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On one occasion Lygia tried to get back through Gosconcert (the old, monolithic, Soviet concert organisation) and the Director of the hall agreed; but as it turned out his consent was a shabby trick.

The concert was planned to honour Sir Malcolm Arnold's 75th birthday. Arnold had heard Ensemble XXI Moscow in London and he accepted Lygia's invitation to visit Moscow for the commemorative tribute. Sadly, in an outrageous display of spite at the eleventh hour, the Director of the hall cancelled the concert. This was a tawdry, provocative gesture and a calculated insult toward so distinguished a musician as Arnold; a composer who visited the Soviet Union forty years earlier and became a friend of Prokofiev.

Lygia tried to protest to the Ministry of Culture, but its Deputy Minister was a friend of the Conservatory. He looked at the conductor and said 'perhaps you are just not good enough for the Bolshoi Hall.' It was a calculated, humiliating insult.

'I understood in some small way what it must have been like for Soviet artists to be summoned to the Ministry and told such things', says Lygia. 'When Rostropovitch fell out of favour with the authorities and when his concerts were reviewed there was no reference to the great soloist; only the accompanist was mentioned. As my first cellist said: "this story is no different than what happened to artists in the Soviet period, only now it is without the ideology".'

Over the years the schedules of Lygia and her teacher, Rozhdestvensky did not coincide and it wasn't till late in 2001 that the legendary conductor heard Ensemble XXI Moscow in a performance of Shostakovich's Chamber Symphony.

Without hesitation Rhozsdestvensky agreed to conduct the orchestra. But when informed of the Conservatory ban he expressed both horror and incredulity.

However, by this time, Lygia's hour had come ... through what seemed like a fortuitous coincidence the Minister of Culture fired the Conservatory rector and appointed a successor; a former Rozhdestvensky pupil. The new rector straightway agreed to a mini Festival bringing Ensemble XXI Moscow back to the Bolshoi Hall.

Lygia O'Riordan
Lygia O'Riordan

It was a triumph for the orchestra, a victory for Lygia O'Riordan, and an occasion for rejoicing by delighted Muscovite concertgoers.

Copyright © 1 November 2002 Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand

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