Youth Orchestra Tour Strikes a Sour Note

The American-Russian Youth Orchestra, which was to have given an open-air concert inside the Kremlin on Wednesday, was refused permission at the last minute by "authorities responsible for Kremlin security", said Edythe M. Holbrook, executive director of the orchestra.


The orchestra, aided by the U. S. ambassador to Moscow, Thomas Pickering, and his Russian counterpart in Washington, Vladimir Lukin, spent two days negotiating with the Russian authorities but failed to win a go-ahead for the free concert, Holbrook said.


The fact that the concert tour was officially sponsored by the Russian and American first ladies, Naina Yeltsin and Hillary Rodham Clinton, was equally to no avail.


The concert, scheduled for 3 P. M. on Cathedral Square among the Kremlin churches, was to have been the highlight of the orchestra's six-week tour, which includes four Russian and seven American cities.


Alexander Gusev, the Kremlin's deputy security chief, said that permission to hold the concert on Cathedral Square had been refused due to repairs of the Kremlin churches, a refusal he signed on June 8. He criticized the organizers employed by the orchestra for allegedly withholding information about the refusal.


Sergei Danilyan, president of Ardani Arts Management, the company principally responsible for organizing the Russian side of the tour, said he was filing a lawsuit against Grand Show System, a Russian company that contracted to organize the concert inside the Kremlin.


Grand Show System was unavailable for comment.


Danilyan said that the reason he had been given for cancellation was that the noise produced by a full symphony orchestra would have been dangerous to the historic Kremlin churches.


The 80 Russian and American musicians, aged 17 to 25, began their tour on June 15 in the United States. They made their Russian debut Tuesday night at Moscow's Tchaikovsky Concert Hall to a sold-out house, and will also perform in Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk and St. Petersburg.


This year's tour by the youth orchestra was cited Wednesday by a senior American diplomat as a sign of improved cultural exchanges with Russia.


The tour, the third since the youth orchestra's founding in 1988, is unusual because it received private Russian sponsorship as well as sponsorship from American companies, Holbrook said.


St. Petersburg Bank and the Garant Company, the principal Russian private sponsors, contributed about $100, 000 to the tour's $1. 3 million budget, though the actual dollar amount is difficult to estimate, Holbrook said. Many other Russian organizations made donations in kind, such as providing hotel rooms, meals and transportation, she said. American Express Company was the principal American sponsor.


The 1988 and 1990 tours were supported by the Soviet government.


Igor Leshchishin, 24, an oboist from the Minsk Conservatory who plays with the orchestra, said he was disappointed about the cancellation, but that the weather was so bad that the concert was "almost not possible" anyway. The sky was overcast with intermittent rain all day Wednesday.


Hugh Wolff, 39, music director of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra of St. Paul, Minnesota, and one of the youth orchestra's conductors, said that Tuesday's concert had been "beautiful" and that the orchestra should not be upset by the cancellation.


Lisa Vaupel, 21, a violinist from Baltimore, Maryland, said that musicians from both sides had found out "we're all the same" because "music unites us".