Vienna blames conductor for flaccid Magic Flute

Vienna blames conductor for flaccid Magic Flute


norman lebrecht

November 20, 2013

He had a bad time in Salzburg this summer, squeezing a flabby Cosi fan tutte into an already overcrowded schedule. Now Christoph Eschenbach is being attacked in Vienna for the failure of its new Magic Flute. ‘Meaningless’ said the review in Kurier. Unclean, bloodless, rough sound, said Der Standard. He upset the orchestra, say Kleine Zeitung and Wiener Zeitung. That’s quite a trashing.



photo © Matthias Creutziger


  • Daniel Farber says:

    But we who live in or near Washington D.C. have to endure him for most of the concert season after living in hope and pleasure during the short tenure of Ivan Fischer.

    • JBBaldwin says:

      The NSO brass section wasn’t living in hope or pleasure during Fischer’s stint. His belittling and tyrannical fit-throwing did little to endear him to the players.

      • Daniel Farber says:

        Funny he does so well working with the St. Luke’s Orchestra in New York (not to mention his own Budapest band): you don’t suppose it’s because the players are better??

  • Lothar Preslmayr says:

    I attended the premiere and couldn’t agree more with the critics above about the horrendous, stodgy and miserable conducting of Christoph Eschenbach. Many audience members were in disbelief that a big name German Maestro gave us such an anti Mozart approach to a work which is in our blood. I am sure Karl Bohm, Josef Krips, Karajan, Georg Szell came out of their graves laughing at this man who supposedly hold the mantle of the Austro-German music tradition. It was just appalling, I feel sorry for Herr Eschenbach

  • Alexander Hall says:

    I’m surprised at the amount of vitriol that has been poured over Eschenbach in earlier postings. He’s either a nasty little man who gives orchestras everywhere hell or he’s much-maligned and picked on by critics, journalists and others who clearly have all kinds of issues with him.

    • Bill Baldwin says:

      Where there is smoke, there is fire. Eschenbach has fooled the music world for too long. It is not a question of him being “picked on by the critics”, but simply his bad music making that irritates and exasperates both musicians and the public. In a musically demanding city like Vienna, they just won’t tolerate it, whereas elsewhere, they may just not care. That said, Philadelphia got him out, and so did Paris, so you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. The next shoe to drop will probably be his being put out of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, although not being a major headline grabbing orchestra, although not a bad ensemble, they may hold on to a second rate conductor like Eschenbach, which is, of course, a mistake.

  • Mike Earles says:

    I feel sad to read these comments against Eschenbach, although I confess not to have actually heard him recently. Perhaps he can recover his reputation back at the piano?

  • Observer says:

    These news from Vienna are extremely disturbing especially concerning the future of the two remaining Da Ponte operas (Le Nozze and Don Giovanni) in Salzburg with Bechtolf staging and Eschenbach conducting. Definitely Intendant Pereira needs to do his own soul searching whether keeping Eschenbach to finish the Da Ponte project mean another damage to the already unpopular Pereira as Intendant of the Festival. The choice of Eschenbach to do Cosi was done in haste after Welser-Möst had a fallout with Pereira, there were lengthy comments about how unprepared Eschenbach was during the Cosi project because he was in the middle of another big project with a youth orchestra in the kangaroo country. It was already a very big mistake done by Pereira to engage Eschenbach to do Cosi resulting in havoc and bad musical result. Are we going to witness horrible Figaro next Summer and a Fall to the Abyss Don Giovanni to end the cycle? Eschenbach himself might like to offer his resignation from his conducting duty in Salzburg, or is he too proud to do that?????

    • PhillyMusician says:

      If they have any respect for Mozart and keeping up the great tradition of Mozart performance in Vienna, then they absolutely must remove Eschenbach from all future productions in the planned Mozart Da Ponte series. He has already ruined, what could have been, a fine Cosi in Salzburg last August, as the singers weren’t bad at all. Now, again, he has ruined what might be a decent Magic Flute in Vienna. How many more Eschenbach disasters do they need to see and hear before they get rid of him? Bayreuth put him out, Philadelphia put him out, Paris put him out, so why can’t Vienna, of all places?

  • Kasper says:

    There is a steroid banger pianist whom Christoph Eschenbach loves to bring around the world with him called Barto Smith or Tzimon Barto eliminating Smith. The pair will perform Rihm Piano Concerto next Salzburg Fest Edition:

    But this steroid banger is also a cocaine addict:

    His arrest photo is here:

    It doesn’t give a pleasant picture that a world name Maestro supports the career of a cocaine addict artist, the name Eschenbach is synonym to Tzimon Barto, very weird combination but it is the truth

    • Bill Baldwin says:

      Oh, Tzimon Barto!!! That is another major musical embarrassment that Eschenbach “punishes” both orchestras and the public with, forcing this drug addicted, pumped up on steroids weirdo banging pianist down everybody’s throats year after year and throughout the world! You know the saying, “You are the company you keep.” Eschenbach’s fanatical obsession of performing with Tzimon Barto is a sure sign that something is just not right somewhere.

  • Owen Martin Reeves says:

    Nobody should be surprised by extremely poor, second rate conducting from Christoph Eschenbach anymore. The fact is, Eschenbach is a very very poor conductor, so get over it, it won’t change or get any better! He was thrown out of Philadelphia, after the shortest tenure of any music director in the long history of the Philadelphia Orchestra. He was thrown out of the Orchestre de Paris as well. He is a nasty little narcissist lacking the conducting talent and skills necessary to compensate for his human shortcomings. I gave up on that guy many years ago, when I lived in Philadelphia and was witness to some of the worst conducting I had ever experienced and some of the worst choices in young soloists that I had ever heard, all supposedly from his personal stable of “geniuses”, yet all among the most mediocre musicians that I have seen or heard. Yet certain orchestras keep engaging him, coming back for yet more abuse, more punishment for their musicians, more punishment for their audiences and, worst of all, more punishment for the music. Hopefully, now, with probably the worst track record in the business, Eschenbach will not be allowed to pollute the great halls of the world and will be confined to Washington, where they were foolish enough to hire him, when they had a true gem and great musician in Ivan Fischer filling in prior to that. Eschenbach reveals what is wrong with the classical music world. That it still functions on name and network, regardless of whether the conductor can lead effectively, inspire musicians and please the public. Move on people, forget about this guy! there are so many extremely gifted young talents out there, serious musicians, full of promise and sincerity. Give them a chance and turn the page on Christoph Eschenbach, a conducting mystery and a musical disgrace.

  • Kasper says:

    The right link for arrest record of Tzimon Barto is here:

    • Yekaterina says:

      What a frightening photo of a very seriously disturbed man. I never knew that Barto was arrested and convicted for possession of hard drugs. I always thought that he was a complete weirdo, who either plays too soft or way too loud and who stretches and distorts the musical line, turning it every which way, except the most natural musical way. What a sad case! Eschenbach is also a very bizarre individual if he prefers this drugged piano nut to the many great pianists out there. Strange people, very strange people!

    • Martin says:

      Idiotic that arrest photos like this one are on file for everyone to see even year after such a minor incident. Drugs and probably trying to hide the evidence. The public is not in danger, therefore this shouldn’t be public.

      I don’t even wanna know how many performers, not only orchestra musicians, soloists or conductors are on some form of drug when they go on stage.

      • Dr. Braunstein says:

        What do you mean, the public is not in danger?! According to the article he was driving around in a white Jaguar while high on drugs. Would you or would you like your child to be crossing the road when this idiot speeds by, hallucinating and not seeing you or your child? How about being high on drugs and driving at 180kms and not stopping at a red light and killing your wife as she crossed the intersection? That’s just one side of the danger posed. How about the destroyed lives of his family, parents, friends and others, seeing him looking as he does in the photo, on a regular basis.

