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Datum objave: 02.04.2017
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'There’s still high culture in America’: Why the National Symphony Orchestra went to Moscow

Sometimes a concert is just a concert. And sometimes it dips its toe into the complex world of cultural diplomacy

'There’s still high culture in America’: Why the National Symphony Orchestra went to Moscow

https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/music/theres-still-high-culture-in-america-why-the-national-symphony-orchestra-went-to-moscow/2017/03/30/065acc26-1059-11e7-b2bb-417e331877d9_story.html?tid=a_inl&utm_term=.11fd4b035204

Sometimes a concert is just a concert. And sometimes it dips its toe into the complex world of cultural diplomacy.


“Culture stands tall above the din of politics,” said John Tefft, the U.S. ambassador in Moscow, speaking at a reception for the NSO at his residence on Tuesday night.


The NSO played another concert in Moscow on Thursday and will perform one in St. Petersburg on Friday before flying home. And the reason for this lightning-quick trip isn’t actually diplomatic at all. The NSO has come to honor its late music director, Mstislav Rostropovich, at the annual festival that his daughter Olga created in his memory, on what would have been his 90th birthday.


Rostropovich, a brilliant cellist who took up conducting relatively late in life, led the NSO for 17 seasons, after he was exiled from the Soviet Union due to his support for Alexander Solzhenitsyn. When he returned in 1990 for the first time, he brought the NSO with him — and got a Beatles-style welcome, with people literally scaling the outer walls of the Moscow Conservatory’s Great Hall to look in through the high windows that run around the top. Then came the 1993 tour, when the orchestra became the first in history to perform in Red Square, to a crowd of 100,000 people — while across town, guns were trained on Moscow’s White House in a showdown between the president and the parliament.


The present tour comes at another critical historical moment. As both countries deal with the fallout from allegations that Russia interfered with the U.S. election, an American orchestra has come to Russia — still a relatively infrequent occurrence; the last big American orchestras to play here came in 2012 — to pay homage to a great Russian by playing a lot of Russian music.


For diplomats on both sides, there’s a lot about this tour to love. “Culture,” said Tefft, the U.S. ambassador, “does things that traditional diplomacy can’t.”


Two weeks before the orchestra left, the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak — the man notable for his conversations with now-ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn and then-Sen. Jeff Sessions — hosted a reception for the NSO and its patrons, similar to the one Tefft gave in Moscow, at the Russian Embassy in Washington
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