Censorship Exercise, Gleb Bazov, In the Opinion of the Editor

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra Silences Valentina Lisitsa’s Music

In Russian Симфонический оркестр Торонто попытался замолчать музыку Валентины Лисицы

It is no secret that nowadays many alternative media activists face appalling state-sponsored censorship in many nominally free and democratic Western countries. Now it seems that such censorship has penetrated much deeper than we have come to expect. Art itself, the truest form of free expression, is being silenced.

Screenshot 2015-04-06 18.30.47

Valentina Lisitsa is a brilliant musician, a famous virtuoso pianist, also known for publicly expressing her opinion on the Ukrainian conflict through her Twitter account. She is a good friend of the Slavyangrad Team and has kindly translated a number of articles for our publication. Her views are always insightful and she has never made them a secret. We are lucky to have Valentina’s first-hand account about dealings with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (“TSO”), which has decided to cancel her concert because of her political opinions. The TSO’s decision to silence Valentina’s music because she has exercised her inviolable right to express her beliefs is a message to all artists that the next time it could be them.

Valentina is Ukrainian. She was born on March 25, 1970, in Kiev. Her family comes from Odessa—her mother is a Russian citizen, and her father was Ukrainian. Valentina graduated from the Lysenko music school and the Tchaikovsky National Music Academy of Ukraine (the Kiev Conservatory). She married Alexey Kuznetsov from Taganrog. In 1991, they represented Ukraine in the Murray Dranoff Two Piano Competition in Miami, Florida, and won the first prize.  In 1992 they moved to the USA to study and subsequently decided to remain there. In 2001 they became American citizens. Since last year, Valentina has been living in Paris.

Valentina is one of the most frequently viewed pianists on YouTube, with over 177,000 subscribers, and she performs all over the world. Now Valentina’s concert in Toronto, which was scheduled for April 8 and 9 at the Roy Thomson Hall, has been cancelled for an outrageous reason—her political views. In an email sent to Valentina’s agent, the TSO stated: “the Toronto Symphony Orchestra received some messages from ticket buyers and others expressing concern over pianist Valentina Lisitsa’s public political statements.”

In its correspondence, the TSO also accused Valentina of nothing less than public incitement of hatred contrary to section 319(2) of the Criminal Code of Canada and went as far as to insinuate that Valentina, a citizen of the United States, could be barred from entering Canada by the immigration authorities. The TSO attempted to base its charges on Lisitsa’s public social media posts, attaching a copy of some of her tweets, along with a brief and exceedingly shallow legal opinion by the TSO’s counsel at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP.

Despite being provided with a substantive legal response on the merits of these allegations, the TSO has since mustered neither a single sentence in support of its accusations, nor a single word of apology. It was only after the legal opinion supplied by Valentina underscored that the TSO could not unilaterally dissolve the contract that the TSO’s counsel clarified that all her fees would be paid. To all appearances, the TSO seemed to believe that it could not only silence Valentina’s music, but also renege on its contractual obligations and thus walk away from their commitments.

With the TSO finally making a decision to cancel Valentina’s concert at the Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto, Valentina has appealed to her fans and friends on her public Facebook page, today, on April 6. With full support for Valentina’s courage and strength, we have excerpted the full text of her appeal below. Valentina Lisitsa has never been one to hide her political views. It is time for the TSO to acknowledge that they can no longer hide their own biases and to stop kowtowing to ferociously reactionary political lobbies.

– by O.C. & Gleb Bazov

ValDear fans, DEAR FRIENDS!

I have a confession to make and a huge favor to ask all of you. I really REALLY need your help now.

But first, my confession.

Over the last year I have been leading a double life. There was me—a “celebrity” pianist hopping from concert to concert, all over the world; learning new pieces, meeting fans, recording, chirping about my happiness in upbeat interviews.

But there was another me: not a musician but a regular human being—a daughter, a mother, a wife. And this human being was watching helplessly how the country of my birth, of my childhood, of my first falling in love—this country was sliding ever faster into the abyss. Children die under bombs, old ladies die of starvation, people burned alive…

The worst thing that can happen to any country is fratricidal war, people seeing each other, their neighbours as enemies to be eliminated. This is what has befallen my beautiful Ukraine. My heart was bleeding. You all saw on TV screens all over the world a magnificent revolution, the people of Ukraine raising in fury against their corrupt rulers, for a better life. I was so proud of my people! But the ruling class doesn’t let go easily. They managed to cunningly channel away the anger, to direct it to other, often imaginary, enemies—and worse, to turn people upon themselves. A year later, we have the same rich people remaining in power, misery and poverty everywhere, dozens of thousands killed, over a million of refugees.

