Wiener Festwochen Cancels Teodor Currentzis’ Performance

By Francisco Salazar

Teodor Currentzis will no longer conduct at the Wiener Festwochen.

In a statement, Festival Director Milo Rau said, “We welcome the committed and critical questions following the announcement of two concerts that deal with war and genocide as well as understanding and reconciliation: Kaddish Requiem ‘Babyn Jar,’ under the musical direction of Ukrainian conductor Oksana Lyniv together with the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra, and War ‘Requiem,’ led by the Greek-Russian conductor Teodor Currentzis with the SWR Symphony Orchestra.”

The company added, “With the consecutive, but artistically completely independent performances conducted by Lyniv (June 2, Wiener Konzerthaus) and Currentzis (June 12, Burgtheater), both of whom have inevitably been perceived as representatives of their respective countries since the start of the war of aggression by the Russian armed forces against Ukraine, the question of responsibility and the limits of art as a utopian space should be addressed at this year’s festival, also in the context of discussion events running alongside.”

The festival continued, “In the discussions of the last few days, it has become clear that a presentation of both concerts as part of the Wiener Festwochen 2024 is currently not feasible. As emphasized at various points by artistic director Milo Rau, the Kaddish Requiem represents a central position in the programme of the Wiener Festwochen 2024, which he would like to maintain. After consultation with the SWR Symphonieorchester, we have therefore decided not to present the War Requiem under the direction of Teodor Currentzis.”

Meanwhile, Rau also noted, “Our decision to keep the ‘Kaddish Requiem’ in our programme is clear and we are looking forward to the visit of Oksana Lyniv and the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra to Vienna. As much as we would have welcomed the exciting juxtaposition of the two works as part of the Wiener Festwochen 2024 programme, which deliberately questions political and social fronts in many artistic positions, it was ultimately no longer feasible for the Ukrainian artists involved and we respect Lyniv’s wish not to be placed in a context with Currentzis at the moment. Unfortunately, there was no alternative to our decision to cancel the planned concert conducted by Teodor Currentzis, whom we greatly appreciate as an artist. We wish the SWR Symphonieorchester and Teodor Currentzis every success on their planned tour of Germany with the ‘War Requiem.'”

Conductor Oksana Lyniv added, ” “We are delighted that the Wiener Festwochen have found a solution and are very pleased to finally be able to perform the Kaddish Requiem “Babyn Jar” in Vienna. Everyone involved is very much looking forward to this special concert on June 2 at the Wiener Konzerthaus.”

Meanwhile, SWR Programme Director Anke Mai noted, “I very much regret that the concert of the SWR Symphony Orchestra at this year’s Wiener Festwochen has now been cancelled by the festival management. Nevertheless, I understand that Oksana Lyniv and the members of the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra would have liked Teodor Currentzis to make a public statement against the Russian war of aggression. However, in view of the consequences that such a statement would have for Currentzis in Russia, we never asked him to do so. And with the performances of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem in June, the SWR Symphony Orchestra and Teodor Currentzis are sending a message that cannot be misunderstood. All those involved would have liked to bring this message to Vienna. Nevertheless, we accept the decision of the Wiener Festwochen and hope to meet again in more peaceful times.”

Over the past year, Currentzis has been met with controversy as his orchestra is backed by Putin-funded banks and has seen concerts canceled in Vienna and Germany.