Comments cost Ukraine pianist gig with Toronto symphony

In a Facebook statement, Valentina Lisitsa purportedly wrote about the people of Ukraine "raising in fury against their corrupt rulers.''

TORONTO – Ukrainian-born pianist Valentina Lisitsa will not perform with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra this week because of what the TSO calls “provocative comments.”

In a statement purportedly written by the pianist and posted on Facebook Monday, Lisitsa wrote about the people of Ukraine “raising in fury against their corrupt rulers.”

But she said “the ruling class doesn’t let go easily” and the “same rich people” remain in power amid misery and poverty, thousands of deaths and over a million refugees.

Lisita wrote that she has been “watching helplessly” as her country slides “ever faster into the abyss” and had taken to Twitter “to get the other side of the story heard.”

In a statement released to various media outlets, TSO president and CEO Jeff Melanson said Lisitsa has been replaced due to “ongoing accusations of deeply offensive language by Ukrainian media outlets.”

“As one of Canada’s most important cultural institutions, our priority must remain on being a stage for the world’s great works of music, and not for opinions that some believe to be deeply offensive,” he said.

Lisitsa wrote that someone in the TSO decided she should not be allowed to play after pressure from a “small but aggressive lobby claiming to represent (the) Ukrainian community.”

She added that the TSO will pay her not to perform because she exercised her right to free speech.

The TSO said Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 will go ahead Wednesday and Thursday as planned, but will be performed instead by Toronto pianist Stewart Goodyear.

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