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Christian Thielemann to leave Dresden?

January 4, 2017 by norman lebrecht

28 comments.


Bild reports that talks to renew the conductor’s contract have stalled over a small but stubborn issue.

Thielemann is demanding more days off on tour. The Dresden Staatskapelle management say he already has more free days than his predecessors.

Thielemann, 57, has bestowed star status on the ancient but long-marginalised orchestra since he joined in 2012. His televised New Year’s concert reached 980,000 ZDF viewers, though this represents a dip on past peak years.

He would have left Dresden soonerhad he won the election to the Berlin Philharmonic last year.


Comments (28)

  1. erich says:

    Surprise, surprise…yet another drama involving this hugely talented conductor. The problems are never musical. They always involve his laziness (very limited repertoire and as few rehearsals as possible), and his exceptionally bad behaviour backstage (basic lack of respect for anyone). He failed to get Berlin for just those reasons and now that Meyer has been ‘shot’ in Vienna, a possible escape route to the Staatsoper is more than unlikely. Welser-Möst or Pappano would both be suitable replacements, also for the Salzburg Easter Festival. What a tragedy that a basically great musician seems to lack the intelligence to realise that he’s in the ‘last chance saloon’ of his career. If he now messes Dresden up after the Nürnberg. Berlin and Munich debacles, he’s condemning himself to a potential future as an – albeit highly-paid – guest conductor, since it is doubtful that any other major orchestra will take the risk of offering him another music-directorship.

    1. Peter says:

      In other words, he could do a “Carlos Kleiber” for the rest of his professional career. Possibly they have psychopathological traits in common, that suggest it to be the better modus operandi for all sides to not allow these men power over other humans outside the immediate and limited geography of the pit and the podium. This man needs effective oversight, since his ego is that of a cranky child.

    2. Olassus says:

      http://www.staatsoper.at and
      http://www.staatsoper.de both have vacancies — and the same budgets.

    3. Alexander Hall says:

      He doesn’t have a limited repertoire, despite what you say. Quite apart from the many operas he has conducted, he does a lot of Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms, Bruckner and Richard Strauss (and Tchaikovsky too) plus a surprising amount of contemporary music (Henze, Reimann, Gubaidulina). One programme with the Berlin Philharmonic had Chausson, Debussy and the Fauré Requiem. In his New Year’s Eve concerts in Dresden he has performed a lot of operetta and included pieces by Gershwin. Top orchestras are no fools or masochists: they don’t go on reinviting people like Thielemann to conduct them unless they are convinced it is worth the effort. Of course he’s “difficult” (most conductors are!), since you need a big ego to persuade almost 100 musicians that they need to do things your way. If you watch the Berlin Phil’s Digital Concert Hall, look at what the orchestra does at the end of a concert with Thielemann. They applaud him – that’s not something German orchestras, and certainly not the Berlin Phil, do as a matter of course.

      1. Sue says:

        Completely agree. And Thielemann may be ‘trying it on’ to see just how much influence he wields.

        Top conductors are often very “difficult”, yes, but to suggest Thielemann has “psychopathological problems” (and that Kleiber had these) is outrageous. Kleiber was known as a ‘dictator, but a very human one who cared about people”.

        The Viennese love Thielemann and I’ve been to a few of his concerts where he’s been brought back to the podium by the audience long after the orchestra has left!!

        He has a very secure future – and he knows it!! As Kleiber also knew about himself.

        1. Peter says:

          Apparently you don’t know these people personally, but only from the position of adulation down from the parterre.

          Or how could you otherwise phrase a sentence: “The Viennese love Thielemann and I’ve been to a few of his concerts where he’s been brought back to the podium by the audience long after the orchestra has left!!” and think that says anything about the man, when it in fact only says something about that part of the audience that needs this man for their need for adulation of a projected great man.

          The sad thing about the classical music business is, that psychologically suffering people do not get help but are even encouraged to emphasize their mental conditions, by an audience hungry to see their own needs for adulation satisfied. “Führer befiehl, wir folgen!” (Almost) the same mindset. Just sickening.

