Together with the greater Quebec and Canadian population, our Music Director Rafael Payare, our musicians, and our administrative personnel continue to be distraught and outraged by the atrocities committed by Russian armed forces in Ukraine. From the earliest days of this brutal and senseless offensive, the OSM declared its support to the people of Ukraine, dedicating a concert to them that began with a performance of the Ukrainian national anthem.
For over a year, we had planned to welcome Daniil Trifonov for two concerts to be presented on April 20 and 21. Why then, considering our commitment to and solidarity with the people of Ukraine, have we decided to maintain this Russian pianist in our programming? We wish hereby to answer this question.
In early March, performances by the young Russian pianist Alexander Malofeev were withdrawn from the bill for the totality of his three concerts. It was a decision that sparked considerable reaction throughout Quebec and around the world. It became clear that a great many people of good faith who unequivocally condemn the Russian army’s invasion and deplore its horrors, consider that music should, nevertheless, continue to carry the message of peace and solidarity among nations.
In the weeks following our decision to withdraw Mr. Malofeev, and despite the severe and growing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, a very broad consensus emerged within the international arts and culture community in reaction to the Russian invasion: that banning artists who have nothing to do with the Russian government’s actions does not constitute a way forward. In fact, many believe that, on the contrary, this type of action could be leveraged by the Putin regime to claim that the West desires to erase Russian culture and heritage, thereby adding justification to its invasion of Ukraine.
Like all major orchestras and most of the prominent cultural institutions throughout the world, we will not accommodate as a guest any artist, from Russia or from any other nation, who openly supports Russia’s current president or regime. Such is not the case for Mr. Trifonov, who has resided in the United States for more than a decade, is not financed by any Russian governmental organization and will not be visiting Montreal as a representative of Russia. He will be visiting in a personal capacity, solely to share his artistry with the public, driven by the authentic desire to promote peace through musical expression.
Our decision also complies with Government of Canada directives enjoining cultural institutions such as the OSM to suspend all activities involving the participation of Russian or Belarussian state organizations, or official representatives of these states. The Minister of Canadian Heritage has publicly stated that such directives do not target Russian artists who act on their own behalf and who do not support the Russian invasion.
In the status he posted on his Instagram account two days after the onset of the Russian invasion, Mr. Trifonov declared himself heartbroken by what was happening in Ukraine; that war is a tragedy, and that he was praying for a solution that will bring long-lasting peace. Since Trifonov’s family lives in Russia, to be more assertive in his opposition to the Russian invasion without risking his loved ones’ safety would have been difficult if not impossible.
Our institution’s mission compels us to convey the universal message that music must bring cultures and peoples together. It is our duty to uphold these ideals, and we have done so for nearly 90 years. This does not prevent us from sharing in the grief of the Ukrainian community, nor from fervently supporting an end to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, peace to come, in full respect of the rights and aspirations of the Ukrainian people.
We hope that this letter will help you to better understand the OSM’s motivations as well as the substance of its decision concerning Mr. Trifonov. Please accept our sincere best regards.
Rafael Payare, Music Director of the OSM
Madeleine Careau, Chief Executive Officer
Stéphane Lévesque, President of the OSM Musicians’ Committee