Now 148 composers speak out against German orchestra merger

Now 148 composers speak out against German orchestra merger


norman lebrecht

November 14, 2013

Yesterday it was 160 conductors in the Faz, led by Pierre Boulez.

Today’s, it’s the who’s who of living composers in Die Zeit, an international A-Z from Michel van der Aa to Gérard Zinsstag. The letter is titled ‘Not in Our Name’. This is an incredibly effective campaign, led by the French music director Francois-Xavier Roth.

Read here (auf Deutsch). Signatories follow:




Michel van der Aa, Peter Ablinger, Carlos Roqué Alsina, Gilbert Amy, Mark Andre, Theodore Antoniou, Richard Ayres, Nikolai Badinski, Vykintas Baltakas, Klarenz Barlow, Franck Bedrossian, Peter Benary, Xavier Benguerel i Godó, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Philippe Boesmans, Hans-Jürgen von Bose, Pierre Boulez, Nikolaus Brass, Peter Michael Braun, Sylvano Bussotti, Aureliano Cattaneo, Friedrich Cerha, David Robert Coleman, Chaya Czernowin, Luis de Pablo, James Dillon, Paul-Heinz Dittrich, Andreas Dohmen, Pascal Dusapin, Dietrich Eichmann, Moritz Eggert, Jean-Claude Eloy, Peter Eötvös, Julio Estrada, Reinhard Febel, Dror Feiler, Brian Ferneyhough, Lorenzo Ferrero, Peter Förtig, Clemens Gadenstätter, Bernhard Gander, Ulrich Gasser, Rolf Gehlhaar, Frank Gerhardt, Sofia Gubaidulina, Georg Friedrich Haas, Saed Haddad, Peter Michael Hamel, Johannes Harneit, Werner Heider, Jörg Herchet, Franz Jochen Herfert, Arnulf Herrmann, Kenneth Hesketh, Hans-Joachim Hespos, Volker Heyn, Manuel Hidalgo, Anders Hillborg, Heinz Holliger, Josef Maria Horvath, Klaus Huber, Nicolaus A. Huber, Klaus K. Hübler, Karel Husa, James Ingram, Michael Jarrell, Ben Johnston, Betsy Jolas, Johannes Kalitzke, Gija Kantscheli, Dieter Kaufmann, Thomas Kessler, Wilhelm Killmayer, Marek Kopelent, Dmitri Kourliandski, Georg Kröll, György Kurtág, Hanspeter Kyburz, Helmut  Lachenmann, Bernhard Lang, Michaël Levinas, Liza Lim, Jonathan Lloyd, Jorge E. López, Dieter Mack, Mesias Maiguashca, Philippe Manoury, Bruno Mantovani, Yan Maresz, Laurent Mettraux, Wolfgang Mitterer, Marc Monnet, Wolfgang Motz, Detlev Müller-Siemens, Tristan Murail, Olga Neuwirth, Makiko Nishikaze, Helmut Oehring, Klaus Ospald, Younghi Pagh-Paan, Brice Pauset, Krzysztof Penderecki, Robert HP Platz, Enno Poppe, Alberto Posadas, Martin Christoph Redel, Nicolaus Richter de Vroe, Rolf Riehm, Wolfgang Rihm, Yann Robin, Uroš Rojko, Peter Ruzicka, Frederic Anthony Rzewski, Kaija Saariaho, James Saunders, Rebecca Saunders, Dieter Schnebel, Tobias PM Schneid, Klaus Schweizer, Kurt Schwertsik, Martin Smolka, Daniel Smutny, Gerhard Stäbler, Manfred Stahnke, Johannes Maria Staud, Walter Steffens, Günter Steinke, Marco Stroppa, Hubert Stuppner, Paweł Szymański, Dimitri Terzakis, Hans Thomalla, Manfred Trojahn, Manos Tsangaris, Jakob Ullmann, Paul Usher, Caspar Johannes Walter, Jörg Widmann, Gerhard Wimberger, Heinz Winbeck, Róbert Wittinger, Hans Wüthrich, Jürg Wyttenbach, Franck Christoph Yeznikian, Fredrik Zeller, Hans Zender, Walter Zimmermann, Gérard Zinsstag


  • Simon Morgan says:

    Here, for non-German speakers, my own rough-and-ready translation of the letter:

    Not in Our Name

    Dear Mr Boudgoust,

    on September 28, 2012, the broadcasting council of South West German Radio (SWR) decided — at your proposal — to merge the SWR Symphony Orchestra Baden-Baden and Freiburg with the RSO Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra.

    The decision, which you initiated and pressed ahead with completely oblivious to very considerable resistance and cogent counter-arguments, will mark the end of the independence of an orchestra whose distinctive profile is unique in the world. And it will happen in 2016, the orchestra’s 70th anniversary year.