        You may call it a minor incident, but if everybody would act and behave as Mr. Barto, the we would be living in an even sicker world than we already are. I couldn’t give a damn if he plays piano, good or badly. He is a sick person who needs help, not only for the sake of himself, but anyone who cares about him.

  • Manu says:

    Who ist the music director of Vienna Opera? It gives you a hint from where this Eschenbach-bashing comes from…

    • Bill Baldwin says:

      I don’t think that this, as you call it, “Eschenbach-bashing” comes from anywhere other than people who are fed up with poor, second class music making. I don’t think that the music director of the Vienna Opera had anything to do with Eschenbach’s disaster in Salzburg earlier this year, nor his being dismissed from Philadelphia and Paris. See the big picture and beyond one incident here or there. Eschenbach failed and has repeatedly failed, over and over and the public resents being taken for a ride, paying high ticket prices and getting poor quality music making. It is all that simple!

    • squirrel says:

      Care to elaborate? Would the music director of the Staatsoper be able to influence the Vienna press and the Philadelphia and Washington orchestras too?

      • Edgar says:

        No, the Musikdirektor der Wiener Staatsoper is Franz Welser-Moest, not Christoph Eschenbach, and I think neither of them, even if one or the other or both would like to, is able to influence the Vienna press and the orchestras of Philadelphia and Washington. Quite the contrary, usually it are the Viennese and the Viennese press who go after the Musikdirektor der Wiener Staatsoper, so as to have their intriguing fun. It is one of the favorite society games in town” “Erst integrieren wir den Musikdirektor, dann intrigieren wir ihn hinaus” – first we integrate him, then we intrigue him out. Karl Boehm’s words at his departure from the position, more than half a century ago, are still immortal: “um Gotteswillen, intrigieren’s net so viel!” The current Musikdirektor der Wiener Staatsoper is, if I am correct, also engaged in Cleveland. No time to play intrigue, be it in Vienna, Philadelphia, Washington, or Paris or anywhere else. This time, it looks like Mr. Eschenbach has no one to blame but himself. The same goes for the members of the orchestra who were in the pit on opening night, and who might have very likely not have been present at any of the rehearsals because of their “Rotationsprinzip”. Visiting tourists will fill the house for this flopped production, so not all is entirely lost. Those responsible for the Staatsoper (people other than the current Generaldirektor and Musikdirektor, those who occupy influential office desks at the various level of Viennese and national politics) will weigh in when they decide it is appropriate. The Staatsoper is, after all, only a small part of the larger stage that is Vienna,,,

  • This Eschenbach nastiness is so strange. I am a professional musician, I have heard him on any number of occasions, and have heard superb, incandescent performances from him 90 % of the time. He is no poseur. He is a very important performer–a great artist. But I wonder if the back – biting is due to management rivalries and that the people here commenting are just part of the claque. I am not part of a claque, nor do I have a dog in this hunt. The nastiness about Tzimon Barto is a horror, too. I can assure you–whether the man is Eschenbach ‘ s lover or not, Barto is a virtuoso pianist known at Juilliard for outstanding playing and a brilliant, first – class mind. (But the people complaining about Barto usually have not a clue about how to play the piano anyway, even if they themselves do so professionally!)

    It cracks me up that people enjoy the likes of an Ivan Fischer (boring and “politically correct” musically). Eschenbach is greater than any orchestra deserves–a spontaneous, intense, brilliant musician. Get with it, people.

    • Robin Littlehurst says:

      “Get with it people”??? You should write your comments to all of the newspapers and critics who have trashed Eschenbach, to the halls and the thousands of concertgoers who have booed him and the two orchestras and one festival that have thrown him out. They are far more important in forming the opinions that are shared here than any individual blogger, no mater how much you may disagree. As far as Tzimon Barto being a piano genius, that is a big joke. Why do you think that there is not one major, or even secondary or tertiary conductor who champions this guy, except for Christoph Eschenbach? Is it because the whole world is wrong and you (and Eschenbach) are right? I doubt it and that may explain why this particular blog is so full of disdain for a once more interesting musician, who is, unfortunately, nowadays, completely uninteresting and sadly, at times, an outright embarrassment.

    • NSO musician says:

      Having performed under the batons of both Fischer and Eschenbach I can only say that Fischer, although quite odd in his rehearsal approach, produced excellent performances. His attitude toward the musicians was respectful. Eschenbach is not respectful to his orchestra. He also has no idea how to rehearse. The orchestra is left with trying to perform a work with no idea as to Eschenbach’s interpretation. He is self serving, nasty, disrespectful, and an egomaniac.

      Unfortunately neither Fischer or Eschenbach can inspire the orchestra as Rostropovich did.

  • Don Ciccio says:

    Say whatever you want, but the NSO sounds better than ever under Eschenbach. And while Fischer may well be my favorite conductor working today, it became clear that there was little chemistry between him and the NSO players.

    That said, Mozart is clearly not Eschenbach’s strength.

  • I’m not surprised at these comments; I’ve never heard one good thing about either him or his conducting. His brief appearance at Bayreuth (Parsifal in 2000) was notable for him bringing along an assistant who spoke no word of German and spent every rehearsal looking up the text in his pocket Langenscheidt and, more upsettingly for many, for bringing an end to Hans Sotin’s long collaboration with the theatre. The big winner of that, of course, was Wels.

    Best of all, though, is the unofficial text of his unspeakably pretentious headshot c. 2000, of him glaring manically and mystically beyond his outspread left hand (Thaddeus Watson knows the one I mean) which you can find in the conductors’ Rogues’ Gallery between the main building and the canteen. It’s a bit like this one but much scarier:

    ‘I conducted FIVE performances in Bayreuth’.

    • Max Renders says:

      What a stupid and pretentious photo! A picture speaks a thousand words is very apt here, for when I see a photo like that, first I laugh and then I say, what a fake! I only saw him conduct twice, once in Hamburg and once in Paris and my impression of him as a conductor was what I see in this photo, a fake who made many gestures and looked ever so serious and pensive, but who in the end produced a very boring (and extremely slowwwww) uninteresting concert experience.

  • Mark Mortimer says:

    Whats all this vitriol about Christoph Eschenbach?

    Those who say he’s a nasty little man- maybe right or wrong- I cannot comment.

    Some of the comments here portray him as a talentless hack, unworthy of standing before the world’s great orchestras. This is plainly absurd. Many, including myself, regard him as one of the most prodigious musicians of our time.

    I heard him directing Mozart Piano concerto 23 from the keyboard with the English Chamber orchestra at the Barbican in the mid nineties. It was a sublime performance. I have seen him direct large scale symphonic works with several London orchestras. Whilst his conducting and interpretations can often be very quirky, at least they aren’t boring.

  • Musiker says:

    If you notice, whenever Eschenbach is mentioned on this blog, out come all the same old trolls, spewing their bile and their poison.

    And you can bet your bottom dollar that Tzimon Barto’s name will appear, too.

    Best not to respond.

    The trolls soon get tired and crawl back under their stones.

    • Laura Wheatley says:

      It could be that people, most people, simply don’t like him, or rather they loathe him. Don’t forget, it’s not the people on this blog who write for the Viennese newspapers, it’s not the people here on this blog, for the most part, who booed him in Salzburg and for the most part, it’s not people here who threw him out of Bayreuth, out of Philadelphia and out of Paris. So if, as many have indicated, there is some group of “trolls” out to get him on this blog, it is rather that the so-called “trolls” share a general opinion that is the same as all of those who have been seriously disappointed by this man and have shortened his tenure at major orchestras and festivals in the past. To just go on saying that he is wonderful makes no sense, as Eschenbach has a very bad past record and seems to provoke anger and disappointment very often. Sure, there will always be people who like him, who support him, just like there are people who support all sorts of other people, strange political parties, etc., irrespective as to whether the general narrative is highly unfavourable, as is the case with Eschenbach. People here have spoken about his wonderful recordings from the 90’s. Well they may have been better than what he is capable of today. Look at a photo or listen to a recording of yourself from the 90’s. I’m sure that you too were more appealing back then and maybe even sounded better, if you were a musician. Eschenbach is no different. He is, as one comment here says, long past his sell-by date.