So, I took to Twitter (how many of you know I have a Twitter account?) under a name “NedoUkraïnka”—a word roughly meaning “Sub-Ukrainian”, a stab at Ukrainian Prime Minister who called Russian-speaking southern and eastern Ukrainians “SUBHUMANS”! Yes, I kid you not. In an official written document. I am a subhuman, my husband, my mum…. I mastered Ukrainian language perfectly, far better than a so-called “president” of Ukraine. But I don’t speak it to my family, I didn’t sing lullabies to my son in Ukrainian, when I sleep I never see the dreams in Ukrainian, when I will be dying my last words will NOT be in Ukrainian…

Sorry, I got carried away telling you those things… To get back to my story—I took to Twitter in order to get the other side of the story heard, the one you never see in the mainstream media—the plight of my people, the good and bad things that were happening in Ukraine. I translated news stories from Ukrainian language websites, I translated eyewitness accounts of atrocities…. I became really good in unmasking fakes published by Western media in order to make one side of the civil war look whiter and softer than the Easter bunny, and the other—like sub-humans, not worthy of mercy, the “collateral damage”.

To give you just one example: one of my feats was to confront French fashion magazine “Elle” who published a glowing cover story about women in Ukrainian army. After the research I have shown to the magazine in my Twitter posts that the “cover girl” they have chosen to show was in fact a horrible person, open Neo-Nazi, racist, anti-Semite who boasted of murdering civilians for fun! The magazine issued a written public apology.

I was very proud! But with time my activities attracted a lot of vicious haters. I was a particularly important “target” because of being Ukrainian, thus—a traitor. I thought I knew hate—my playing on YouTube certainly “attracted” a fair share of hate mail. But I was mistaken. Death threats, wishes for my family to die, calling me “paid Kremlin wh*re”… the list goes on and on.

My haters didn’t stop there. Trying, in their own words, to teach me a lesson, they have now attempted to silence me as a musician. I am scheduled to play Rachmaninoff Concerto #2 with Toronto Symphony Orchestra this week. Back in December someone in the orchestra top management, likely after pressure from a small but aggressive lobby claiming to represent the Ukrainian community, has made a decision that I should not be allowed to play. I don’t even know who my accusers are, I am kept in the dark about it. I was accused of “inciting hatred” on Twitter. As the “proof”, ironically enough, they presented to the orchestra my tweets containing, of all things, Charlie Hebdo caricatures depicting lying media!!! We all know what those who can’t tolerate free speech did to Charlie Hebdo journalists.

Now, the orchestra based in one of the freest democratic countries is bending over to the same kind of people, helping them to assassinate me—not as a living person yet , but as a MUSICIAN for sure.

Yes, Toronto Symphony is going TO PAY ME NOT TO PLAY because I exercised the right to free speech. Yes, they will pay my fee but they are going to announce that I will be unable to play and they already found a substitute. And they even threatened me against saying anything about the cause of the cancellation. Seriously. And I thought things like this only happen in Turkey to Fazil Say?

Now, the plea.

Before you decide to help me—If you wish, please take time and read my tweets. You might find some of them offensive—perhaps. Satire and hyperbole are the best literature tools to combat lies. Bear that in mind when reading.

Here is what I ask you to do for me and in defense of freedom, even if you disagree with me on politics.

I ask you to raise your voice and tell Toronto Symphony that music can’t be silenced. Ask them to let me play. If you want to write something—great! Or just share a photo I made ( sorry, I made it on my phone, nothing fancy). Ask your friends to join in.

If they do it once, they will do it again and again, until the musicians, artists are intimidated into voluntary censorship. Our future will be bleak if we allow this to happen.

Please stand with me.

Here are the links :

https://www.facebook.com/torontosymphonyorchestra  Twitter @TorontoSymphony” 

© Valentina Lisitsa.


41 thoughts on “The Toronto Symphony Orchestra Silences Valentina Lisitsa’s Music

  1. Reblogged this on susannapanevin.


    Posted by susannapanevin | Apr 6, 2015, 23:20
    • What utter, bloody nonsense. I hope the citizens of Toronto will boycott the TSO in droves. The TSO is supposed to promote art, not politics. I am fully expecting the TSo to now schedule pianist Harper singing – Hey Jude. What crap!

      Liked by 1 person

      Posted by Bhimself | Apr 7, 2015, 19:24
      • As a Torontonian – a free Canadian citizen and disgusted by what Putin is doing in the Ukraine – I fully support the TSO. Good riddance, we don’t need people like this woman spouting her pro-Communist crap here. Stay away! Go play in Donetsk and Luhansk – if you can!


        Posted by Fedupwith Communists | Apr 8, 2015, 15:06
      • Reply to Fedupwith Communists:

        Rather than the TSO barring Valentina Lisitsa from playing, perhaps the symphony management should look more deeply into their hearts and ask themselves how someone as beautiful, talented and concerned as Lisitsa could support anything but the kindest of human causes. In fact, contrary to popular belief, the cause she supports in Donbass is a truly humanitarian one, where wonderful, educated, innocent white Europeans are being shockingly mistreated by an illegal government that emerged after the violent coup in Kiev.


