The Toronto Symphony Orchestra has told its players to expect additional security measures backstage for its concerts this week, as the pianist hired to replace Valentina Lisitsa took to Facebook to say that he had been "bullied into declining this engagement."
A TSO musician who preferred not to be named said on Tuesday that an e-mail had been sent to all the players saying that security at Roy Thomson Hall would be stepped up for concerts on Wednesday and Thursday. The orchestra has been at the centre of a media storm after cancelling Lisitsa's performances of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2.
Stewart Goodyear, her replacement, criticized her in his Facebook post, saying she had urged her fans "to attack the orchestra," and that "her attitude, and the mob-like behaviour of her devotees, censored Rachmaninoff's second concerto. It is no longer on this week's program."
A spokesperson for the TSO said that Goodyear had not actually declined the engagement. In fact, she said, the orchestra made the decision to take the concerto off the program, after discussions with the pianist and guest conductor Jukka-Pekka Saraste.
The TSO dropped Lisitsa, a Russian-speaking Ukrainian, from the concerts after receiving complaints about tweets she had posted that were harshly critical of the Ukrainian government and its allies. She told The Globe and Mail on Tuesday that the tweets the TSO was shown by her critics had been "maliciously translated" or taken out of context.
Lisitsa also said that pressure from a representative of the Ukrainian government had been applied to the TSO. She gave The Globe a copy of an e-mail from Loie Fallis, the TSO's vice-president of artistic planning, in which Fallis told Lisitsa's agent that "the Chair of the Board of the TSO has received a letter from the Ukrainian General Consulate expressing concern" over Lisitsa's engagement. In a phone conversation late Tuesday, TSO CEO Jeff Melanson denied that any such letter had been received, even after being told of Fallis's e-mail.
The issue at the core of the dispute – the actual meaning and intention of the pianist's many tweets – is difficult to sort out. In one of Lisitsa's most inflammatory tweets, she posted a photo of several people walking past a heap of bodies of Holocaust victims, with the words "strong medications work," which some took to mean that she was encouraging genocide against Ukrainians. But she said that the photo had been cropped in versions retweeted by her critics, and was actually a well-known image of "Germans forced by the American army to walk past the bodies of Holocaust victims. I was saying that Americans gave the Germans strong medication," meaning that the Germans were forced to view the results of their government's crimes. Lisitsa, like some other critics of the current regime in Kiev, believes that the Ukrainian government has approved or abetted atrocities in Russian-speaking regions of the country.
She also said that her Polish-Russian mother is a survivor of the Volhynian massacres during the Second World War, an ethnic-cleansing operation during which the Ukrainian Insurgent Army murdered up to 100,000 Poles in what is now western Ukraine. "All of my mother's Polish family was killed, the entire father's side of the family was all wiped out," Lisitsa said. "She was in hiding with her Russian grandmother. Her name was changed because she had a Polish name which couldn't be mentioned."
Lisitsa's dispute with the TSO is attracting attention far beyond the orchestra's usual audience. On Tuesday, the NGO Swedish Doctors for Human Rights posted an appeal on her behalf, saying she was the victim of "an illegitimate repression, including a last event in Canada where she was denied her right to perform."