      The fact that Tzimon Barto’s name comes up in these blogs whenever Eschenbach is mentioned is because Eschenbach is among the only conductors working with this bizarre pianist and programming him everywhere, all of the time, even though he is a soloist who can very well empty a hall. That’s why his name comes up, because Eschenbach has linked his own name to that of Tzimon Barto for years and years. Tzimon Barto is a pianist on the fringe and certainly a very controversial musician, who many quite simply find vulgar and ridiculous, myself included.

      • Musiker says:

        I have no problem whatsoever if people don’t like Eschenbach as a musician or a conductor. That’s fine.

        What I find deeply offensive is the personal way in which he is attacked and insulted.

        That is totally uncalled for.

        Just look at the trollish comment below, a few comments down.

        That’s not a musical assessment, that’s a rabid diatribe by someone who is clearly a disturbed individual.

        We all have our different ideas about what makes a good conductor and musician.

        And there is nothing wrong with criticizing someone.

        But one can do it in a fair and respectful manner.

        For some reason I cannot fathom, Eschenbach draws out the trolls.

        He’s a conductor, for heaven’s sake.

        He’s not a mass murderer.

      • Musiker says:

        I wonder why the trolls on this thread are so obsessed with Eschenbach’s sexuality and whom he goes to bed with.

        Sounds suspiciously like envy to me.

        What’s wrong, chaps? Not getting any nooky yourselves?

  • Allen says:

    and yet, he recorded all of the Mozart piano sonatas for Deutsche Grammophon. listening now, and wondering if there is not just a personality issue that rubs the players the wrong way when he conducts. his Mozart interpretation sounds beyond reproach at the piano!

  • NSO musician says:

    Not sure what the fuss is about. Maestro Eschenbach has led the NSO this season in a lithe performance of Haydn Symphony No. 21, an exciting Saint-Saens Symphony No. 3 and a dedicated world premiere performance of Reynolds “George Washington” on week one. And on week two he lived Wagner’s ACT III of Parsifal with us. I think it is important to note that he is quite excellent when feeling comfortable with his players. He has a nice relationship with the NSO. We like him and he likes us. Unlike Rostropovich, who could tear your head off on stage or make you feel an inch tall, this Maestro is always quite calm and collected.

    • Old Fiddler says:

      Dear NSO Musician,

      I’m glad that you like Mr. Eschenbach and I’m glad that you believe that the majority of the other NSO players like Mr. Eschenbach and I sincerely hope that it works there for him and for you. If however you would speak with your colleagues in Philadelphia and in Paris, just to name two cities where I have many orchestra musician contacts, I can assure you that you wouldn’t get much sympathy from any of them. I am a former, now retired, Philadelphia Orchestra musician. Eschenbach was probably the worst Music Director that I have ever played under in my more than 40 odd years of being an orchestra musician. At first all seems nice and kind, but his interests are only in himself, his career and above all his money. He was not appreciated in Philadelphia at all and there were cheers among us when it was announced that he was out. Sad, but true.

      • NSO musician says:

        Rostropovich had very great chemistry in Washington (1976-1994). I am not saying Eschenbach has fostered this psychological interaction, to date, with the NSO. I would say the temperature is warm or luke warm. It does sounds like Eschenbach and Philadelphia had very poor chemistry. I imagine inside he cheered as well.

      • Rgiarola says:

        Old Fiddler,

        Let me say that He was/is also not appreciated in Philadelphia at all by the audience, and there were cheers among us when it was announced that he was out. 7 years missing Sawallisch and Muti.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      “Unlike Rostropovich, who could tear your head off on stage or make you feel an inch tall”

      I am surprised to hear that. Rostropovich seemed such a nice guy!

      • NSO musician says:

        Rostropovich produced many memorable concerts. His tenure was part of the golden period for the NSO. Known to so musicians, in part, he worked on the principle of fear. I say this because he looked around a lot during rehearsals and performances – you absolutely had to give your best effort at all times otherwise he might notice and stare you down. At worst, a stare down might result in a short unpleasant face to face in his dressing room. A different kind of stare down could spill over into concert performances. He was extremely intense.

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          Interesting. I have only seen Rostropovich conduct once, that was in Berlin in the mid-80s, Shostakovich 4 with the RSO Berlin. I remember the concert well, it was a pretty shattering experience.

          I have heard some of his NSO recordings, the Shostakovich 5 and Prokofieff R+J on DG, but that was a long time ago, so I honestly don’t remember much about those recordings. I wasn’t aware that he also recorded a complete Shostakovich cycle with the NSO for Teldec, just discovered that when I looked him up in the library catalog. Maybe I should check out some of those recordings. There is also a complete Prokofieff symphonies cycle, but that it with the Orchestre National de France. I quite like those recordings. Beyond that, I am not really familiar with his work as a conductor.

  • Salvatore says:

    Eschenbach, ha…ha…ha…, his “SELL BY DATE” is passed since a long time. I am not surprise by his choice to promote Barto wherever and whenever he goes. Sadly nowadays Eschenbach’s taste for his “CUTE BOYS” club has gone so low, purely going for someone’s look, nothing to do with artistic talent whatsoever. Take a look at one of his NEW prodigy who will be playing as the soloist with Eschenbach conducting Muenchener Philharmoniker in June 2014:

    Can anybody give an honest comment if a talent like this deserve to be invited to a major orchestra like Muenchener Philharmoniker as their soloist:

    Or playing the Bach Chaconne like this which surely won’t get this boy to be accepted in any serious major music conservatories:

    Another member of Eschenbach’s “CUTE BOYS” club trying to get through the Schumann concerto; thousand other violinists could play more in tune than this boy, I wonder what Eschenbach is hearing?

    The classical music business is full of “dilettante” in the worse sense of its actual meaning

    • Actually, the big revelation to me was how awful the music was! Just as the Schumann Piano Concerto is a piece I’ve heard so often I feel I never need to hear it again (not even in a new recording by Liszt, conducted by Carlos Kleiber) the Violin Concerto is completely new to me. Based on what I heard, I don’t think our universes need to meet again.

    • Jonathan Doe says:


      are those video clips shreds or are they real?

      Munich Phil and that violinist, not once but 4 times according to the violinists website?!

      IF the clips are real, just look at his biography first few sentences, which don’t quite add up:

      Iskandar Widjaja is regarded as one of the most interesting violinists of his generation.

      *regarded by who?! interesting: yes, for a quick shock*

      The “musical complexity of his playing style, his wide imagination with all it’s finest nuances and facets of sound, impeccable technique and great charisma”(Mo.Christoph Eschenbach) have been praised by colleagues and media equally.

      *which colleagues? wide imagination? impeccable technique – not in these videos. sound – not in these clips. great charisma? off the violin we can presume…*

      In Indonesia, Iskandar is being perceived as a “Pop”-phenomenon, his TV appearances have resulted in a trending topic status (most mentioned term) on twitter©.

      *and that merits not one but 4 performances with the Munich Philharmonic? At least David Garett could play the violin before he went “pop”*

      Does Eschenbach have ears any more? And he is giving career to young “stars” that don’t merit. How long before he will lose all respect from others with his musical judgement?

      Does the management of Munich Philharmonic want to comment on his choice of soloists?

  • astrodreamer says:

    Eschenbach and Tzimon Barto Rhimming in Salzburg next summer?!?!

    Seriously, tho, read Anne Midgette’s great profile in 2011. (google )

    The pianist is a fascinating guy. I never heard of him before today.

    He’s a total original — with grating millennial attitudes, but inspiring.

