Khodorkovsky's mother campaigns for his release ahead of the Proms performance of Arvo Pärt's 4th Symphony
What is Arvo Pärt playing at with his recent dedications? Soon after the death of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya in October 2006, the composer made an announcement that all of the following season's performances of his work were to be dedicated to her. Very noble, you might think, but then in January 2009 a more political motivation emerged when he dedicated his 4th Symphony to Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former Russian oligarch, who fell foul of the Putin administration and has been in prison in Siberia since 2003. He's really pressing the point, even inviting Khodorkovsky's mother to the British première of the work, to campaign for his release before the Russian press on the steps of the Albert Hall.
So what is in it for Arvo Pärt? He has certainly had his share of Russian oppression, his previous symphony, the 3rd of 1971 the subject of particularly focussed Soviet censure. But his emigration/defection to the West was in 1980, long before anybody involved in the current Russian administration was monitoring cultural activities in Estonia.
Or is there something from Putin's KGB past that I don't know about, something that Arvo Pärt is putting to rights in his own way? Whatever the motivations for Pärt's recent dedications, one thing is for sure, he's off Gergiev's Christmas card list.
Read a review of the new ECM recording of Pärt's 4th Symphony here