When Wiener Festwochen, a prestigious festival that brings together leading international artists in Vienna, announced this spring’s lineup, the reaction was swift and fierce.

The festival had planned to focus its programming on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, juxtaposing an appearance by Ukrainian conductor Oksana Lyniv with a concert by maestro Teodor Currentzis, who has faced scrutiny for his connections to Russia. Critics, including Lyniv, had argued that the couple was insensitive and ignored the suffering of Ukrainians.

Now, after weeks of pressure, the festival has abandoned its plan, saying it would cancel Currentzis’ appearance and go ahead with Lyniv’s.

“The decision was clear and there was no alternative,” Milo Rau, the festival’s artistic director, said in an interview Tuesday. “This was the best solution among the bad ones.”

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, many cultural organizations have severed ties with close associates of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and that country’s government. Some institutions have been criticized for overreaching after canceling performances by Russian artists with no known connections to the government. Others have struggled with how to deal with artists who had less clear allegiances.

Currentzis, a Greek-born, Russian-trained maestro whose leadership of the Russian ensemble MusicAeterna made him one of the world’s leading conductors, has been at the center of the discussion because of his relationship with VTB Bank, a state-owned company. Russian. institution that has been under sanctions by the United States and other countries. VTB Bank was the main sponsor of MusicAeterna. Currentzis has also come under scrutiny for his association with Russian officials: In 2014, Putin granted Currentzis citizenship by presidential decree.

Currentzis has refrained from publicly commenting on the war. But as criticism mounted, he announced in 2022 that he would form a new international outfit, Utopia, with support from donors outside Russia. He continues to conduct in Russia, according to the MusicAeterna website.

His appearance in Vienna was to be part of a June tour with Germany’s SWR Symphony Orchestra, which he leads as chief conductor, performing Benjamin Britten’s “War Requiem.” He was to perform with the Vienna Boys’ Choir and the London Symphony Choir.

Representatives for Currentzis did not respond to requests for comment. Anke Mai, SWR program director, said in a statement that she regretted the Wiener Festwochen’s decision to cancel the performance. She said the orchestra had never asked Currentzis to make a statement about the war “in view of the consequences such a statement would have for Currentzis in Russia.” She added that she believed Currentzis and the orchestra were “sending a message that cannot be misinterpreted” by choosing to perform the “War Requiem,” which is a call for peace.

“Everyone involved would have liked to take this message to Vienna,” Mai said. “However, we accept the decision of the Wiener Festwochen and hope to meet again in more peaceful times.”

Rau, the festival’s artistic director, who has a reputation as a provocative stage director, said he had invited Currentzis to perform in part because he was interested in the idea of ​​starting a conversation about art in times of war. Lyniv was also invited to conduct the Kiev Symphony Orchestra and the National Choir of Ukraine in a performance of the oratorio “Kaddish Requiem” by Ukrainian composer Yevhen Stankovych, written to commemorate the 1941 massacre of Jews near Kiev by the Nazis.

Rau said he was concerned about Currentzis’ ties to Russian institutions. But he said that he felt that he had created a context in which he could appear.

“We decided it would be good to try to have this exchange,” he said. “It was very intentional to say that we want to have something that is difficult and questionable.”

Shortly after the plans were announced, Lyniv issued a statement of protest, saying it was concerned about “whitewashing” Currentzis.

“I cannot be responsible for the almost 150 musicians traveling to Vienna from the war in Ukraine being put in the same context as Teodor Currentzis,” he said in a statement at the time. “Currentzis’ connections with Russia and his silence about this war of aggression against my homeland make it impossible for me to appear in context with him at this time.”

Lyniv, who is in New York this month preparing to direct “Turandot” at the Metropolitan Opera, said she was pleased with the festival’s decision but declined to comment further.

While searching for a solution, Rau spoke with artists and administrators in recent days. He said he had received more than 50 messages about his decision to cancel Currentzis’ performance, many of them critical.

“The festival is big; we have 35 productions,” he said. “But in this specific case I failed and I am sad about it. But I have failed so many times. It’s part of the job.”

By Sam