Performance ban for devil violinist
A new type of victim of anti-Russia propaganda emerges
Author : Georg Etscheit.
Lorenz Nasturica-Herschcowici is the longest-serving concertmaster of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra. Now the city of Munich wants to ban him from performing in Russia. A bizarre and gloating discussion has been unleashed.
With his white curly mane and expansive figure, Lorenz Nasturica-Herschcowici is a striking presence with the Munich Philharmonic. Like no other, he embodies the sound culture of the orchestra founded by conductor Sergiu Celibidache, which he led to world fame in the 1980s, especially with his Bruckner explorations. It was Celibidache who discovered the Romanian-born violinist and brought him to his orchestra in Munich, where he has set the tone as first concertmaster since 1992. In the meantime, Nasturica-Herschcowici is the longest-serving concertmaster of the Philharmonic.
The Süddeutsche Zeitung once dubbed him a "total work of art of a devilish violinist, impressive in life and playing." As befits a musician of his caliber (he could have aspired to a soloist career at any time), Nasturica-Herschcowici plays on a master violin by Antonio Stradivari, the "Rodewald" of 1713, a private loan.
And as befits musicians of his stature, he is not content with his concertmaster position, but collaborates with various other ensembles, where pure joy in making music, artistic sense of mission, but - how could it be otherwise - also money can play a role. For example, since 2004 he has led the chamber orchestra of the Munich Philharmonic and since 2014 the Mariinsky Stradivarius Ensemble of St. Petersburg's Mariinsky Theater, the workplace of Valery Gergiev, the chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic who was dismissed because of his closeness to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Nasturica-Herschcowici is also the first guest concertmaster of the Mariinsky Theater.
IDEAL BRIDGE BUILDER BEWEEN EAST AND WEST
A few months ago, these cross-border artistic activities would have been praised as exemplary, Nasturica-Herschcowici with his eventful biography between cultures as an ideal-typical bridge builder between East and West, as they say in Sunday speeches. But since Germany has increasingly seen itself as a warring party in Russia's conflict with Ukraine, only disparaging remarks have been made about "side jobs" that, on top of everything else, threatened to "damage the reputation of the orchestra. Is Nasturica-Herschcowici a musical traitor to his country?
The scandal after the scandal, Gergiev's summary dismissal at the beginning of March, had been unleashed by the Munich Abendzeitung. The paper had dug up information and photos proving that Nasturica-Herschcowici continued to tour Russia even after the termination of Gergiev's contract. "Politically sensitive" had been an appearance on March 12, together with the outlawed Gergiev in Moscow's new concert hall in Sarjadja Park, "not even two weeks" after what was euphemistically called the "separation of the Munich Philharmonic from its chief conductor." On that occasion, the sonorous "Great Gate of Kiev" had also been played, the final piece of Modest Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition".
In the subtext it is insinuated that the choice of this piece, of all things, an evergreen of the Russian repertoire, represented, as it were, an anticipated (musical) conquest of the Ukrainian capital. And whoever participates in this, even if only with a violin bow, is in a way guilty of collaboration. Moreover, the Munich evening paper accused Nasturica of having remained "invisible" at the Ukraine solidarity concert of the three major Munich orchestras four days before the Moscow date. He probably had better things to do, the paper gloated. However, many other musicians of the three orchestras also remained "invisible" - together, the Munich Philharmonic, the Bavarian State Orchestra and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra have 384 positions. That would have made it very crowded on the podium of the new Isar Philharmonic.
To finish the story: At first, the Philharmonics said that they had legally examined the case of Nasturica-Herschcowici's Russian sideline activities, that it was "watertight," and that the concertmaster could not be accused of anything. To what extent these activities are ethically justifiable, "everyone who performs them must answer to himself". Unfortunately, to this day neither Nasturica-Herschcowici nor his Munich agent are willing to comment personally, but one may assume that Nasturica was not among those who were particularly happy about the Russian maestro's sacking.
When other media jumped on the casus, the city of Munich stepped in and circulated the following cryptic statement:
"Due to the recent reporting on Mr. Nasturica's activities for the Mariinsky Orchestra, framework conditions have arisen that need to be re-evaluated in terms of labor law. We have therefore subjected the case to a legal review once again, with the result that we have prohibited Mr. Nasturica from the reported secondary activities in connection with the Mariinsky Orchestra."
NEVER AS BLACK AND WHITE AS IT LIKES TO BE PORTRAYED
One would like to know all too much how the legal department of the state capital justifies its change of mind en détail. In any case, Nasturica-Herschcowici is likely to be the first German artist to be banned from performing in Russia, as it was previously only Russian artists who were canceled in this country if they were not prepared to publicly renounce Putin's war of aggression and his regime. Bad times for potential bridge builders. But isn't there already enough scorched earth in this war? Should a tabula rasa also be made in the field of culture?
Just now, in an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung, actor Klaus Maria Brandauer said in response to the question of whether Russian artists should be urged to take positions against Putin:
"I don't want to have to judge artists or people whose concrete personal motives I don't know. The quick judgment may turn out to be hasty here as well. Anna Netrebko is a fantastic singer, I have already worked with Valery Gergiev, both in Graz and in Munich, and he is a great conductor. Whether it is necessary for reasons of state not to work with them anymore, I don't know. But I remember that during the Cold War we were not so demanding in this respect towards artists from the Eastern bloc, at that time culture was a bridge, sometimes the only one. And even then, we certainly couldn't see all the connections, because the world was never as black and white as it likes to be portrayed."
Source : Georg Etscheit, “Auftrittsverbot für Teufelsgeiger”, Achgut.com, 14.05.2022. Translation : Jos Hermans