This Friday, the Yale Philharmonia will collaborate with one of Russia’s most renowned conductors as it prepares to play iconic works from more than a century ago.
The Yale School of Music will welcome Valery Gergiev, artistic and general director of the Mariinsky Theatre, and the theater’s chorus for a day-long residency at the end of this week.
Gergiev will participate in an open conversation with School of Music Dean Robert Blocker before leading the Philharmonia in performances of “Romeo and Juliet” by Pyotr Tchaikovsky and “The Firebird” by Igor Stravinsky. The chorus, conducted by Pavel Petrenko, will then give a concert of its own to close out the residency. Dana Astmann, manager of communications at the Yale School of Music, emphasized the importance of musicians exchanging ideas with one another, which the School of Music hopes to promote through such residencies.
“This is a place for ideas to be heard, and for there to be open debate — this is why it was important for us to have a question-and-answer period in the open conversation with Gergiev,” said Astmann. “We want to make sure that it is a two-way conversation.”
Rebekah Ahrendt, assistant professor at the Department of Music, echoed Astmann’s sentiment. Ahrendt said she believes that collaborative programs such as the upcoming residency should aim to create peaceful relations between citizens of different countries through the collective experience of making music.
Ahrendt added that a large ensemble is like a unification of different people, in which everyone is working together as one body.
“It unifies different voices into one powerful sound,” added Arhendt.
Yale Russian Chorus director Mark Bailey noted that the Mariinsky Chorus’s performance is meant to surprise audience members, as the ensemble has not yet released its concert program. He added that the residency’s inclusion of Russian-Slavic choral music represents a rare opportunity to hear a variety of famous Russian works that are largely unknown to Yale audiences.
Ahrendt noted that she thinks that since the residency arrives at an “awkward” time in U.S.-Russian relations, and Gergiev is known to be close to the Russian government. As a result, she noted, there are two ways to view his residency.
“One is to look at it as potentially politically problematic. Another way to look at this is to understand that music or art is inherently apolitical,” Arhendt said. “So this is just a representation of an aesthetic experience.”
Bailey said he thinks music can transcend the sorts of political controversies that could potentially arise from a residency like Gergiev’s.
The Mariinsky record label has released more than 25 albums worldwide since its founding in 2009.