April 1 2020
I don't know about you, but I feel like I'm inside a thriller or a horror movie. Every time I wake up, I think it was all a nightmare, but no. This is a new reality.
Before the avalanche of concert cancellations happened and the entire concert schedule fell apart, back in February, I already had a feeling that this was not a joke and that something serious was coming to us. The organizers and I rescheduled the concert in Singapore, although this city is still not the center of the outbreak. I remember that there was a clear feeling that I should not fly there. As a result, we agreed that we will reschedule this concert to the autumn, when the situation will settle down in any case. In total, my 96 concerts were canceled during this time. The nearest date for foreign tours is now scheduled to August - the Lucerne festival.
If you remember, I told you about my canceled concerts in Italy. I was supposed to fly to Bologna on February, 24 (you can see that this was a little over a month before the nightmare that is now happening in Italy). Geographically Bologna is relatively far from the North of the country where the outbreak began. This concert was eventually canceled (as were the Rome concerts later), Italian organizers, who saw that the number of infected people began to increase dramatically, insisted. I have been on the phone and continue to keep in touch with my friends-musicians in Italy, in particular Professor Petrushansky, who teaches at the Academy in Imola, a small town near Bologna. All of them name this month of the epidemic - the real hell. The numbers of cases and deaths are completely unbelievable. And what is worse – they do not go down.
Another extremely depressing event for me during this time was the cancellation of concerts in New York with my "elder brother" Valery Gergiev and my favorite orchestra, with which I have collaborated and recorded records for many years - the New York Philharmonic orchestra. I felt not well almost before passport control in the airport. At any other time the illness would hardly have stopped me, especially when it comes to performing with Valery Abisalovich and the New York Philharmonic, I would still have flown. But at that time I had a strong feeling that it was necessary to return home. As a result, my doctor diagnosed me with "acute pharyngitis" and did not recommend strongly that I fly in this condition, warning of possible serious consequences for my health. I was not just worried about the cancellation of the concert, it was a great tragedy for me. But a few days later, we received a message that all concerts, including ours, were canceled.
My parents have the same serendipity: they dissuade me from those trips and felt relief when I didn't fly to Italy or New York. People, who know me and have repeatedly noticed this feature of mine-to anticipate some events, usually joke: "Can you tell what will happen to the exchange rate or where the next outbreak of the epidemic will be?" But the secret is probably that I have been communicating with friends all around the world over the past weeks and months about this topic, so I have accumulated information from different sources in Italy, Spain, Great Britain, Germany, and the United States. When you are constantly surf the wave of information, you can feel how the situation will develop, see the Domino effect, when one situation pulls the other.
In January 2014 I performed charity concerts to help victims of the floods in the Far East. I took train to get from Khabarovsk to Komsomolsk-on-Amur. The temperature in the railway carriage was, as I felt it, +40 C, while it was definitely -40 C outside. I couldn't sleep because of the jet lag and the heat, and at some station I went outside to get some fresh air. After the concert I flew to Moscow and from there - to St. Petersburg. And 15 minutes before going to the stage of the Mariinsky theatre, I suddenly felt terribly ill: temperature spiked suddenly. Unfortunately, as a result, I was not able to perform the concert at that time. I flew to Moscow and got into hospital with bilateral pneumonia. For the first time in my life I canceled a huge number of concerts against my will, including one at Carnegie Hall. In General, I fell out of concert tour until the Sochi Olympics. I will never forget those two weeks in the hospital, because, first of all, it was the first time I actually got into hospital, and secondly, because (especially for the first three or four days) there was, to put it mildly, a nightmare. A brutal cough, a terrible fever that persistently did not come down - almost agony. This is something I've never experienced in my life before.
Why am I telling you all this? The symptoms of the coronavirus are very similar to this agony, which I would never wish even to an enemy. I have a lot of friends in the world, who got sick with this virus: someone got over it in a light form, someone got sick in moderate severity and this one goes the way I’ve described here before. It was very similar to what they describe: dry cough that tears the throat, a fever that persists, and a severe shiver that does not go away no matter how many blankets and warm clothes you wrap yourself in. Nothing helps. Doctors give you injections and different medicines, but nothing helps. Then the disease passes, but for a very long time after you experience terrible weakness, when it is difficult even to make a step. Fortunately, by the start of the Sochi Olympics, I felt much well.
But what an effort it was for me, my doctors, my family! My friends in the UK and Italy who have already had the virus say the same thing. When it all started, people did not believe in the seriousness of the threat, everybody cited statistics that deaths from flu or tuberculosis are at the same level. But as the number of infected people in Europe has increased, it has become clear that the danger is real and there is no guaranteed protection for anyone, anyone can get seriously ill at one moment or even die.
I am not an alarmist by nature and I am not trying to scare you. On the contrary, I am sure that in any situation you must always remain optimistic. For me, a person who in normal circumstances almost never cancels concerts of at my will, who physically cannot live without a stage and communication with the audience, every cancellation of a concert is like being unable to take a breath of fresh air. Unbearably. A sense of hopelessness and powerlessness. But in the current environment, when the external circumstances dictate you to cancel concerts, I take it easier, because I understand that I am doing this for the good of a large number of people. I tell myself that eventually this nightmare will end. And the most important thing is that I can make it end as quickly as possible.
Now it almost impossible to isolate yourself from the information about the quarantine and the pandemic. They talk about it in the news and social media. But nevertheless many still do not understand the gravity of the situation. As soon as the president announced the quarantine across the country, the media began to report about people who immediately went to picnics, shashliki, to visit friends and relatives, who flew to Sochi, rushed to celebrate the closing of restaurants in these same restaurants, held parties at home. And this is not funny at all. Negligence. Crime. Against senior people, which were initially in the risk group. Against children, who, as it turns out, may also suffer from it seriously. Against young and mature, who make up almost half of those who ended up on AVL in Moscow. A crime against everyone. Because no one is safe.
This causes such an emotional storm in me also because it is in our hands to prevent a catastrophe.
In Europe, what happened has already happened. Now people here just have to deal with the consequences and we can only help them in this. For us, right now is the moment of truth. And what happens in Moscow, Irkutsk, Vladivostok, Perm, anywhere depends only on what decision we make. All you need to do is to stay at home. This is a very small effort I think. So that there is no big trouble, just do not go out.
The online concert in an empty hall on March, 20 in the Tchaikovsky Concert hall has already been watched by about 3 million people. I understand how important this project is nowadays, how people need it badly. But I do not want to play such concerts again, never again. Concert in dead, sterile silence. Not right. Tragic. Depressing. So let's prevent it in future and stay at home today.
And there will be live concerts, and there will be warm meetings, and there will be hugs and kisses. I have a hunch. And as you know already it never deceives me.