Up until 10pm last night I was unaware there was a Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra. Thanks to a BBC Music Magazine tweet (this was my route into the story but I see BBC News online published two hours before) and article (now updated) highlighting an amended concert programme I’m now aware of the CPO, it being an amateur band, and it having a limited social media following. Never before has a change of programme for an amateur orchestral concert garnered quite so much attention.
And bile too. Calls of ‘absurd’ and ‘idiotic’ and ‘cancel culture’. Why? Because the programme consisted of works by Russian composer Tchaikovsky. Cue hoards of classical music ‘fans’ painfully low on curiosity calling out ignorance and demonstrating a level of self-righteousness that hasn’t had an outing in recent months.
As it turned out, there was a little more to it than first met the eye. No clarification was sought as to the thinking regarding the decision. Had it been then it would have been more easily understood. It was later confirmed that it was the militaristic musical material – 1812 Overture and March Slave – and the second symphony known as ‘Little Russian’ which for some Ukrainians is problematic because of competing Russian identities in Ukraine around the time of the collapse of the Russian empire. Oh, and there’s a player in the ‘non-professional’ band with family in Ukraine.
So, a reasonable decision-making process for an orchestral concert by a group I was unaware of that I’m even less likely to attend has triggered all sorts of people who should have known better, not least the author of the article who saw traffic in their eyes at the point of hitting publish.
A fuller statement in an image posted on social media would have been the best route. Seeking comment for the originating article would have been the appropriate course of action too. Keeping the article merely about the Cardiff Philharmonic and not aligning it with the Gergiev ‘resignation’ might have been good too.
But perhaps more than all that pausing to think whether the story was worth it given that the orchestra’s amateur status might have been the more respectful thing to do. Because what I’m reminded of now compared to yesterday is there’s quite a lot of sneery people in the classical music world that makes the classical music world it’s own worst enemy.