The group hopes to make a fourth attempt to bring a Russian pianist to play in Vancouver

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VANCOUVER – The decision to cancel a Russian pianist’s concert in Vancouver due to fears of protests has left Leila Getz conflicted as she wonders if a rising young superstar she has repeatedly tried to book will will one day produce in the city.

Getz, founder and artistic director of the Vancouver Recital Society, said Alexander Malofeev is scheduled to perform at the Orpheum Theater on August 2. This was after she had canceled her previous show due to the pandemic and again last November when she learned that he had only received the Sputnik V vaccine, which is not accepted in Canada. .

But when Russia invaded Ukraine, Getz said she had no choice but to call Malofeev’s manager and stop the concert, which she feared would draw crowds for bad reasons.

“My concern was for the pianist because I watch all the crazy people in the world and I watch what’s going on. The last thing I wanted to do was bring a 20-year-old into the Orpheum in Vancouver and surround him with protesters and have people inside to heckle,” she said.

A police investigation is underway into an unrelated incident involving someone splattering blue and yellow paint last weekend on the doors of the Russian community centre, not far from the classical pianist’s venue.

“Personally, and I can live with it, I’ve been vilified on social media. I’ve been called everything from psycho to racist pork,” Getz said.

In addition to letters from people saying they disagreed with her decision, Getz said she also received an email from a Ukrainian musician who wondered if “punishing” a Russian was the right thing to do. good choice because the arts have no connection with a war that many citizens of this country did not want.

“I see that argument, of course I see it. I’m in the business of organizing concerts,” she said, adding that the recital company considers the show postponed and not canceled.

Getz said she hoped to make a fourth attempt to book Malofeev, whom she first heard about years ago when a friend called after seeing an “incredible 12-year-old boy” wow an audience in Israel.

“With what’s happening now, I would be shocked if he agreed to come to Vancouver and play for us,” she said of the pianist.

Neither Malofeev nor his management company immediately responded to a request for comment.

He said on his Facebook page that he felt “very uncomfortable” about making statements to reporters and also thought “it could affect my family in Russia”.

“I still believe that Russian culture and music in particular should not be tarnished by the ongoing tragedy, although it is impossible to stay away now,” he said in a message Monday. “Honestly, the only thing I can do now is pray and cry.”

Unlike other artists whose shows have been canceled elsewhere, Malofeev has never said he supports Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and society does not expect that. he states his position “just to get a gig in Vancouver,” Getz said.

Malofeev is scheduled to perform three shows with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra this month starting Wednesday, according to his website and the Symphony Orchestra’s site.

Arts organizations around the world have banned some Russians, including conductor Valery Gergiev, who was fired last week as conductor of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra.

Simon Brault, director of the Canada Council for the Arts, said public funds will no longer be provided for activities involving the participation of Russian or Belarusian artists or arts organizations.

Applications supporting activities created by or in collaboration with Russian arts groups will not be accepted until Russia withdraws its military forces from Ukraine, he said.

“It’s not about penalizing artists,” he said. “It’s more a question of the spirit of sanctions against Russia at this point because of what they’re doing in Ukraine in violation of human rights and civil rights,” Brault said.

“We want the arts to be very central in our lives as citizens and in our public life and all that,” he said. “But the fact that we wanted this means that when there are big conflicts, or wars or social movements, the arts are impacted. It’s very hard to imagine that the arts would be in some sort of perfect bubble completely separate from society.

— With files from the Associated Press

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on March 8, 2022.

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