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Breaking act: Berlin producer forms classical boy band

October 31, 2016 by norman lebrecht

88 comments.


symphoniacs

Meet the Symphoniacs. (Right-click to see larger image).

They have been pulled together by Berlin producer Andy Leomar, released on Universal Music and are all over the German talks shows this week.

Just another crossover stunt?

Wait til you see their pedigree. The boys are:

Violinist Yury Revich, aged 25, from Vienna

Cellist Konstantin Manaev, 33, Berlin

Violinist Tom Suha, 30, Budapest

Pianist Evgeny Genchev, 27, Plovdiv (Bulgaria)

Pianist Oscar Micaelsson 26, Gothenburg (Sweden)

Cellist Colin Stokes, 29, New York

Violinist Johannes Fleischmann, 32, Vienna.

Serious people.

Play it, boys.


Comments (88)

  1. David Osborne says:

    Now do you believe me that classical music is in serious trouble?

  2. Mikey says:

    so they’re young musicians with “pedigrees” that are playing crap my college students could easily handle?
    just wait a couple of years when they won’t be so “boy” band-looking anymore. they’ll be desperately looking for classical gigs while waiting tables.

  3. Robert Holmén says:

    I hope they have a good run and I hope they’re making money at this.

  4. Stefan says:

    This just bad music and it it were slower would be perfect for elevators around the world…

  5. John Borstlap says:

    Deeply embarrassing….

    1. Dominic David Uglow says:

      It’s not often we end up on the same side…

    2. Dan P. says:

      I feel embarrassed for them just watching it. This is not even very good pop music.

      1. John Borstlap says:

        …. the picture, suggesting musical and alcoholic decadence, will be very attractive for teenagers, finally seeing the iconic symbols of their granddaddy’s snobbery being brought-down to juvenile protest levels.

        1. Dan P. says:

          John, you may be right, but that presupposes that many teens will even cross paths with them. Music popular music fans seem to be so bound within ever smaller niches or subgenres that I just wonder if this group will even appear on the radar of anyone except their target audience (whoever that might be). But if they do, all I can see among most of the young is exaggerated eye-rolling reaction or gestures of sticking a finger down their throats.

          1. John Borstlap says:

            If this is true, it means encouraging news. They are merely an empty gesture for no audience at all.

    3. herrera says:

      They play the same easy-on-the-ear music that Borstlap writes.

      1. John Borstlap says:

        There are great differences possible between triads…. depending upon context.

  6. thekingontheviolin says:

    Norman! For once all the comments so far are unanimous. You have finally done it…Bravo!

    The music is crap, I agree;
    The performers are good, (but no better).
    They are forced to do this in order to make money (which will not be much nor will it be stable).
    This is not only deeply embarrassing, it has an element of evil. The players are obviously clever enough to know that they are “gigolos”. They are playing a piece -utter crap- with the technical requirements of English Associated Board Grade 3/4.
    The teachers, Music Institutions at which they studied are as guilty of this travesty as they are.
    Boy Band? they already look past their prime.
    As to the video, just flashing lights and barely a glimpse at the faces.Are they ashamed?

    1. erich says:

      Why does where they come from make them serious? And would NL give them so much space if his apparent blog backers Universal weren’t behind them??

      1. norman lebrecht says:

        Keep on looking for conspiracies. You won’t find any. Universal buy advertising space on Slipped Disc, as do Warner and other major players in the music business. Next slur?

        1. David Osborne says:

          I knew it! You’re in on this whole UN world government climate change conspiracy too I’ll bet.

        2. Steven Holloway says:

          No one is suggesting a conspiracy, just a network of mutual back-scratchers that encompasses journalists (masters of this game), broadcasters, media companies incorporating record labels and music magazines, some musicians on the make, their agents, arts administrators, and a lot of music bloggers. A blessed few have refused to play this game, but not many I fear. It is no secret either — it is all too blatant for it to be one.

      2. David Osborne says:

        Seriously though, these poor unfortunates are lambs to the slaughter if they’re being promoted here. Can’t really see any SD readers rushing out and buying their product can you? Maybe Milka…

        1. Sally says:

          For my part, I love it! They look like tasty people doing juicy things & here in the kitchen that is what we need, with all that boring work & waves of serious stuff sounding in the corridors.

          1. John Borstlap says:

            I foresee to have to consider staff changes.

        2. Cyril Blair says:

          “Maybe Milka”? Cruel and slanderous.

