The maestro tells Andrew Stewart about his passion for Slavic culture – and Putin
It takes less than a minute to rattle Valery Gergiev. He looks irritated while I mention the names of several younger Russian musicians whose careers are located firmly in the West, Vladimir Jurowski and Vasily Petrenko among them. The 59-year-old's roots are securely fixed in home soil, immersed in the affairs of St Petersburg's Mariinsky Theatre and its development as a standard bearer for the best of his country. The suggestion that Russia has no other world-class platforms for her finest classical musicians plays badly with Gergiev. "I think the West does not understand what is good about Russia," he responds. "The West is under the impression that because there are bad things in Russia, it is very bad altogether. I'm sorry to speak like this, but this is where the very big miscalculation occurs."