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A Russian pianist's shows are canceled, even though he condemns the war in Ukraine

Russian pianist Alexander Malofeev has condemned the invasion of Ukraine. His shows are still being canceled.
Liudmila Malofeeva
Russian pianist Alexander Malofeev has condemned the invasion of Ukraine. His shows are still being canceled.

Russian pianist Alexander Malofeev, 20, has condemned his native country's invasion and war against Ukraine. But that hasn't kept a string of his concerts from being canceled in Canada, from Montreal to Vancouver. Arts organizations cite the war's terrible toll on civilians, expressing solidarity with Ukraine — and with Ukrainian members of their community and staff. But Malofeev's defenders say he's being unfairly punished.

Malofeev had already arrived in Montreal for three dates with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, when the concerts were canceled.

The orchestra said it wouldn't be appropriate for Malofeev to perform, adding "We look forward to welcoming this exceptional artist when the context allows it," according to the Montreal Gazette.

Malofeev expressed his disappointment via Facebook, apologizing to the audience and saying his concerts were nixed "due to political reasons."

"Honestly, the only thing I can do now is to pray and cry," the pianist said in another post this week. "It would seem that there are obvious conclusions: no problem can be solved by war, people cannot be judged by their nationality. But why, in a few days, has the whole world rolled back into a state where every person has a choice between fear and hatred?"

The famed young pianist said he has often been asked to make a statement about Ukraine — but, he added, "I feel very uncomfortable about this and also think that it can affect my family in Russia."

As he described the dilemma he's now in, Malofeev added, "I do understand that my problems are very insignificant compared to those of people in Ukraine, including my relatives who live there."

After the Russian invasion, the OSM performed Ukraine's national anthem, saying that it "wishes to carry the universal message of music" and unite cultures. But after the Russian pianist's performances were called off, a commenter on that post asked, "If music is a universal message of peace, why are you banning Malofeev from performing? He is for peace and he is opposed to the war!"

In the U.S., the Metropolitan Opera in New York City recently dropped Russian soprano Anna Netrebko from upcoming performances, due to her longstanding association with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Malofeev recently had August performances canceled by the Vancouver Recital Society. Like many arts organizations, it's resuming live programming after a long pandemic delay. But it's also now coping with the fallout from its decision not to host Malofeev.

The Vancouver Recital Society said it could not "present a concert by any Russian artist at this moment in time unless they are prepared to speak out publicly against this war."

Malofeev then posted, "The truth is that every Russian will feel guilty for decades because of the terrible and bloody decision that none of us could influence and predict."

In an update responding to that message, the Vancouver organization said, "We are very grateful for his words." But it stressed the need to show solidarity with Ukraine — and its desire to prevent "even one cent of the proceeds" from its concerts from going to the Russian government.

The recital society also said that if Malofeev were to perform, it would likely spark protests and the need for extra security.

"The truth is that many in our city don't have the appetite for this concert at this time," the Vancouver organization said.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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