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April 25, 2011

Temirkanov challenges legitimacy of 'Tchaikovsky' orchestra

Yuri Temirkanov, who left memories of great music-making in our area earlier this month on a tour with his superb St. Petersburg Philharmionic, is in the news. Dan Wakin reports in Monday's New York Times that Temirkanov has challenged the legitimacy and legality of something called the "Tchaikovsky" St. Petersburg State Orchestra.

Seems that a Web site for that ensemble contained misleading visual and audio. "The photograph was of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic," Wakin reports, "and the video showed the St. Petersburg State Academic Symphony Orchestra. Both were playing in the city’s Philharmonic Hall, where the Tchaikovsky orchestra does not perform."

Temirkanov, former music director of the Baltimore Symphony, is quoted as saying:

“I’m angry because I’m a musician. What they do a) is immoral, and b) is legally wrong.”

The conductor of the orchestra in question disputes Temirkanov's viewpoint, but, judging by the Times article, hard evidence of a fully viable musical institution with a solid past and a sturdy present is on the scanty side. Maybe more info will be revealed in time.

None of this will surprise anyone who has spotted questionable orchestras and ballet companies from Russia popping up on these shores over the decades, touted in ads that suggest great credentials ("Leading Stars of the Bolshoi!!!"), but turn out to be essentially freelance outfits put together to capitalize on the marketability of Russian culture.

Not that I'm passing judgment on the "Tchaikovsky" St. Petersburg State Orchestra, but, really, doesn't that name make you wonder?

Posted by Tim Smith at 8:59 AM | | Comments (1)


That is odd, and I'm tempted to do a bit more digging on the perf histories of the singers mentioned at the end of the NYTimes piece. If this is a sham ensemble, what would the role of Columbia Artists be? I wouldn't think a management group would back a non-existent ensemble, however.

Maybe just a case of a gussied up freelance ensemble, easier for a management firm to represent. Whatever, it's an intriguing story. TIM

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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