    “—His reviews are mixed. Germans often like him; the French less so, and in England, he is reviewed “with great condescension,” he says, or not at all. “You can’t change what other people think about you.” —–“

    • David H. says:

      Maybe offstage he is a fascinating guy, whatever that means… His piano and musical skills are an atrocity. What I heard was a musical rapist. He is an “original”, sure. I will never forget what I heard… unfortunately…

  • NSO Insider says:

    The incident with Mr. Tzimon Barto was very offensive to the NSO community. I was witness when Mr. Barto came out from Maestro’s dressing room walking around with his undershirt and underpants showing off his muscles. Rita Shapiro, Jeanne Ruesch and other top administrative staffs and board members are aware of this, certainly not pleasant knowing how much Maestro Eschenbach pushes the administration to accept his wishes regarding a circle of soloists and one conductor prodigy who are way below level and prestige of our orchestra!

    Many orchestra members including myself were also very upset with Maestro Eschenbach when he insisted to showcase a young violinist called Dan Zhu. As the Music Director Eschenbach holds full responsibility that the artist he insisted to be invited performing here possesses first class talent and quality. Unfortunately the recital of this young man with the Maestro was a total embarrassment and not long after that his concerto debut with the orchestra reconfirmed the mediocre level of the so called Eschenbach’s prodigies. We were baffled after the two failures why Maestro pushed again for Mr. Zhu as one of the soloists he brought in our last international tour.

    • Kim Zhang says:

      I recently moved from Washington DC after staying for nearly two years. I hadn’t heard of Eschenbach prior to arriving and initially forgave him for his ill-advised appearances with Lang Lang given their history; however, I totally lost respect for him when I noticed his choice of Dan Zhu for some concerts last January. I was initially curious about Zhu since I didn’t recognize his name, but quickly understood why I hadn’t heard of him after seeing some of his Youtube videos. To this day, I still wish I could ‘unhear’ those sounds. I hope, for your sake, that Eschenbach resigns from the NSO soon.

  • From Chicago says:

    Come on people, can we just let Mr. Eschenbach live his life and accept the way he is? Don’t you all understand Mr. Eschenbach is a gay man who lives in his fantasy land? He needs high adrenaline to go on stage making music therefore it is understandable his preference of prodigies are those who are good looking men or boys regardless of their talents, it just gets worse as he gets older (there are very few exceptions to this when he championed Renée Fleming, Julia Fischer). Bringing Barto on stage is an example of Eschenbach channeling his adrenaline to his fantasy land with the music going along. In the end Eschenbach case is similar to that of Gustav von Aschenbach in the Death in Venice.

    • Dr. Braunstein says:

      All very nice, except that the public is not there to pay for Mr. Eschenbach living out his fantasies, onstage, at their expense. It is not for the public to pay for and be subjected to his indulgences, especially when the results are so poor on such a regular basis and he offers them an array of musically second rate, but physically appealing mostly male soloists just to please his fantasies. While there may be similarities, ‘Death in Venice’ was fiction and here we are dealing with a very unfortunate reality. If Eschenbach is not able to distinguish between fantasy and reality, then he should stop conducting and get urgent psychiatric help.

  • MWnyc says:

    Keep in mind, folks, that while Eschenbach’s work in this production seems not to be a success, this is hardly the first time he has performed in Vienna.

    He has conducted the Vienna Philharmonic numerous times, and since the musicians themselves run the orchestra, they evidently don’t consider Christoph Eschenbach to be a talentless fraud.

    • From Chicago says:

      I am afraid you are living in fantasy land too my friend. This Mozart Piano Sonatas recordings were done when Mr. Eschenbach was 30 something years old, he wasn’t even conducting full time back then. Today sadly he [redacted: abuse] can’t make the difference to make wise choice and judgment between physical attraction and promoting real musical talent

      • sdReader says:

        It was a (misplaced) reply to a post above that claimed Mozart is not Eschenbach’s strength.

        He made the recordings starting in 1967, when he was 27, and the cycle proves beyond any doubt Eschenbach’s mastery.

        As for the comments about physical attraction, they have a whiff of homophobia. Countless times artists collaborate on this basis.

        • Steve says:

          “Countless times artists collaborate on this basis.”

          indeed : Bernstein/Justus Franz and Karajan/Alexis Weissenberg are two examples which spring to mind.

          The Eschenbach/Barto collaboration has alot going for it on the strength of the tremendous performance of Messian’s Canyons with the LPO.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            Bernstein and Frantz were known to have some kind of relationship but they didn’t work together all that much, I think. Bernstein recorded the Dvorak concerto with him and then later, the Schumann, that’s about it, as far as I know. I heard that the latter was kind of a get-better-soon present because Frantz had had a very serious car accident and when Bernstein visited him in the hospital, he promised him to do the Schumann together in Vienna once he got better.

            But Karajan and Weissenberg? I have never heard that Karajan was into men. Musically, Weissenberg was no Karajan pet either. They did work together regularly for a while and also made a number of recordings, but Weissenberg had made his career on his own merits before Karajan, and continued it successfully after their musical partnership had ended.

  • Mr Eschenbach’s apparent flops aside, one should not forget his GREATEST achievement: persuing a conductor’s career without the required hairdo.

    • derrik lummert says:

      its like Voldemort. in any case I find him and FWM pretty uninteresting (tho the latter turned in a great Bruckner 7 in cleveland a few years ago)

      • NSO musician says:

        There are times when Eschenbach’s interpretation is brilliant, but what has to be endured in between is really uninspired and less that mediocre.

        His habit of slowing down every 4 bars or the end of a phrase produces this feeling of musical stagnation. Where it should move, he holds back. When it is slow, it is too slow. These ideas seem to reflect his feeling that since it is his idea then it is brilliant. I have performed exquisite Mahler and horrendous Mahler with him.

        At one time he may have been consistent in his brilliance but This is long past.

        • Ernest says:

          And how about those untalented Eschenbach’s pets who performed with your orchestra? Can you enlighten us with some information?

          • NSO musician says:

            The orchestra itself has very little, if any, input as to the choice of soloists. I can tell you that I and some others have been disgusted by some of the guest artists. We have had violinists who, if auditioning, would never have made it past the preliminaries if they had even been invited. Intonation that was bad, and CE claims to have such great ears. I don’t have to mention poor musical interpretation.

            The choices are his, however they must be approved by our management. With this mentioned I might add that CE is the most powerful person at the Kennedy Center. So, I am sure that you can understand why he can get away with anything he wants.

            Most of us realize that he is like the proverbial snake. Leave him alone to do what he wants and you are safe. Challenge him, he coils and strikes.

          • NSO musician says:

            From another NSO musician that the one above: There is no doubt that all of our music directors – Rostropovich, Slatkin to Eschenbach – have hired undeserving or controversial soloists. How about Slatkin’s regular – pianist Jeffrey Siegel who soloed with us season after season and on tours let alone another personal friend, Evelyn Glennie, who soloed with us at the Musikverein in Vienna! Now that was embarrassing. Rostropovich hired his regular Russian drinking buddies as well as his choice of beautiful women friends. Have you forgotten Slava’s pianist friend Alexander Toradze from Tbilsi? I think it is a comfort thing. A comfort zone that conductors need I suppose. I do agree with you that some of Eschenbach’s choices have been disasters – and the fact that he doesn’t realize it is disconcerting and depressing.

          • That is really shocking. Mr EB seems to be one of those musicians with talent, but just not enough to be entirely convincing on the basis of achievement, so they feel they have to compensate for it in some way. Alas, there are lots of them in music life. Real great talents are rather modest and totally dedicated to the music they want to share with audiences.

  • Don Ciccio says:


  • Justus Kranzl says:

    I totally disagree with all the negative comments regarding Maestro Christoph prodigies in this blog. Tzimon Barto is one of the greatest pianists ever the world has ever known, listen to this great performance of Chopin 1st concerto, not with the Maestro, so he played with other people too:

    Violinist Dan Zhu has one of the fastest acrobatic fingers in Paganini 5th Caprice!!

