangerous Symbols

On April 14, the Russian keyboard player Alexei Lubimov and the singer Yana Ivanilova performed a concert at DK Rassvet, a venue in central Moscow which, similar to New York’s (Le) Poisson Rouge, hosts concerts and cultural events and doubles as a club. As Lubimov was performing playing a solo portion of the concert, with […]

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Truth Over Hope

On February 23, one day before Russia invaded Ukraine, Anna Stavychenko, the artistic director of the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra, spoke with VAN about life in “a constant state of stress” and the importance of music for the Ukrainian identity. Since then, Stavychenko and her family have left their home. She is now commuting between Warsaw […]

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Hit Me in the Belly

On March 18, the trumpet player Håkan Hardenberger celebrated his 60th birthday with a concert with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, where he performed Brett Dean’s trumpet concerto “Dramatis personae,” and smiled gamely (and sipped champagne) through an encore rendition of the theme from “Superman” in his honor. (Disclosure: As with my recent interview with […]

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Personal Mathematics

“Music,” says composer and woodwind player Roscoe Mitchell, “is a science.” The octogenarian is in Bergen, Norway, for the city’s annual Borealis Festival of experimental music. In a few days’ time, he’ll bring the weekend to a thrilling close with two sets, one solo (accompanied by several pre-recorded videos of himself improvising at home), and […]

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Renaissance State

A few weeks ago, I traveled to Stockholm to speak with English conductor Daniel Harding and hear a rehearsal and concert with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, which Harding has led since 2007. (Disclosure: The orchestra covered my flights and hotel for the trip.) Harding and I had lunch together at a restaurant so fancy […]

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Love Seeps Through

South-African Soprano Golda Schultz is a regular at the Met and at Bayerische Staatsoper. In 2020, she sang at the Last Night of the Proms; this season she made her debut with the New York Philharmonic.  With this career stability, she’s confronting the luxurious challenge of “moving the needle” for women composers and women’s stories. […]

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The Danger of Silence

This month, conductor Vitali Alekseenok was slated to conduct concerts in Lviv, Dnipro, and Kyiv, as well as open the Kharkiv Music Festival as its new artistic director. Instead, four days after the beginning of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, he and his girlfriend drove two trucks full of aid supplies eight and a half hours […]