NEWS AND LINKS: Contreversy at Tchaikovsky International Competition has Pasadena angle

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

 

What would a music competition be without a little controversy
– or even a big one? The 14th International Tchaikovsky Competition
was jolted last week when Mark Gorenstein, artistic director of the Svetlanov
State Symphony Orchestra, used what was reported to be a racial slur against Armenian
cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan, who is one of five finalists in his discipline. According
to ArtsJournal.com (LINK) and the Tass News Agency (LINK), Gorenstein called
Hakhnazaryan “an au,
something like a village fiddler, a term which expresses Russian disdain for
its former provinces.”

 

Gorenstein apologized and withdrew from his conducting
assignment. The competition organization committee posted the following
statement on its Web site:

 

“The Organizing Committee of the XIV International
Tchaikovsky Competition regards as insulting the statements addressed by
Artistic Director of the Svetlanov State Symphony Orchestra of Russia Mark
Gorenstein to competition participant Narek Hakhnazaryan.

 

We consider that words reflecting on an individual’s dignity
do damage to the creative atmosphere that we have worked so hard to establish.
The purpose of the Tchaikovsky Competition is to support young musicians, and
every one of the competition’s organizers and participants is obliged to treat
its competitors with the utmost respect.”

 

According to the Tass report, Hakhnazaryan said, “All is
well. My head, my thoughts are now only on the competition. I am concentrating
on the music for my upcoming performance in the finals.” He played the Dvorak
Cello Concerto and Tchaikovsky’s Variations
on a Rococo Theme
in the final round yesterday and today.

 

Hakhnazaryan, 22, appeared with the Pasadena Symphony last
January as soloist in the Dvorak Cello Concerto. Of that performance, I wrote: “It’s
no surprise that Hakhnazaryan displayed prodigious technique; what might be
more noteworthy was his somewhat lean, but silky tone (he plays a 1698 David
Tecchler cello). He ripped through the Dvorak’s arpeggios, luxuriated in the
second movement and, apart from a momentary intonation bobble at the opening of
the third movement, brought grace and style to this most famous of cello
concertos.” Read the entire review HERE.

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(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.