Leading musicians launch petition against the ‘blanket boycott’ of Russian artists

Conductors including Sir Simon Rattle, Sir Mark Elder, Sir Antonio Pappano and Vladimir Jurowski have signed the petition calling for an end to Russian military action and to the boycott of Russian and Belarusian artists

Vladimir Jurowski

A starry array of artists including Sir Simon Rattle, Sir Mark Elder, Sir Antonio Pappano, Vladimir Jurowski (pictured), Leonidas Kavakos, Nicola Benedetti, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Ian Bostridge and Leif Ove Andsnes have signed an open letter on change.org calling to ‘stop the war against Ukraine and stop the blanket boycott against Russian and Belarusian artists’.

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The move follows calls from some quarters in recent weeks for Russian artists and music to be banned from concert stages around the world in the wake of Russian military action in Ukraine.

Part of the letter reads:

‘The unconscionable war that Putin’s totalitarian regime has unleashed against sovereign Ukraine, where Russian tanks and missiles are targeting innocent civilians, cannot be justified in any way. Bombing and assaulting civilian objects, such as hospitals, schools, theatres, universities, libraries, or churches, are war crimes, crimes against humanity, and must be unequivocally condemned without exception. Many of our colleagues, fellow artists, musicians, and composers in Ukraine are being robbed by the war of the ability to freely practise their art…

‘We fully endorse the sanctions and diplomatic pressure being brought against Putin’s regime and its henchmen, against its advocates, propagandists and information-manipulators whose links to Putin and his government are clearly documented. However, not all Russians and Belarusians, and certainly not all cultural figures of these two nations, support this terrible invasion. Therefore, we find it unjust to condemn Russians or Belarusians for the actions of the dictator and his supporters without any direct evidence of their collusion. As it has occurred recently, it is impossible to exclude an artist from a performance based on his or her nationality and at the same time avoid harming that individual artist personally. Nationality should not matter – no one should have to justify their origin or nationality.

‘Not everyone feels able to make a clear statement against Putin’s regime because such a statement may substantially harm the person themselves or their loved ones, friends or working colleagues in Russia or Belarus, many of whom currently feel like hostages in their own countries.’

In recent weeks, a number of Russian artists to have been declared persona non grata by Western companies. Anna Netrebko and Valery Gergiev have been forced to step away from the concert hall after refusing to condemn the Russian regime, and pianist Boris Berezovsky has been dropped by his agent.

In addition, two major piano competitions – the Honens International Piano Competition in Canada and the Dublin International Piano Competition – have announced that they will not be open to Russian pianists this year.

Around the world, musicians are facing calls to denounce Putin’s rule of Ukraine, with Vasily Petrenko and Thomas Sanderling stepping away from their roles at the head of Russian orchestras.

However, when the Cardiff Philharmonic removed Tchaikovsky from its programme, it received a strong backlash.

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Photo: Vladimir Jurowski © Drew Kelley