    Another Eschenbach genius discovery is the great conductor [redacted: trolling]

    • Diane Funkhauser says:

      I watched five minutes (I couldn’t take anymore!) of your suggestion above, of Chopin’s First Piano Concerto with Tzimon Barto. You of course meant this as a joke, as this must be the most vulgar interpretation that I have ever heard. Apart from that, the sound and the image are not in synch and Mr. Barto looks like he just left a circus act. This is so bad that it is actually funny. Thank you. I think that I will pass on your dan Zhu suggestion, for seeing and hearing his Schumann Concerto with Eschenbach (link above in another post) was also a horrible musical experience. If Eschenbach thinks that these people are great musicians, then he is deaf. He should be ashamed of himself to promote such musical mediocrity.

      • astrodreamer says:

        I listened: if I’ve gotten one worthwhile out of this scandalous thread, it is to have been alerted to the existence of a fascinating pianist, Tzimon Barto. See the UCF recital. I have never heard that Liszt etude of the octave tremolos that didn’t sound like a stunt, a silent movie and a bit of a bore.(In spite of a so-so piano, too.) The Chopin concerto is curious, somewhat off putting, he seems too large for the work, in ways that might be interpreted as exaggerated or undisciplined. I haven’t listened to all of it.

        This music video of the last Chopin prelude. . unfortunately I don’t understand German, but I was impressed.

  • I’m sorry to say that I know little about Christoph Eschenbach (except I remember seeing him on tv at the finals of the Leeds International Piano Competition many years ago), about his conducting, about his private life, about his sexual proclivities, or anything else about him.

    What I do know is that he (nor those who work with or who are associated with him), like all human beings, does not deserve to have his possible dirty laundry aired in public by other people (such as some of the commentators on this blog), neither does he deserve to be so vitriolically insulted and verbally abused by people commentating on a public blog.

    I am appalled by the lack of discipline shown by certain commentators here, and by the sheer cheapness of some of the comments. Many of the comments are an insult to intelligent readers and serve no constructive purpose at all, other than to grind what are seemingly personal axes. I have the impression there are a lot of people commentating here with enormous chips on their shoulders, with a certain amount of cruel sexual criticism and insulting innuendo (with no written back up) coming to the fore through what seem to be personal grudges and bitchiness rather than genuine concern.

    I have nothing against constructive criticism and evaluation. I believe that every individual is entitled to an opinion and free to express it. But I do object to the discussion of Eschenbach’s merits (or lack of them, in this case) descending into a diatribe of personal verbal abuse. This comments column is not, I believe, to act as an appendix to the gutter and tabloid press. I always believed it to be a forum for open discussion by readers about the more important and interesting aspects, artistically and politically, of the world of Culture and the Arts.

    Sadly, this particular comments column seems to have descended into an abyss of childish bitchiness and backbiting. The only thing I can think to ask of some of you is to GROW UP!!!

    • A legitimate issue has arisen out of this discussion – namely, the misuse of powers by a music director, any music director, to promote personal pals at the expense of superior talent and of the audience that is subjected to mediocre performance. Could we please – all commentators – stick to this issue and avoid ad hominem abuse. Thank you. NL

      • Musician of National Symp Orch says:

        Thank you Mr. Lebrecht for your candid answer to this disturbing issue concerning Maestro Eschenbach abusing his MD power. It is a hard subject for anyone in the organization to come out speaking against our own leader. The many comments here, some of them I believe were written by other colleagues in the orchestra, deserve focused and honest discussion how a music director can be allowed to have too much power to force his musicians performing with his so called personal pals who either have doubtful or mediocre talent as performing artists.

        A clear case which is still very fresh in everybody’s mind here, we had a one and only invitation to perform in Carnegie Hall as part of Spring for Music week last season, a concert with the title “A Tribute to Slava”. The original program was supposed to be Schnittke Symphony No. 6 and Shostakovich Symphony No. 5. Maestro Eschenbach insisted that the Schnittke symphony be replaced with the same composer Viola Concerto to showcase one of his circle of “geniuses” named David Aaron Carpenter. Our artistic management told Maestro repeatedly our orchestra doesn’t perform in Carnegie Hall annually so an opportunity to be a part of Spring of Music festival is unique, therefore the choice of soloist needs to be a name which gives the orchestra added prestige. We quickly learnt that Maestro Eschenbach is stubborn with his will, threatening to cancel his own participation if his wish wasn’t met with approval. We now know this is the way he works, repeatedly threatening our artistic management team to accept his circle of personal friends such as Mr. Barto, Mr. Dan Zhu, Mr. Axelrod. For Maestro audition concert before he was signed as our music director, he brought with him a lame young German violinist called Erik Schumann (playing the Tchaikovsky concerto) whom Maestro presented to us as the next elite generation of stars. We are tired of this, as the saying goes, soon we might have to say to Maestro “Die Frist ist um!” for you. Maestro is certainly free to push whomever he likes or believes elsewhere but please not with our orchestra because we deserve better.

      • Laetitia Florentin says:

        Thank you, Norman. This is indeed a very “legitimate issue”, as it concerns the quality of music making and the criteria upon which young performers advance their careers. There is only one criteria and that is the quality of artistry. Anything else really should be secondary or totally irrelevant, yet it sadly isn’t, as can be seen in how this conductor makes his picks and also how many of the iconic recording companies make their picks. Young, sweet faces, big breasts and sexy muscular toned bodies may be nice to look at but are all too often very hard on the ears. So, unless music is more about the eyes and less about the ears, we should all take a very firm attitude to the abuses that prevail throughout a once more noble and respectful domain. I find nothing wrong with how people here have expressed their vitriol towards Christoph Eschenbach. He has apparently annoyed and infuriated very many through his egocentric and indulgent behaviour and he his being taken to task for it.

        • Alexander Hall says:

          If he really is as bad as so many contributors are insisting – and it is apparent that most of the vitriol is coming from the other side of the pond – I am quite astounded that he should still get so many invitations to conduct top-notch bands. He was here in London at the beginning of the month to conduct the LPO in a programme of Messiaen and brought his “pal” Tzimon Barto along. Now London orchestras are very particular about giving prime dates to nonentities and will not normally be bullied into doing so. Why did the LPO engage him, one might ask, as they have done in previous seasons, if he’s a basket-case? And why too would the most conservative and picky of all Old World ensembles, namely the VPO, want to be associated with him for what turned out to be pretty mediocre Mozart? And, with all this “knowledge” about him in the frame for quite some time now, can the musicians and management of the NSO – and before them the hapless Philadelphians too – explain why on earth they handed out prestigious contracts to somebody who, according to the overwhelming nunber of contributors here, is a nasty piece of work? This all doesn’t add up.

          • opus 131 says:

            Why have so many great orchestras hired him? Two reasons. First, these decisions are not made by musicians but by administrators, by the people who are looking at the conductor’s posterior, not his face. Second, there are alarmingly few conductors out there at the moment who have any business in front of a great orchestra.

            I have had the distinct displeasure of playing under CE scores of times. Seems like a nice enough man, but he can’t conduct. He can’t set a tempo. He can’t keep a tempo. He has no physical vocabulary to communicate anything about the music. His one expressive device is a ritard; the music devolves into hundreds of one-note phrases. His lack of command creates a certain tension, that some in the audience seem to confuse with excitement. It always takes me a week or two after he is gone to get my own sound back to where I want it, to get the tension out of it. The man is terribly destructive.

  • another musician of the NSO says:

    As a NSO Musician I must add 10 points after reading this unbelievable idiocy:

    First: Mr. Lebrecht: You are the messenger. If you don’t want people to get off subject, then you can also not post their comments when they are.

    Second: There is no evidence whatsoever that Eschenbach was forced out of Philly or Paris. He chose to leave Philadelphia:

    A key member of the orchestra’s board told me that a continued relationship was being sought (a) because Eschenbach, he said, is a great conductor, and (b) to show the world that the orchestra did not make a mistake in appointing him music director.

    and he was in Paris for 10 years, a tenure longer than Munch, Karajan, Solti or Semyon Bychkov.

