Germany’s orchestra of the year is….

May 23, 2017 by norman lebrecht


The radio station Deutschlandfunk Kultur runs an annual ballot among its editors and musicians to choose what they think is the country’s best and most progressive orchestra.

Last year it was the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen.

This year it is Kirill Petrenko’s orchestra of Bavarian State Opera.

That won’t wash well in Berlin.

Comments (33)

  1. Daphne Badger says:

    Why won’t it wash well in Berlin? He is not yet Chief of a Berlin orchestra. Please explain your pointless rhetorical insolence.

  2. MacroV says:

    And well-deserved, I suspect. I haven’t heard them in the pit, but the Digital Concert Hall featured them for a short time (part of last Fall’s Berlin Festival) in a magnificent Sinfonia Domestica.

    Though the BPO is both a great and progressive orchestra, so I imagine they’ll survive the slight.

    1. Olassus says:

      I thought that Sinfonia domestica, or “Symphonia domestica” as it was first published, was junk. Junk. KP had little insight.

      Incidentally, KP’s new Tannhäuser the other got low marks for the conducting as well.

      1. Olassus says:

        … the other *night* got …

      2. John Kelly says:

        Oh you must mean the “low marks” Zachary Woolfe gave the conducting in the New York Times………………he concludes……..

        “What wasn’t cloying in that finale on Sunday was the music — the orchestra swirling and shining, the chorus rich and full-bodied. Mr. Petrenko and the forces of the Bavarian State Opera will perform Strauss’s “Der Rosenkavalier” in concert at Carnegie Hall next season. See you there.”

        Full review here……he sure doesn’t agree with you!!!

        1. Olassus says:

          No, John, I mean the low marks given by BR’s critic above. Petrenko’s approach is apparently inconsistent.

          Zachary Woolfe is wet behind the ears.

          1. Andrew R. Barnard says:

            And BR’s critic must be right because you agree with him?

          2. Olassus says:

            Please read more carefully.

          3. Andrew R. Barnard says:

            There’s nothing to read more carefully. You’re just being contrarian.

          4. Olassus says:

            You may speculate.

  3. Ben says:

    There is no ‘best’ in music. Many many greats. But no ‘best’. Unless you are somebody named Lang Lang and wanna stay delusional. 🙂

    P.S. When’s the last time Zaap did some good things with the music he conducted? 😉

  4. Olassus says:

    It’s called the …

    Bavarian State Orchestra,

    not the …

    Orchestra of Bavarian State Opera.


    Bavarian State Orchestra, founded 1811,

    31 years before its Austrian counterpart,

    with its own subscription concerts
    starting that year.

    1. Michael Schaffer says:

      Actually it’s called “Bayerisches Staatsorchester”. The official language in Bavaria still is German (sort of), not English.

      1. Olassus says:

        Ja, genau.

        Point is, it has a 206-year-old name, independent of the opera company’s.

        NL is sloppy about this, while he would never confuse “Vienna Philharmonic” and “Vienna State Opera Orchestra.”

        1. Michael Schaffer says:

          I think he usually calls them “Vienna Nazi Orchestra”. LÖL

          But how did you come up with 1811? The history of the Bayerisches Staatsorchester goes back into the 16th century, they have been called “Hoforchester” since the 18th century (“Staatsorchester” since 1918 or maybe ’19).

          1. Olassus says:

            It is the year of incorporation, for want of a better word.

          2. Olassus says:

            It was the Bavarian Royal Court Orchestra at the time, so I was mistaken to say the name itself is 206 years old. Oddly the orchestra’s own History page has been taken down to accommodate the current honor. They played like angels yesterday at the second performance; the Lower Bavarian Gerhaher sang so well and delivered the language so beautifully, you could hear a pin drop whenever he opened his mouth. It was the 1875 score essentially, if not exactly. Sensually played. No orchestra in Vienna or Berlin could surpass the achievement — in all sections, I might add.

          3. Michael Schaffer says:

            You misunderstood. 1811 was the year they started these Akademie-Konzerte. But the orchestra is much older. They trace themselves back to 1523, sort of, but that really mostly depends on definitions and all that. According to this, the Hofkapelle was renamed Hoforchester in 1762, although the text here is not really all that clear (and gramatically incorrect, too…).

          4. Olassus says:

            As it was explained to me at the 200th anniversary concert, in 2011, the granting by the royal court of permission for the musicians to present their own concert series was tantamount to the founding of the orchestra as an independent entity.

            As for tracing orchestras back to the 16th century, whether in Munich, Dresden, Leipzig, or any place else, it is a nice notion but not a meaningful one, even with an undisputed thread. (I am of course aware of Senfl’s role.) If you want to go back, in Munich’s case, before 1811 — and no one is suggesting the musicians just showed up out of the blue that year — a more logical line would be back to Mannheim. But this only takes you to about 1740.

  5. Robert Holmén says:

    What do they deem to be progressive in an orchestra?

    That could mean many things.

  6. Cecylia Arzewski says:

    There is no such thing as a “bad orchestra”
    Only “bad conductors”

    1. M2N2K says:

      Unfortunately that is neither funny nor true. There are bad orchestras too.

  7. Andrew R. Barnard says:


    Methinks Berlin has enough of maturity and self-assurance to not go around feeling sore because a single radio station didn’t give them an award that doesn’t mean anything anyway.

    Will you ever stop making up stories to make this great orchestra look bad?

    1. Olassus says:

      It is not a single radio station, and the award is more meaningful than you realize.

      1. Michael Schaffer says:

        How? It’a nice gesture, but it really doesn’t “mean” all that much. Nobody is going to cry over this in Berlin.

      2. Andrew R. Barnard says:

        Would you like to list all the stations involved, then? Obviously this isn’t going to hurt Berlin, which continues to operate on a high level all their own. You’re just trying to stir up trouble [redacted].

      3. Olassus says:

        The two of you sound awfully defensive.

        1. Michael Schaffer says:

          Not at all. Why would I care? But I asked you a question. Can you answer it?

          1. Olassus says:

            The answer is in Norman’s first sentence at the top of this page. Hundreds of discerning people from across Germany participate, and amazingly they are not all worshippers at the altar of HvK’s erstwhile band.

          2. Michael Schaffer says:

            Nor am I. Nor does it follow that people who ask you that question are. It doesn’t look to me like you have a “meaningful” response of your own though. For you it seems to be silly local patriotism, typical “second city inferiority complex” stuff. Which is really quite provincial and explains all your non sequitur responses here accusing people who question your comments of the same.
            It’s nice when good work and artistic achievement are recognized, but music is not a competition and that kind of recognition, whatever it means (or not) is not a “slight” that “won’t wash down well in Berlin”. That’s an idiotic attitude and one not commonly shared by people who actually value culture.

          3. Olassus says:


  8. Olassus says:

    You may speculate.

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