          1. Alexander Hall says:

            This is not a phenomenon specific to classical music. If you haven’t already done so, go and observe the images of thousands of teeny-boppers (and others much older in a similar vein) who go wildly hysterical and rip off their clothing whenever their objects of “adulation” (Beatles, Stones, David Bowie, Take That, George Michael) have performed. And then ask yourself whether these pseudo-fascist symbols of individual submission are peculiar – as you seem to suggest – to the German-speaking world or whether they are not a universal phenomenon.

          2. Peter says:

            well, you have a point, but there is also a difference between grown up people, and some teenagers ridden by the hormonal rollercoaster of puberty.

      2. Andrew An says:

        (Y)

  2. Olassus says:

    Oh, stupid administrators! Just approve what he wants!

  3. G. Karni says:

    Whatever he has in his rep, whatever he wants – gets it or not, conductors have to be nice and humane, anywhere they conduct. From a personal experience being his principal violist once – HE IS NOT!

    1. Sue says:

      Not like ‘the screaming skull’, Solti, aye!!!

  4. Ungeheuer says:

    To these ears, the Dresden never sounded better than when under Kempe and Sinopoli. To date, I have yet to hear one performance or one recording of any work under Thielemann, with the Dresden or not, that surpasses anything that others before him have done. Nothing he has done rises to memorable, let alone reference level.

    1. Olassus says:

      Sinopoli? You are joking.

      1. Ungeheuer says:

        Dead serious.

        1. Alexander Hall says:

          The trouble is that most British critics pursued a kind of personal vendetta against Sinopoli and hardly ever gave him a fair chance. The recording he made in Dresden shortly before his death of “Ein Heldenleben” gives you the most sumptuous string playing imaginable (on par with the Berlin Phil under Karajan) and an intensity in the phrasing which is exceptional. His Mahler 4 (also recorded in Dresden) is an equally beautiful performance. If you read Ulrike Kienzle’s two-volume biography of Sinopoli (only available in German) you quickly appreciate how highly regarded he was in Dresden, especially on a purely human level.

          1. Ungeheuer says:

            Not to mention his devastating Bruckner 3rd with the Dresden and his equally devastating Schumann 2nd with the Vienna. I have not heard this Heldenleben but will.

    2. Hans-Dieter Glaubke says:

      Bravissimo! Such succinct statement, with the ultimate insight.

  5. MacroV says:

    I wonder if he’s arguing for a day off after every tour concert for himself, or for the orchestra. Or both. I believe Berlin has a rule about a day off after concerts on two consecutive days, which doesn’t sound unreasonable, and I’m sure the master agreements for many orchestras have provisions about performances on consecutive days, travel conditions, rest, etc.. If you’re on tour, you want to be rested well enough to give your best. In any case, a day off after every concert seems a bit much.

    1. Peter says:

      I would assume the mandatory rest day after two consecutive concert day would be only in case those two concert days each are in different venues and require traveling in-between. Because at home they by default play three consecutive concert days.

  6. Peter says:

    I wonder if there are personal medical reasons for this unprecedented wish of him to have a rest day after each concert day. Is he fit?

    1. Max Grimm says:

      I don’t know how fit he really is but there have been claims about him having marked hypochondriacal tendencies.
      (I’d take those claims with a healthy dose of salt, as, while some reputable journalists and sources have made said claim about Thielemann, the people usually writing about it largely work for the Bild)

      1. Sue says:

        Thielemann is about 56 or 57 and doesn’t look a day over 40. Yep, that’s unhealthy.

        1. Max Grimm says:

          Perhaps due to the day off after every tour concert and/or receiving various inoculations, immunizations and treatments preemptively 😉
          On a serious note however, there are unfortunately a great many people in their 50s, who don’t look a day over 40 and really are in deplorable health.
          Personally, I agree with your comment further above and also think that Thielemann has no health concerns but “may be ‘trying it on'”. According to Manuel Brug, the current contract doesn’t provide particularly favourable conditions and provisions for him.

          1. DESR says:

            God knows what are you implying here but it seems a little unsavoury. And wink not while you are doing so.

          2. Max Grimm says:

            God knows where your mind is “DESR” to imagine an unsavoury implication.
            I did not imply anything but instead joked (sarcastically) about Thielemann and him allegedly tending to be a hypochondriac. And I will wink while doing so, thank you very much.


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