    Third: Axelrod was invited because he premiered the Kaddish Symphony with Pisar text with the Chicago Symphony in 2003, recorded it at the Lucerne Festival in 2006 and is considered one of the top tier conductors of Bernstein’s music, having premiered Candide at Chatelet in Paris and la Scala. That our musicians judged him as a””pal” is our fault and prejudice. I can say our musicians, particularly a now retired percussionist caused the unfortunate discussion during rehearsal, not Axelrod. He handled himself well, and made a great concert. The choir particularly adored him as did the public. Shame on us for blaming Eschenbach.

    Fourth: all the comments, save a few, on this blog about Barto are ignorant of his own intelligence, merits, recordings and collaborations with other conductors. Frankly, we are all tired of people commenting on his or Eschenbach’s proclivities when other conductors who are perverts and pedophiles continue to be rewarded.

    Fifth: Eschenbach is regularly invited to Vienna Phil, Munich Phil, NDR (still), NY Phil, BSO, LA Phil, London Phil, La Scala, and so on. If he really is doing something wrong, then these people are wrong. Of course, they are not. They spend their time making music, not writing such vitriol that is only preaching to the few who really are uninformed. I myself have enjoyed making music under Maestro Eschenbach, who is one of the nicest people I have ever known, and I am horrified that any of my colleagues are so publicly naive to voice their anger in public. Our administration is aware of this stupidity and will be taking action against any public slander against our Music Director. Whether his contract his extended or not, is not the issue. He is not an egomaniac who has forced soloists against our will. We have a voice and anyone on this blog who suggests otherwise is plain wrong.

    Sixth: I dare anyone on this blog who has written about Dan Zhu, David Aaron Carpenter, or any other “pet” to come forward and prove that they know better about artistry. I can say that many of my fellow musicians are actually the mediocre ones and jealous. We should be grateful that we don’t have to spend a fortune on other soloists who are over promoted and instead realise that collaboration between conductor and soloist is what matters and who are we to decide, subjectively, that one soloist is any better than another. I challenge half of my colleagues in the NSO simply to take another audition. I guarantee they will not pass.

    Seventh; If anyone believe Anne Midgette is the barometer of opinion must remember that she is married to a blogger who believes more in promoting himself than the music he professes to promote. As does herself. Critics, not withstanding a few, are not the deciders of quality.

    Eighth: The point of this blog entry was to comment on the Vienna opera performance, not Eschenbach’s invitations of friends. Most conductors invite their friends anyway, whether they be the best or not. And most artistic administrators invite soloists and guest conductors, without having heard a note, and only because they know the name or they want to gain favor with the agencies. If anyone thinks otherwise, they are naive and do not understand the inner workings of this industry.

    Ninth: I believe this blog posts such negativism because it fosters more negativism and generates controversy only to be read. It feeds on itself and frankly, had I not known about this online vomit from some of my colleagues, I would not have even considered writing. But somebody must tell the truth when everyone else on this blog does not.

    Tenth: I am not in any way associated with anyone on this blog, other than playing in the orchestra for over 25 years and earning my living as a professional musician. If anyone assumes otherwise, they are playing to the same ugly game. Face it people: If you continue this shallow exercise, you are dismissed as envious and uninformed. Let it go. Music deserves better.

    • ‘somebody must tell the truth when everyone else on this blog does not.’ Hmmm…

    • Mort Kamish says:

      Sorry, but it is you, ‘another musician of the NSO’, who is completely contradictory and illogical. Without going into every detail of your rambling incoherent post, I must say that I find it very hypocritical that you admonish your fellow NSO players for expressing their negative views of Eschenbach and say that the NSO administration will take action against slander and then, in the very next paragraph, you go on to slander your fellow players in the NSO, saying “I can say that many of my fellow musicians are actually the mediocre ones and jealous.”(!!!!!!) You then go on to “slander” the Washington Post’s music critic, Anne Midgette, and her husband, saying, “…remember that she is married to a blogger who believes more in promoting himself than the music he professes to promote. As does herself.(!!!!!)

      And on and on you go…

      Don’t you realize that when you write such incoherent and contradictory blog entries, that you, your arguments and ultimately yourself lose all credibility? I am now even more convinced that the very disappointing and unfortunate things that nearly everybody else has written here about Christoph Eschenbach and his mediocre circle of “pals” must be the truth, as your arguments and the way that you make them sadly don’t hold up and you repeatedly contradict yourself, doing exactly the same sort of thing that you wrongly accuse others of doing.

      I am a regular concert goer and musician and spend most of y time in Washington and attend many NSO concerts. I sadly agree with most here, that Eschenbach may have once been a decent musician, but his conducting and choice of soloists nowadays leaves a lot to be desired. I frankly have not been impressed with him at all and I know many others who feel the same. I don’t need to read about his disastrous failures in great music capitals like Vienna and Salzburg to make my opinion. I have ears and I have never been terribly impressed by his work in Washington.

    • Alexander Hall says:

      Thank you for posting those detailed comments. I have been reading these various postings with a degree of alarm, since they appear to suggest that Eschenbach is a charlatan, incompetent at his craft and possessed of devil-like properties. These bucketfuls of vitriol remind me of what London critics dished out in the direction of Giuseppe Sinopoli when he was Music Director of the Philharmonia. It is quite in order to declare negative opinions of individual musicians; a witch-hunt, however, is quite another matter.

  • PhillyMusician says:

    In the post above, by ‘another musician of the NSO’, it fails to tell the whole story, leading people to believe that Eschenbach left on his own from The Philadelphia Orchestra. That is simply not true. As a musician in the Philadelphia Orchestra, I can tell you that we wanted him out and only a very small group of musicians would have accepted that Eschenbach remained. He was definitely not liked. Not liked for his poor rehearsals that went nowhere, not liked for a conducting technique that made it often impossible to know where the downbeat was and a left hand that just trembled and gave no sense of what he wanted, not liked for his imposing third rate mediocre soloists on a regular basis, all his “pals”, and not liked because he didn’t become part of the community, leaving Philadelphia immediately after every concert was over and not liked for the way that he treated certain older musicians, forcing them into retirement in the most cold and heartless way. The wife of one of those musicians, who died of a heart attack soon after, wrote a letter to Eschenbach accusing him of being responsible for her husband’s sudden death. She never even received a reply or a note of condolence from Eschenbach and he just laughed and joked about it among others.

    So, no, this is neither a great musician nor a great human being.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      Whether or not him retiring some of the musicians was justified or necessary or not and how well and tactfully he handled that – or not, according to you – is one thing; but to write him a letter blaming him for the death of a musician is ludicrous.

      “not liked for his imposing third rate mediocre soloists on a regular basis, all his “pals”, and not liked because he didn’t become part of the community, leaving Philadelphia immediately after every concert was over”

      So you criticize him for his palling with his soloists but then you criticize him for not palling around in Philadelphia enough; that sounds a little childish to me. And who could blame him for leaving Philadelphia after the concerts? It’s a miserable place. Why stay? For the terrible cheese steak stuff?

      • MWnyc says:

        ” And who could blame him for leaving Philadelphia after the concerts? It’s a miserable place. Why stay? For the terrible cheese steak stuff?”

        Michael, when was the last time you were there?

        And when was the last time you ate there, if you think cheese steak is the only thing available?

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          Must have been 3 years or so ago. I noticed they have other stuff apart from cheese steak, too. I think the last thing I ate there was a seafood pho at the noodle house in the Sheraton hotel. That was pretty good, actually.

          • MWnyc says:

            You stayed at the Sheraton in Center City within the past three years and you’re calling Philadelphia a miserable place? Your standards are fearsomely high.