          1. David Osborne says:

            Don’t be silly. She will get the joke, I promise.

          2. Steven Holloway says:

            Milka by her very nature invites jokes and caricature, all the more so now that she has taken to referring to herself in the third person. She’ll have to get used to the jibes, if she hasn’t already for there’s been plenty of them, and so will you.

  7. Rob van der Hilst says:

    BIG FUN! writes granddaddy from Utrecht, Netherlands.

  8. Eric says:

    I am a musician. Many of us have played music that is far worse than the this. I hope they all make a mint. One does not often get to choose what one plays. It is easy to judge, not so easy to pay the bills. I hope all of you that make down your nose comments will contribute to, and hire real muscians.

    1. David Osborne says:

      Eric, it may surprise you but you are not the only musician on here. I must say though that if you have played worse than this then you have played some serious crap my friend. I actually feel a little sorry for these guys because they’ll be stuck with this on their resumés and that’s unlikely to go well for them. This appallingly cynical and ill-conceived project wouldn’t have made anything just yet, and when it does, they’re unlikely to see much of it.

  9. David Foulger says:

    God what a dreary lot of crap.

  10. Steve says:

    Jealousy is a bad thing…i think they are awesome! Extremly talented, charming and good looking…but haters gonna hate!

  11. David Boxwell says:

    They are so very . . . white.

    1. John Borstlap says:

      According to the picture, also winds and brass are seriously discriminated against.

  12. THOMAS GOSSARD says:

    I’m glad and grateful that you don’t parenthesize all the names of nations which should be obvious to a reader by the names of their principal cities

  13. Robert Holmén says:

    Hand-wringers and pearl-clutchers secretly outraged that no one ever calls upon them to form a boy band.

    1. David Osborne says:

      Dammit you’re right. What do you think John Borstlap, are you in?

      1. John Borstlap says:

        I had a boy band when young during the seventies, when modernism swept through the musical institutions, especially the educational ones, and we played Xenakis and Sousa (in the same time). But after the first concert we were arrested and were sentenced to attend a Mahler concert (9th symphony). Being appropriately pulverized, after that we became very, very serious.

    2. David Osborne says:

      We could call it ‘ The Boulezstreet Boyz’. Catchy huh?

      1. John Borstlap says:

        From an interview with the conductor Diego Masson, friend of PB, in the Haretz magazine, we learn the following:

        “Pierre Boulez, for example – do you know how he earned a living in his youth? He played at the Folies Bergere club and, together with his giant white piano, he would break through the stage straight into the crowd of nude women prancing around him, playing the ‘Warsaw Concerto,’ engulfed in kitsch and lit by a pinkish light – and that was while he was writing his second sonata.”

        1. Sixtus says:

          It’s nice finally to know the extramusical inspiration for the final movement’s hyperactive bounciness.

  14. Sina1980 says:

    I love it! These comments are just embarrassing, be open minded to something new! Love these guys and their music.

  15. Nina says:

    Wow, love this band! Finally some good classical music mixed with awesome beats. Maybe not for the old fashioned classic fans but for sure for a new target group! Especially girls 😉

  16. Erik says:

    they are amazing and highly talented! …but haters gonna hate…

  17. Peter says:

    But why would anyone want to listen to this?
    If I want to hear good music I hear e.g. a Schubert quartet.
    If I want to hear dance music I hear that.
    If I want o hear a good song with poetic lyrics I hear that.
    Who needs this crap?

    1. Bruce says:

      Really good music is a lot of work to listen to. A lot of people don’t want that — they want something that will remind them of good music without any of the effort needed. I don’t think anyone is being fooled into thinking this stuff is any good.

      1. Peter says:

        Okay, but strangely enough for me this type of music is much harder to listen to and more work, than a Bach fugue.
        I also like really good dance music at times.
        I guess I like music that doesn’t pretent to be something it isn’t.

  18. Branimir says:

    Why is it ok for a “classical” boy band what is not ok for a symphony orchestra: to be discriminatory vs girls? (A hint towards race issue has been already made above.)
    How about a girl conductor? 😉

    1. John Borstlap says:

      But she would find the picture with the naked musicians in one big bed a bit off-putting.

  19. Tim Walton says:

    The music might be crap, but you can’t deny they are easy on the eye!!

    1. John Borstlap says:

      A new perspective. Maybe they would do better when modelling for violin adverts.

