top of page


Dictators and The Great Performers of The Past
Dictators and The Great Performers of The Past

Thu, Sep 22


New York

Dictators and The Great Performers of The Past

Three novels about artists' reflections of self and time...

Registration is closed for this event.
Got It

Time & Location

Sep 22, 2022, 6:30 PM PDT

New York, 7 E 95th St, New York, NY 10128, Stati Uniti

About The Event

I will never forget the first time I listened to the 1942 recording of Furtwangler conducting Beethoven’s 9th symphony. It struck me like lightning. I didn’t know then that Hitler was present at this historical performance.  Now, however, I wonder whether the effect I experienced was connected to the fact that Furtwangler knew that Hitler was in the audience.


А totalitarian mind might be more susceptible and vulnerable to the effect of true art than one might think. A single moment of beauty can sometimes pierce through decades of ideological brainwashing. This is exactly what happened during this performance. At the same time, can we still believe today, as Dostoevsky did, that ‘beauty will save the world?’ Sadly, to this day it has not, don’t you think? 


In the concert we will try recreate “these moments“ of three great performers of the past (notice this is the first time we are talking about the great performers as opposed to the great composers): Wilhelm Furtwangler, Sviatoslav Richter, and Vladimir Sofronitsky.

Each of their unique stories are mysterious tales of artistic power. They convince us that the artistic power is outside of the realm of politics but rather is in the tangible beauty they create. 

At the same time, most performers and especially musicians were not usually considered particularly dangerous to the regime. In fact, depending on their personal standard, they often advanced the regime’s propaganda.


During the performance we will delve into the conformist dilemma of each artist  when they have to face their tyrants in order to save their own artistic freedom. All four, faced with tyranny, found their special way to maintain their integrity, their transcendental connection (they all played as if they played for God, not the audience.) At the same time, the effect or impact of the beauty they created was almost inexplicable, … can we imagine that two Monsters like Stalin and Hitler fell under the spell of their artists? What is fascinating is that most dictators valued culture one way or another. In fact, one wonders why under their dictatorships the culture blossomed and the artists were allowed the unprecedented freedom of expression (as long as they did not interfere with the politics).  


This concert will have a prologue, three novels, and a coda. So, in addition to me playing Bach, Schubert, Chopin, Scriabin and Rachmaninov (each piece will be homage to the great artists), we will use chronicle materials, excerpts from movies by Sokurov, letters and other real documents describing the relationship between Stalin, Hitler (as well and Mussolini and Franco) and "their" artists. 


I do think the topic is relevant today considering the current horrible war. The threat of totalitarianism is very much present today and lives with us. 

Are we capable of making a choice here? The question is whether beauty can provide a cure this time.

Leon Livshin, Artistic Director

Share This Event

bottom of page