    Since it was set up in 1946 the SWR Symphony Orchestra Baden-Baden and Freiburg has given the world premieres of more than 400 works, making it — more than any other ensemble — the voice of new and contemporary music. Its unparalelled commitment to contemporary music is reflected in its presence at the Donaueschinger Musiktagen, to which the orchestra has been inseparably tied since the festival’s relaunch in 1950. By giving the world premieres there of works by Hans Werner Henze, Bernd Alois Zimmermann, Luigi Nono, Olivier Messiaen and countless others, all of which have signed their names below, the orchestra has written musical history.

    This orchestra not only gave us contemporary composers a forum in Donaueschingen, but around the world as well.

    It programmed our works, gave them a hearing and not infrequently secured them a place in the repertoire. It understood listening as a challenge and saw debate about, and confrontation with, the new as an existential necessity in a concert circuit that is threatening to stultify and wither from the never-ending repetition of the same small number of works, a practice at the very root of its current ills.

    Without neglecting the standard repertoire of classical and romantic works or the masterpieces of early modernism, the orchestra’s concert progammes have always sought to offer a space where classic and contemporary works, well-loved and (previously) undiscovered, can meet eye-to-eye.

    This has given rise to a school of listening that can be immediately felt and is entirely free from any pedagogical overload. The lines of tradition are clearly discernible, as are also the different caesura seen throughout the history of music. By placing the familiar and the new directly side by side, new standards of measurement can be set, but also accepted certainties overthrown, fears of contact assuaged and prejudices thrown overboard.

    The unflagging commitment of SWR Symphony Orchestra Baden-Baden and Freiburg and distinguished chief conductors such as Hans Rosbaud, Ernest Bour, Michael Gielen, Sylvain Cambreling and currently François-Xavier Roth have achieved nothing less than giving contemporary music a home and place in everyday concert life. It wasn’t always “comfortable” for audiences, but it was never intended to be. The confrontation with contemporary music can often demand a lot from audiences. But the orchestra always saw it as part of the educational mandate of the public broadcaster of which it is part.

    We are aghast that in a country, which so frequently and proudly boasts of being a nation of culture — and whose Chancellor recently called for Germany to be a “Republic of Education” — a licence-fee financed broadcaster thinks it can put a monetary value on its orchestras and bow to the diktat of commercialisation of education, arts and culture. But it is actually the duty and mandate of a public broadcaster to stand as a bulwark against those very trends.

    The SWR Symphony Orchestra Baden-Baden and Freiburg is not like any other orchestra. It is an orchestra for contemporaries, one which, with a watchful eye on the Avantgarde in all eras, consistently seeks to out the new to combat the museumisation of what goes under the name “classical music”. This is possible not least thanks to the stylistic and technical excellence of its players in modern music in general and contemporary sound experimentation in particular. Such skills cannot be easily be supplanted into a new merged super orchestra. Rather, they would be lost forever.

    We urgently call upon you, as Intendant of the broadcaster, as well as SWR radio director Gerold Hug, and the broadcasting council of South West German Radio not to serve the reduction of public subsidies — for which there is allegedly no alternative — and dig the grave of a cultural institution of international standing. We urgently call upon you instead to rescind the merger decision and to recognise it as your duty to guarantee the long-term survival of an artistically independent SWR Symphony Orchestra Baden-Baden and Freiburg.

    Respectfully yours

  • The m/f ratio for the composers who signed is 140 to 8. As noted by a commentator for the conductors’ letter, that one was 156 to 4. Maybe they should also look at themselves if they want to know why classical music is losing relevance.

    • Martin says:

      140 to 8 is probably a much better m/f ratio, than the one one would take if one would create such a ratio for all singificant composers of the last century or so.

      • Probably, but the list shows how masculinist new music still is.

        • Martin says:

          There was nothing wrong with that for centuries. And I bet lots of music written centuries ago was rated as utter crap or forgettable as much of today’s music does.

          The only difference today is that technology gives more people a chance to be heared and listeners more chances to hear. Which might be a good thing, because a piece just few like only needs to be performed and recorded once and it will be there to listen or even watch for a long time (maybe forever, if the data doesn’t get lost).

  • Erwin says:


  • Emily L. Ferguson says:

    Masculinist? No, all it shows is how mired in a religion centered definition of roles the entire western society still is. The idea that three or four generations are sufficient to enable new gender equalities is wishful thinking. Only when the work women traditionally do is salaried and taxed at the same rate as all other work will we begin to break the strangle hold of “masculist” behavior.

    • Interesting. Women represent over 40% of the work force in Europe — not counting all the work they do that is unpaid. Perhaps they should ask why they pay taxes for culture that is so strongly male oriented.

  • Barbarossa says:

    How utterly pointless to use this to carp about the absence of women. If they want to compose music, nothing at all is stopping them. And they do. The quality of music is what matters, not who or what wrote it. Stop intruding on cultural matters with destructive political and social distractions. That is why the orchestras are being merged.