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Russian Symphony Conductor Apologizes for Insulting Armenian Cellist

Armenian cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan (pictured) has accepted the apology from conductor Mark Gorenstein for insulting remarks made during the 14th International Tchaikovsky Competition in which Hakhnazaryan is a participant. Hakhnazaryan conveyed this news himself to Russian news agency Itar-Tass.

“All is well. My head, my thoughts are now only on the competition. I am concentrating on the music for my upcoming performance in the finals,” he said.

Note, during the recital on Jun. 25, Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia (Svetlanov Symphony Orchestra) and National Artist of Russia Mark Gorenstein told the orchestra: “Don’t let it concern you at all what this talent, this aul [a small village in the mountains; meant to indicate lack of respect] presented to us is playing. Your task is to play what is written there in the score and to do it with me.” This statement offended journalists who were at the recital, after which the story gained public attention.

Since then, an official statement has appeared on the competition website, which reads as follows:

“The Organizing Committee of the XIV International Tchaikovsky Competition regards as insulting the statements addressed by Artistic Director of the Svetlanov State Symphony Orchestra of Russia Mark Gorenstein to competition participant Narek Hakhnazaryan.

“We consider that words reflecting on an individual’s dignity do damage to the creative atmosphere that we have worked so hard to establish. The purpose of the Tchaikovsky Competition is to support young musicians, and every one of the competition’s organizers and participants is obliged to treat its competitors with the utmost respect.”

“I would like to explain my position regarding the incident,” Gorenstein told Itar-Tass. “First, it was a conversation within the team. Second, I assure you, I neither conveyed nor did I wish to convey any nationalist undertones in my remarks, since that is totally foreign both to me personally and to our team.”

According to the chief conductor, the orchestra he conducts is a multinational group which employs Armenian, Bashkir, Belarussian, Georgian, Jewish, Russia, Tatar and Ukrainian peoples and “never during my leadership has there been conflict on ethnic grounds.”

“I am very sorry about what happened and I offer my sincere apologies to all those who I hurt with my words,’ said Gorenstein.