Breaking: Berlin Philharmonic cuts links with Salzburg festival

Breaking: Berlin Philharmonic cuts links with Salzburg festival


norman lebrecht

May 15, 2011

The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra has announced that it is quitting the Salzburg Easter Festival, after next year.

Apparently, it has been made a better offer by the festival at Baden-Baden and the musicians voted to take the money. They demanded that Salzburg put on four new productions at Easter, knowing full well that there was insufficient time to raise finance for such an expansion. Baden-Baden, which is privately and somewhat opaquely funded, had already met this requirement.

Simon Rattle, the chief conductor, was not consulted.

The German press has reported the walkout from the orchestra’s perspective, citing among other causes a declining Easter audience at Salzburg and dissatisfaction with this season’s controversial Salome production. Next season’s Carmen will end 45 years of collaboration, begun when Herbert von Karajan founded the festival in 1967.

The mayor of Salzburg has described the decision as a breach of contract and is consulting lawyers. The festival’s director, Peter Alward, has expressed deep disappointment.

This, though, is just the beginning. Alward told me this morning that he is ‘bloodied but not bowed’ and has several initiatives in hand to replace Berlin with an orchestra of equal value. Perhaps, I added, also of better manners.

I shall report more of the sanguinary background in a little while.