    2. mbhaz says:

      I don’t know about that, but there is surely a strong homoerotic feel to the picture above. So they’re talented and looking for a way to make a living. And if there’s actually a public for this that would support them, who are we to complain. Yes, it’s awful. So is Andre Rieu, Yanni, John Tesh and a whole lot of others. However, as bad as it is, it’s still far superior to rap.

  20. Robert Holmén says:

    I took a moment to do a search on each of the ensemble member’s names… almost every one seems to have an actual career more promising and active than those of the commenters in this thread. 😀

    I don’t think we need to fret about what will become of them after the boy band thing runs its course. They will all have better things to do than compose devilishly condescending put-downs on the internet.

    1. Bruce says:

      “They will all have better things to do than compose devilishly condescending put-downs on the internet.”

      Wrong. There is no better thing to do.

  21. Nicholas says:

    The promoter/manager is guilty of some offense under the Trades Description Act or whatever similar legislation exists in Germany. Boy Bands as found in many parts of the world are typically guys in their mid-late teens. This lot are certainly way too long in the tooth for that appellation.

  22. Cyril Blair says:

    Where’s the classical part? This is garbage, suitable only for the braindead.

  23. George King says:

    Lighten up everyone. This is puerile music but is it any worse than that stuff pumped out by Karl J or those soulless performances by Andre R?

    1. Mikey says:

      at least Andre R. has the good sense to keep his clothes on.

    2. David Osborne says:

      Yes. Even those.

  24. Nick says:

    They should take a leaf out of a superstar classical group in South Korea, Ensemble Ditto. This promotion vdo excerpt was recorded some years ago. The young pianist is Ji Yong who was the youngest ever pianist to win the New York Phil Young Artists Competition at the age of 10 (he now has followed in the one-name tradition being billed as merely Ji).

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=IVrMPFSm3wM

  25. herrera says:

    In 50 years, they’ll win the Nobel Peace Prize.

  26. Patrick John Gordon Shaw says:

    They’ll soon be able to sell out the MET! Go on Peter Gelb – shove ’em on with a one acter – and FILL the House!

  27. Mike says:

    54 comments, but none of them from Milka. Where is he / she? I thought she would have sniffed blod by now.

    1. Sally says:

      It’s spelled blood.

      And we got an email from the constable of Ljubicevac, asking us to get Mr B restraining himself a bit in his comments upon Mrs Milka, who came to his office to complain about her international treatment. I think that should concern all of us on this site! Classical music is already serious enough in itself.

  28. David Osborne says:

    I know, and I’m a little worried She was also a no show for last week’s excellent Boulez kerfuffle. Very out of character, hope she’s OK…

    1. Mike says:

      After all the effort Milka has put into building style and reputation, she just lets us all down by simply vanishing into thin air. Why, Milka. Why?

  29. boringfileclerk says:

    I would have been totally okay with this if they were woman musicians in their 20s wearing bikinis. But this…..this…just no!

  30. Marie says:

    it’s always the same people writing negative comments here. I think it’s a great project!

    1. John Borstlap says:

      We should appreciate this critique. It is much easier to criticize something than to praise it. Also, it is somehow shallow to not contribute to the art form (when merely consuming it and/or typing comments from the Serbian woods) and criticize people who at least try.

      So, let’s try to find positive things to say about this ensemble.

      1) The format is an imitation of a pop concert, creating a similar visual impression, thus classical instruments can be introduced without the suspicion of being serious.

      2) The music is an arrangement of some classical thing, but so strongly arranged that it no longer invites for concentrated listening: the audience is supposed to be engulfed and loose itself in a trance. This is the ideal listening attitude of adolescents of all ages.

      3) The players have FUN. They express the unscrupulous optimism that comes with discarding of value judgement and is the prerogative of the pure life energy of youth that has to go somewhere so why not here?

      4) The players look nice and attractive and do not show any sign of a classical background, and still play together very precisely.

      5) …. I try to find something more but gave up.

      Because the players’ background suggests something ‘classical’, and they use ‘classical isntruments’, the question arises wether they intend to bring an element of ‘classical’ to the young in a format that such audience will immediately understand. Could such formats help to suffuse the idea that classical music is not ‘cool’?