            Mind you, if you had said that North Philadelphia or West Philadelphia is a miserable place (to say nothing of poor Camden, New Jersey across the river), it would be hard to argue. And lord knows the City of Brotherly Shove has its challenges (not least the functionality of some areas of city government and the behavior of its police force and its sports fans).

            But I look at a place that has —

            – all the handsome architecture of Center City;

            – an occasionally problematic but generally functional mass transit system (a rarity in the U.S., alas), and excellent transportation connections to Washington DC and New York plus a large international airport;

            – healthy software, legal services and communications sectors and a powerhouse pharmaceutical industry as well as some of the best hospitals on Earth;

            – the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, the Curtis Institute, the Academy of Vocal Arts (which has been churning out an awful lot of good opera singers in recent years), a respectable Baroque orchestra (another relative rarity in the U.S.), a genuinely magnificent professional chorus specializing in music by living composers (The Crossing), and an opera company that is actually producing as much contemporary work as it is standard rep (not to forget the gorgeous Academy of Music, the oldest purpose-built opera house in the U.S.);

            – the Philadelphia Theater Company, the Walnut Street Theater (inconsistent, but the oldest in the nation), the Wilma Theater, and the terrific Arden Theater Company, plus a growing fringe scene;

            – the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Rodin Museum, the Franklin Institute, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, the National Constitution Center, and the Barnes Foundation;

            – the University of Pennsylvania (founded by Benjamin Franklin and not to be confused with Penn State), Drexel and Temple Universities, as well as Swarthmore, Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges just down the road in the burbs;

            – the Philly Pretzel Factory and Federal Donuts (Federal Donuts, for God’s sake!) –

            — I look at that place and, ya know, I just can’t describe it as miserable.

            (As you can tell, I’ve had this argument before.)

          • Rgiarola says:

            Even 20 years ago, it was possible to find good restaurants in Philly. That’s also the opinion of orchestra MD at that time. Riccardo Muti that made Ill Gallo Nero at 15th street his place in the city. I don’t think a Napolitano would support a Americanized lasagna or your so called cheese steak stuff.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            “A recent guest conductor remembered a meal in another restaurant in which Muti pointed out a menu spelling lasagne as the Americanized lasagna; he assumed disappointedly that the restaurant couldn’t have an Italian chef.”

            LOL, yes, silly Europeans like Muti or myself assume that if it is supposed to be an Italian restaurant, it will have an Italian chef, or at least an Italian-trained chef, or at least a chef who knows what actual Italian food is…I remember when I moved to the US, my first business lunch was in an “Italian” restaurant in San Diego. Only a few items on the menu looked vaguely Italian to me. I asked the waiter if they could do spaghetti alla carbonara. That’s one of the most common Italian dishes. He didn’t even know what I was talking about. I wrote it down for him and he asked the “chef”. He had never heard of that either…

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            BTW, it seems that Ill Gallo Nero is long gone – its former address now houses a Starbucks…

  • The person who calls himself/ herself “another musician of the NSO” writing 10 points comment not far above from here seems clear to me that he/ she isn’t from the NSO, desperately trying to put counterattack all the truths which have been written here about Christoph Eschenbach. Maybe you are his best friend and supporter but I am sorry to say, you look like a loser!! You should be very careful before writing your incoherent and rambling comments because many readers in this blog are people in the classical music business with complete knowledge of the actual issue being discussed here.

    You put a link to Peter Dobrin’s article dated May 18, 2008, a few months before Eschenbach ended his MD tenure where Mr. Dobrin wrote “A key member of the orchestra’s board told me that a continued relationship was being sought (a) because Eschenbach, he said, is a great conductor, and (b) to show the world that the orchestra did not make a mistake in appointing him music director”. I can tell you this my friend, after the Board of Philly Orch chose not to renew Eschenbach’s contract, his agent David Foster tried hard to find some way out in order not to make Eschenbach looked like a complete loser. Therefore they made agreement that Eschenbach would conduct the Philly Orch on their European Tour in early 2009 when he was no longer their music director as well as securing return dates for Subscription week at Verizon Hall in November 2011 (Beethoven Symphony No. 4 and No. 8). Eschenbach’s tenure with the Philly Orch was a forced marriage, he was never the favorite of the orchestra to take the job as their MD. His guest appearance conducting Brahms Symphony No. 4 back around 1996 was seen by majority orchestra members as antithesis of the orchestra tradition. It was a total camouflage to make Eschenbach looked as dignified as possible while the board and the orchestra basically said “Thank you Maestro, please move on” thus we have the quote from one of orchestra board member written in Dobrin’s article. The real truth is at present there is no ongoing Eschenbach – Philly Orchestra love affair anymore, they are done with him.

    Based on Eschenbach successful years with the Houston Symphony, by mid 1990’s he was a hot name in the business. David Foster was able to put Eschenbach in the short list of music director searches with the Cleveland Orchestra, NY Phil, Philly Orch. With the Clevelanders Eschenbach would have gotten the job had it not because of his own stupidity bringing Tzimon Barto as his soloist performing Tchaikovsky 1st concerto in one of his subscription weeks as guest conductor very close to the time for the board and the orchestra management to make their final decision. Dorothy Humel Hovorka, one of Cleveland Orchestra most prominent patrons was so appalled by Barto’s ruining the music with his vulgar interpretation and breaking the piano strings at Severance Hall caused by his famous keyboard banging, she and the rest of the board voted against choosing Eschenbach. NY Phil checked him out in his “audition week” guest stint (Nov 2000, Brahms Double Concerto, Dvorak New World symp) as potential successor of Masur and again it was clear he was not the man they were looking for. But Philly was a different case, the orchestra was run under shaky management of Joe Kluger thus David Foster saw the opportunity to play his power game to seal a forced marriage between his artist and the orchestra. By 2005 Kluger was gone, came the inexperience James Undercoffer. Eschenbach was quick to blame his misfortune in Philly with the inability of Mr. Undercoffer doing his job as the orchestra CEO. The truth is, coming from academic world from Eastman School of Music Mr. Undercoffer did have his own shortcomings as Philly Orch CEO, but more importantly Eschenbach was never loved by the majority of the orchestra. In fact there were lots of constant complaining among many orchestra members about Eschenbach’s musical interpretation which they felt ruining the venerable tradition of Philadelphia Orchestra style and sound, his unorganized rehearsal technique and time management, bringing mediocre pals as soloists/ conductor (Tzimon Barto, Dimitri Maslennikov, John Axelrod, Marisol Montalvo etc). To say it bluntly, the majority of orchestra members just couldn’t wait to find the way to kick him out as their music director. The case of soprano Marisol Montalvo was a laughing joke. She is good friend of the composer Matthias Pintscher and Mr. Pintscher is “extremely close” to Eschenbach (very special relationship between them). For some weird reason Eschenbach had the idea that she was going to be his perfect soloist for Mahler 4th symphony (a project which was supposed to be recorded for commercial CD album under Ondine label). Big money was spent by the orchestra through sponsors to finance the cost of the recording, they brought the best team from Holland to Philadelphia. Eschenbach was consulted repeatedly not to engage Marisol Montalvo but he insisted and insisted again only with her or no Mahler 4th with him. In the end everyone realized she was a disaster (out of tunes, bad German diction), the recording was never release, all money spent for nothing by the orchestra. Musicians knew the real truth about this and were extremely angry at the Maestro!!

