Gergiev and the LSO: fond farewells or sighs of relief?
Valery Gergiev has not served the London Symphony Orchestra well as their chief conductor, nor has he lived up to the brilliance his earlier career promised
Over the next 10 days Valery Gergiev will be conducting his final concerts as the London Symphony Orchestra’s principal conductor. It promises to be a distinctly low-key leave-taking; tributes to what he has achieved during his eight years at the helm have been conspicuous by their absence so far, and it seems unlikely that there will be the kind of fond farewell that many conductors receive when their tenures with an orchestra come to an end. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the LSO itself, as much as many of its regular audience, will be mightily relieved when Gergiev steps down from the Barbican podium for the last time.
Which is not to say that Gergiev is a bad conductor, far from it, but over the past decade and more he has consistently spread his considerable talent far too thinly, so that routine and sometimes under-prepared performances have been far too frequent, and his concerts with the LSO have included more than their fair share. When, in the 1990s, he first began to conduct the Mariinsky Opera (then still operating under its Soviet name of the Kirov) beyond its St Petersburg home, his impact on the international musical scene was immense. In St Petersburg he conducted the first stagings of Wagner’s Ring cycle and Parsifal since the revolution, while some of his performances in the UK with his company – Rimsky Korsakov operas at the Edinburgh festival, concert performances in London of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, and more recently of Rubinstein’s The Demon – have been unforgettable. Very quickly Gergiev became one of the most sought after conductors in the world, so that his professional life seemed to become a tireless whirl of jet-setting engagements.
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