        Posted by kate rosser | Apr 9, 2015, 16:34
        • “white Europeans” that Rosser refers to captures in only a small way the vile bigotry of Val and her ilk. Her vulgar and demeaning tweets show a soul that is anything but “beautiful” and they have become a distraction to her artistry. She should have stuck to playing the piano; once she opens her mouth she is revealed as moronic and ugly.


          Posted by Thomas | Apr 9, 2015, 23:41
      • Reply to Thomas:

        To clarify, I had referred to “white Europeans” who are being killed in Donbass in an attempt to appeal to the mostly white European-descended NATO officials who want to supply Kiev with weapons and troops. I am outraged by this, much as a Muslim might be outraged by Muslims killing Muslims. I can see how my comment might easily have been misconstrued as racism though. Thanks for pointing this out.

        Liked by 1 person

        Posted by kate rosser | Apr 11, 2015, 14:30
    • Hello Slavyangrad

      I still have not read through all of the information about what was said, who said what, and I don’t know enough to decide who was right. I will take some time and look back through all of the comments because I’m interested in knowing what happened.

      With that said, I do have an opinion on is the following quote from your article:

      “nowadays many alternative media activists face appalling state-sponsored censorship in many nominally free and democratic Western countries. ”

      Please know that there is absolutely no “state sponsored censorship” in Canada. That is ridiculous. Canada IS a free country. Supporting reasons.

      – It was the TSO, a private corporation, that chose to remove Valentina’s performance. Just as she is entitled to free speech, the TSO is entitled to react to it.
      – Valentina was not censored in Calgary, Canada, and is still slotted to play at the CPO. The CPO has made their own decision as well, independent of state.
      – Everyone is able to see all comments made on twitter and other social medial platforms in Canada from BOTH sides. None of the commentary has been hidden by our government or removed. There is open dialogue about it.
      – There are articles from independent media currently circulating in Canada that support both sides of this debate.
      – The very fact that we are able to openly discuss what happened is a testament to our freedom.

      Please do not misrepresent my country as a state-sponsored opinion free society. Canada is home to people from all around the globe, and home to many ideas, ideals, and opinions. We take our freedom seriously, and misrepresenting our entire nation based on difference of opinion between individuals and an organizations is irresponsible, and itself, propaganda.

      I hope whomever is correct in this argument prevails.


      Liked by 1 person

      Posted by Dorian R. Kominek | Apr 9, 2015, 01:49
      • Dorian, you are being seriously misguided. There is state censorship in Canada. Numerous people were banned from entering Canada on flimsy legal reasons, thus effectively preventing Canadians to hear what they have to say.

        Unlike TSO, CBSA (Canadian Border Services Agency) is an organ of Harper Government.


        Posted by Bob | Apr 10, 2015, 03:42
      • Bob – Go ahead and tell me what the legal regulations where, and what the people had to say. – you can post it here, or anywhere, and so can they! – Those people are also welcome to share their stories, and no one will be blocked from reading them. “State censorship” would prevent us from even talking about it now.


        Posted by Dorian R. Kominek | Apr 11, 2015, 08:15
  2. Greetings ~

    The decision by the management of the TSO to cancel Valentina Lisitsa’s Rachmaninoff concert on political grounds is a ghastly blunder. Surely it will be reflected in declining ticket sales. Following that will come lay-offs and labour struggles. I for one will not cock an ear in the direction of this orchestra until the situation is rectified in the interests of fairness and justice.

    Liked by 2 people

    Posted by gardenplot | Apr 7, 2015, 00:37
    • Actually, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra is no stranger to bootlicking. In May 1952 six members of the orchestra were denied entry to the States in connection with a performance planned for Detroit. Rather than cancel the tour in the spirit of Canadian patriotism, the orchestra’s director, Sir Earnest Macmillan, fired all six musician on the grounds that they were unable to fulfill their contractual obligations. See Torontoist, March 24, 2012, http://torontoist.com/2012/03/historicist-the-symphony-six/ .


      Posted by gardenplot | Apr 8, 2015, 14:37
  3. Shame on the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. May God bless Valentina!

    Liked by 2 people

    Posted by James Howard Trusty | Apr 7, 2015, 00:55
  4. Bravo Lisitsa! All of Canada’s political parties actively support the US-installed regime in Kiev and the powerful ultranationalist lobby the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. Like the pro-Israel lobby which also dominates our politicians in Ottawa, institutions like the TSO, which receive government and corporate funding, are wary of displeasing them. Thanks for standing up for truth and justice!

