WW 2 concert: Music is a power for peace -Gergiev

Tue Sep 1, 2009 4:46pm EDT
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By Michael Roddy

KRAKOW, Poland (Reuters) - Russian conductor Valery Gergiev led musicians from 40 countries Tuesday in a thrilling concert in the heart of former Nazi-occupied Poland to mark the outbreak of World War Two 70 years ago.

"I turned the first page of the music and said I can't handle this and then professionalism took over," said violinist Monica Curro of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, who joined a select group of about 90 musicians for two concerts by the World Orchestra for Peace in Krakow and Wednesday in Stockholm.

Krakow-native Krzysztof Penderecki, whose five-minute-long "Prelude for Peace" had its premiere at the concert which concluded with a rousing performance of Mahler's gargantuan Fifth Symphony, said music is too abstract to stop war, but gave the orchestra a rave review.

"It's an important day in our history," the composer said. "And the Mahler was extremely good, and played with such passion."

Gergiev, whose conducting of the orchestra coincided with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin attending a memorial ceremony in the eastern Polish port city of Gdansk, had said earlier that if the concert stopped even one suicide bomber it was worth the effort and expense.

"Someone who plans a suicide bombing doesn't pay any attention to our concert, of course," he said.

"But the people who hear just great music, maybe they will pay some attention and if out of 100 potential bombers...at least 10 will start thinking...other things than just killing each other are important in this life, that's already the power of music," Gergiev, a close friend of Putin, told a news conference Monday.

The concert in Saint Peter and Saint Paul's Church, just off the main square of this intellectual and artistic hub that was the headquarters of a Nazi administration, was broadcast live on Polish television and streamed over the Internet (www.cnn.com).   Continued...