Ukraine Benefit featuring a Russian ensemble is canceled in Vienna

A benefit concert planned to support Ukraine was canceled in Vienna on Monday due to concerns about the Russian ensemble it was to present, MusicAeterna, led by conductor Teodor Currentzis and backed by a bank of State in Russia.

The concert, hosted by Vienna’s Konzerthaus, one of Austria’s largest venues, was due to take place on Tuesday and feature Saint Petersburg-based MusicAeterna, which is partly funded by VTB Bank, one of the largest financial institutions from Russia. The United States and other Western countries recently imposed sanctions on the bank due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Vienna’s Konzerthaus said it canceled the concert after Ukraine’s ambassador to Austria, Vasyl Khymynets, expressed concern about featuring Russian artists at an event intended to benefit Ukraine. The founder of the ensemble, Mr. Currentzis, who was born in Athens, is a charismatic conductor who has built up a large following in Russia and abroad.

“The Vienna Konzerthaus cannot ignore the political dimension of performing a St. Petersburg-based orchestra at a time of immense suffering caused by the Russian Federation’s war of aggression against Ukraine,” said Matthias Naske, general manager and artistic director of the hall. in a report. “We understand and share the despair over war crimes in Ukraine and condemn this aggression without reservation.”

The Konzerthaus said it would suspend ticket sales for future appearances by MusicAeterna until the band secured an independent source of funding. But he also said he would allow MusicAeterna to perform a separate concert scheduled for Monday night. (The set has already performed at the venue on Sunday.)

Mr. Khymynets and the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The cancellation of the benefit concert comes as tensions between Russia and the West continue to fester in the performing arts. Several high-profile Russian artists have lost global engagements in recent weeks due to their ties to the government of Russian President Vladimir V. Putin.

MusicAeterna, renowned for its intense and electric performances, has come under scrutiny for its links to VTB Bank, which has helped fund some of its touring and recording projects.

Mr. Currentzis called for peace in Ukraine in a statement released last month by the SWR Symphony Orchestra in Germany, of which he is the conductor, although he did not directly criticize the Russian government or Mr. . Putin.

“Teodor Currentzis and the members of the SWR Symphony Orchestra unequivocally support the common call for peace and reconciliation,” said the statement mentioned.

The orchestra said it was aware of MusicAeterna’s association with VTB Bank, but continued to defend Mr Currentzis. “From today’s perspective, this is certainly problematic, but it has been around for longer,” the statement said, referring to the bank’s support for MusicAeterna.

the benefit concert in Vienna was to present works by Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich and others.

MusicAeterna is scheduled to perform in Germany, Austria and France in the coming weeks. Mr. Currentzis is to conduct the ensemble in a production of Bartok’s “Bluebeard’s Castle” at the Salzburg Festival this summer, paired with German composer Carl Orff’s “De temporum fine comoedia”.

The Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, Germany, another major concert hall, said on Monday it had no plans to cancel a series of engagements this week by MusicAeterna.

About Roy B. Westling

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