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by John Gilberts | Apr 7, 2015, 04:19
  5. In German history we had something like “degenerated art” and “degenerated music” during 3rd Reich. Artists had been oppressed because the kind of music did not fit into the NAZI view of culture or they were simply of Jewish descent. Some were killed, others could emigrate. Looking at the names you find composers like Bela Bartok, Hans Eisler, Paul Hindemith, Arnold Schönberg, Igor Stravinsky and more who left Europe to survive.

    Nowadays it is not as easy anymore, opression is more subtile. But having a kind of employment ban on artists because of their political opinion is the first step into that direction. What will be next? Having the wrong cultural bloodline?

    This cannot be stopped early enough!

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by OggJason | Apr 7, 2015, 06:05
  6. Валя, молодец! Ты делаешь всё правильно! Смело отстаивая свои взгляды и идейную позицию, ты становишься на путь успеха и победы, как бы трудно это не было. Если помнишь меня, твой кузен Артур.

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by Саймон Линн (@zempf1) | Apr 7, 2015, 09:44
  7. Reblogged this on leruscino.


    Posted by leruscino | Apr 7, 2015, 12:14
  8. A good general knows when to retreat – move to Moscow where I am sure you will be very welcome.

    The West’s loss; Russia’s gain.


    Posted by jalaludn | Apr 7, 2015, 15:08
  9. What utter nonsense! I hope the citizens of Toronto will boycott their performances in droves. The TSA is supposed to promote art – not politics. I am now fully expecting them to book pianist Harper and his rendition of “Hey Jude”. Bah! Such crap!


    Posted by bhimself2012 | Apr 7, 2015, 19:27
  10. I applaud the TSO’s action in this matter. People need only read some of this artist’s hateful, indeed obscene, tweets to see a side of her that is not welcome in Toronto


    Posted by Thomas | Apr 8, 2015, 07:44
  11. This type of censorship is relatively recent in Canada, which began changing significantly about 10 years ago.

    As a similar example, the British Member of Parliament, George Galloway, was denied entry into Canada in 2009 because he was deemed a “security risk” by the Canadian government. (George Galloway is strongly anti-war, and is very outspoken about it.)


    Yet others who are also controversial and are actually responsible for the deaths and suffering of large numbers of individuals, such as former President Bush, former Vice-President Cheney, former Secretary of State Kissinger, to name three, all pass freely into Canada and do not seem to have trouble finding venues.


    Posted by John | Apr 9, 2015, 00:15
  12. Allow me to compare the blacklisting of the astonishingly talented orchestra conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler, whose work with the Berlin Philharmonic, the Berlin Staatsoper, and the Bayreuth Festival branded him in the eyes of the New York arts community as a Nazi after World War II, in spite of the fact that he had taken very courageous stands, even disobeying or snubbing the Reich many times. He was misunderstood for staying in Germany, but we now know he did so out of love for the German people, whom he felt needed a spiritual, musical lifeline in a society dehumanized by fascism. In fact, Furtwängler did resign his musical posts finally in 1934 in protest to the Nazi ban against performances of Hindemith’s “Mathis the Painter.” The careers of Toscanini and Herbert von Karajan prospered years later, while Furtwängler struggled to return to the podium. Even though von Karajan had joined the Nazi Party, which Furtwängler never had, and knew that his ambitions had been cynically used as a foil against the much-loved Furtwängler in order to keep the latter in line, von Karajan salvaged his reputation through his marriage to a wealthy woman who had a Jewish grandfather, Anita Gutermann, the heiress to a textile fortune. This is a cautionary tale. Beware of boycotting genuine artists in a rush to judgment. These individuals are not only immensely talented, but complicated individuals. Furthermore, the competition in the music world is fierce and many-faceted, with much ‘political infighting’ which has nothing to do with foreign affairs.

    Liked by 2 people

    Posted by Cheryl Helene | Apr 9, 2015, 03:21
    • A fine post. Thank you for taking the trouble to explain your valuable insight, Cheryl Helene.


      Posted by robinmorritt | Apr 10, 2015, 10:23
  13. Nazis in our Nationalism? How Dare She Suggest Such a Thing!


    Posted by John Gilberts | Apr 9, 2015, 04:38
  14. Let Valentina Lisitsa play: Piano piece composed by Hussam Ezz Eldin:
    https://youtu.be/_CrLOfOLyHw ?


    Posted by Hussam Ezz Eldin | Apr 9, 2015, 22:34
  15. Reblogged this on Solidarity with the Antifascist Resistance in Ukraine.


    Posted by ukraineantifascistsolidarity | Apr 10, 2015, 02:12
  16. There’s an article on the Telegraph site about this here:


    Although a little less than gallant, remarkably supportive.


    Posted by Nigel | Apr 16, 2015, 20:34
    • I’ve just spent a very pleasant half hour on Ms Lisitsa’s web site. Toronto’s loss, my gain.

      Liked by 1 person

      Posted by Nigel | Apr 16, 2015, 21:05


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