      I am serious here….. What will happen if youngsters get to a concert like this, see ‘classical instruments’ but in a pop format, enjoy themselves tremendously, and carry the experience with them when going home? Would they think they attended something classical? Probably not, they will think: that was a nice pop concert, go again next time. But, by way of a thought experiment, imagine that one of those youngsters comes across the vague idea that those violins come from somewhere else – because they are so rare in pop concerts – and finds-out that there is a concert hall in her town with a regular symphony orchestra, full of violins, and she decides to take a deep breath and, with the moral support of her aunt, takes the risk of attending a symphonic concert? Wouldn’t she be thoroughly disappointed? No flashing lights, no regular beat, no handsome boys – well, that one with the drums looked nice but the rest – ?

      So, in spite of the arrangements of some classical tunes, such concerts will firmly remain in the field of pop music. After all, I think that is the most positive conclusion one could find.

      1. Erika says:

        This article is not the best – go on to youtube and watch the video of the idea behind Symphoniacs. It might change your mind.

  31. Lawrence says:

    my grandson showed me their version of Vivaldis winter and we compared it to the original one – he was never interested in classical music before. Their project is not excactly my cup of tea but if they manage to interest the younger generation i think its brilliant.

  32. Erich_Louis says:

    Their CV’s are impressive and watching them shows how much they enjoy what they do. I would be curious to know what all the critics here have achieved in the music world so far 😉

  33. violinia says:

    Taking a pop/EDM hit and replacing synthesized sounds with live, highly-trained classical musicians … this is a positive thing!

  34. Michael says:

    Lighten up people we have 2016.

  35. Classicfan1960 says:

    My daughter wants to learn how to play the piano after watching them – Thank you Symphoniacs!

  36. Rebecca_pianist1986 says:

    I dont really like this video but the others are fun to watch an nice to listen to. They are so talented cant wait to hear more!

  37. AnnaMaria_Barcelona says:

    Love them! Hopefully they will also come to Barcelona…and to all the critics above (or classical dinosaurs as i call them) ” who are you to judge?” They achieved so much in their 30’s already its truly inspiring! Read their CV’s, inform yourself about the project before you leave your uninformed comments here.

    1. John Borstlap says:

      But the video does show a product that surely is intended to be judged on its own accord? Isn’t it just fun, and not much else? Should audiences of this band be armed with extensive programme booklets to offer all the background information that is needed to understand the show? Seems a bit like a Darmstadt event, and even there they have fun without much explanation:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwlCD2y2tBA

      1. David Osborne says:

        If you look carefully you will notice a lot of first time commentors on this thread. Does that perhaps ring some alarm bells?

        1. AnnaMaria_Barcelona says:

          @Mr Osborne, serious trouble and alarm bells everywhere!

        2. Erich says:

          is business not going well at the Bellagio as you have so much time to complain and read carefully?

          1. David Osborne says:

            Yes indeed, my Vegas career is on the skids.

        3. John Borstlap says:

          It shows that the band draws a young, enthusiastic audience that even takes the trouble to comment on SD, to defend their unscrupulous optimism and that is exactly what this ensemble represents. Nothing wrong with that. As long as it is not understood as ‘classical music’…. because it is pop, nothing more than that.

          And thus, infinitely irrelevant in terms of culture.

          It begins to be really worrying when such performers are playing in the Viennese Musikverein or the Berlin Philharmonie with an arrangement of Brahms IV, or a 3 minute version of Mahler VI 1st mvt with the marching rhythms, and as an item on a classical series.

          1. David Osborne says:

            I think you’re being a little naive. Exhibit A, comment below from LAURA_SMITH. This is organised.

  38. Pete says:

    seriously thats cool stuff

  39. Laura_Smith says:

    classical dinosaurs 🙂 i cant stop laughing! So easy for them to complain behind their computer screen. They must live quite a frustrating life!
    I like the idea of Symphoniacs- it’s refreshing and new

    1. John Borstlap says:

      The dinosaurs were a tough breed and dominated the world for millions of years, and could only be extinguished by dropping a mountain from space.

  40. Tom_Viola1970 says:

    their careers are truly impressive!

  41. Mike says:

    Its funny to see that the man who covers pop songs and who´s album says “pop the piano” complains about this project?! If you dont like it dont listen to it!

    1. David Osborne says:

      Well you know, you are of course referring to the “Pianist to the Presidents” who pretty soon could be forced to play for Trump. I think he has a right to complain don’t you?

  42. Pete_the_pianoplayer says:

    Amazing project cant wait to hear more!


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