Upbeat: Player power

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A HUNGER strike by the Irish- born conductor Lygia O'Riordan has resulted in the lifting of a ban on the international orchestra Ensemble XXI from appearing at the main hall of the Moscow Conservatoire, writes Andrew Green. The cosmopolitan membership of Ensemble XXI are committed to living and working within the rouble economy and all are past or present students at the Conservatoire. But when a booking for the orchestra in late May was summarily cancelled by the rector of the Conservatoire, Mikhail Ovchenikov, O'Riordan was given the explanation that the orchestra was not Russian and was not offering Russian music in its concert. (Stravinsky, it seems, is not forgiven for becoming a French and then an American citizen.)

The 50-hour hunger strike next to the Tchaikovsky statue in front of the Conservatoire gained substantial media coverage, not least on the front page of Izvestia, resulting in a climbdown from Ovchenikov and an official apology from the city authorities. 'Ovchenikov is a former Ministry of Culture bureaucrat - not a musician,' she says. 'He just couldn't handle the fact that here were people who couldn't be controlled as in the past. If we couldn't have played at such an important venue in Moscow it would have threatened our whole future.' The concert went ahead four days late to a packed house. There are reports that two student members of Ensemble XXI have subsequently been expelled from the Conservatoire.