    How pathetic you dare to say “and he was in Paris for 10 years……..”, yes I know that, so what? He came to Orchestre de Paris in 2000 when the orchestra desperately needed fresh air and fresh blood. Eschenbach’s early years with the Paris orchestra were fantastic, the musicians responded to his musical ideas and suggestion with all their heart and love. But as soon as he combined 2 jobs (Philly and Paris), problems with the Paris musicians started developing little by little. It is true George Francois Hirsch, the former Director of Orchestre de Paris, often had frictions with Eschenbach. He often arrived in Paris in the morning of the same day of his rehearsal week with his orchestra straight from the airport (long transatlantic flight from USA), totally tired, haggard, unfocused. On occasion his flights got delayed therefore he arrived to rehearsals late, making his orchestra musicians wasting their time. His Paris musicians learnt more and more that this was going to be regular pattern they got from their MD. Rehearsals were often unproductive, step by step the moral among orchestra members dwindled down, performances of Eschenbach and his Paris orchestra started to sound sloppy, labored, careless, uninspired, half baked prepared, stodgy. On top of all that the circle of Eschenbach pets and geniuses were flowing just like in Philly (the same Barto, the same Maslennikov, the same Montalvo, the same Axelrod, Christopher Tainton, Erik Schumann………plus others). By 2007 George Francois Hirsch had it enough with Eschenbach, he told Eschenbach when the contract expired in 2010 he had to go. Ironically both news about his contracts not being renewed in Paris and in Philly happened almost at the same time.

    In your fifth point you wrote: Eschenbach is regularly invited to Vienna Phil, Munich Phil, NDR (still), NY Phil, BSO, LA Phil, London Phil, La Scala and so on. Yes that is all true and you want to know why?

    Here is the answer, Eschenbach is in a level where he is a brand name (good or bad, like him or not, he has this so called brand name). For the prestigious orchestras around the world brand names are those who go around. Inviting Eschenbach as guest conductor for 1 week with NY Phil and the rest of the orchestras mentioned above doesn’t cause any problem for them. Eschenbach has his friends who always ready to offer him guest dates (Paul Mueller in Munich, Achim Dobschall in Hamburg, Welz Kauffman in Ravinia, Timothy Walker in London, Tony Fogg in Boston etc, before there was Rolf Beck). The problem is which orchestra after him being kicked out from Philly and from Paris want to engage him as their music director? NSO is definitely a step down as prestige, Eschenbach himself knows that. In fact many people don’t know this, the NSO was about to sign Jiri Belohlavek as their music director when some forced maneuver was done behind the screen to create a marriage between Eschenbach and the orchestra. Being very greedy with money and knowing the NSO job wouldn’t right away put him in the top echelon of highest paid conductors, Eschenbach managed to convince Kennedy Center to create a title of Music Director of Kenendy Center along his title as Music Director of NSO, thus more money in his pocket. In reality the Kennedy Center MD title means nothing, another perfect camouflage to make things look better than the reality.

    I don’t need to go every detail of your 10 points as everything is clear who has more truth to say!

    • Another NSO musician says:

      Not sure I can regard him in the same way as I have been after reading this poisonous post. Kind of wish, Mr. Tzoras, you had kept this to yourself.

    • NSO musician says:

      Thank you for the truth. The truth is never poison.

    • another musician of the NSO says:

      First of all, whomever you are, I agree with my NSO colleague you should have kept all this to yourself. That you would attempt to expose Eschenbach’s business and personal life publicly on this blog is beyond disgust. You should be ashamed of yourself. But of course this blog only exacerbates the hostility in you and others. However, for the record, you are also wrong in EVERY detail of your supposed informed replique. If you think you know the inner workings of this industry, all you reveal is you know a few names in this historical drama that anyone can find on the internet and that’s it. I don’t see a shred of evidence in anything you say. Do you have quotes from Hirsch about Paris? Do you have quotes from musicians of the Philly orchestra who are willing to put their name, not only a anonymous user name on the record, or is this all your uneducated opinion, rumour and hearsay as most of these comments are? Do you have any proof of anything you say? No.

      If any of it were true, none of these people you mention would have careers, including his “special relationship “Matthias Pintscher, who just became professor of composition at Juilliard and is MD of Ensemble Intercontemporain. Therefore, it already makes your argument null. Let’s be clear- it seems you have a real grudge against Eschenbach as do many of these people on this blog.

      The question is why?

      It is not for the point Lebrecht tries to elucidate: that conductors abuse their power to insist on mediocre talents. All conductors do that. They want to work with people they know and have confidence in the collaboration. Slava and Slatkin did the same to the NSO. But, I think you give too much credit to the idea that Eschenbach chooses his soloists. The Artistic Administrator at each of these orchestras and the managers make the deal. Not Eschenbach. If you would like to invite David Foster to respond to your allegations, Im sure he not only would ignore you, as most people should do, but there is no evidence that Foster is the power king that Ronald Wilford was, who, by the way, was accused of similar deal making throughout his long career that even the author of this blog highlighted in his own book. Does anyone make comments about how other Wilford forced other conductors into their jobs? Does anyone comment about one of Foster’s other conductors, David Robertson? Was he forced on St. Louis? Please. Foster is no more the culprit than is Eschenbach.

      As for his choice of soloists, whether you like them or not, he believes in them, for better or worse, which is what any young soloist hopes for. And some have gone on to great success. To have a “brand” name conductor like Eschenbach, as you call him, give his support is testimony to his generosity. And there is no concrete evidence that any of these artists, save Barto, or Justus Frantz, in which there is information available, are or were in any way romantically connected to him, as you and others might imply. Was there not equal innuendo about another famous conductor who, with his power broker agent, negotiated quietly and settled out of court a relationship with an under age boy? Seems to me there was more evidence of that story than any of the rumours about Eschenbach. So why the focus on Eschenbach and not the others? Just what did he do to you anyway? Are you homophobic?

      And is Lang Lang mediocre? Renée Fleming? Matthias Goerne? Julia Fischer? Yo-Yo Ma? The list goes on. He invites them as often as he invites others you openly name. And the administration /agent make the deal. So why blame him? Are you jealous? Are you a stalker? It reads that way.

      His “friends” as you call them, who engage other “superior” soloists, who are hiring Eschenbach, are a barometer for this industry. Ravinia Festival, Munich Phil, London Phil, NDR Hamburg, Boston Symphony…Are they simply hypnotised by Eschenbach or might they actually know something better than you? I think so. The contract with the Kennedy Center was a Michael Kaiser decision, not Eschenbach’s, and negotiated by his agent. If you think otherwise, why don’t you ask Michael Kaiser to explain or show us evidence to the contrary.

      Im only a humble musician trying to stay sane amidst all this cacophony online and off, but I can tell you that your argument that you are “in the music business with complete knowledge” is completely shallow. Im not, but clearly I know as much as you. Which means this is all available not only online, but as I work with the Maestro, and we are on friendly terms, he speaks openly to me. So I think I might even know more about it than you.

      And your “Leonidas” cover, using the name of his partner, is particularly abusive. I think you should be careful too, sir, because you are clearly exhibiting borderline tendencies. If rational discussion is not to be found on this blog, and people in the music business read this blog, then its no wonder this business is going bankrupt. I for one am happy I will retire soon. The ship may just as well sink if it is run by people like you.

      • Alexander Hall says:

        Bravo for your comments and your courage in standing up to this barrage of abuse in most of these postings. I carry no candle for Eschenbach but I am quite frankly appalled by the amount of dirt, detritus and venom poured over him. Nobody deserves that.

    • Rgiarola says:

      Mr. Tzoras,

      ” NY Phil checked him out in his “audition week” guest stint (Nov 2000, Brahms Double Concerto, Dvorak New World symp) as potential successor of Masur and again it was clear he was not the man they were looking for.”

      Its makes a lot of sense to me. I was at this concert and I think you will remember it. Everyone arrived at Avery expecting Prokofiev S°5 under Masur, but since he was sick CE replaced him requesting effusively to change for Dvorak 9. I can remember the general bad reaction of many ones in the audience before and after the concert (The reason wasn’t that people dislike Dvorak for sure). Welser-Most also replaced Masur that November 2000, but kept the original program with Schubert 9°, plus a very good audience response.

  • TempleUniversityProfessor says:

    I have been following this long blog and wasn’t planning on writing any comment, as I feel that enough was said. I too believe that “where there is smoke, there is fire” and have concluded that Eschenbach must have serious issues, both musical and human, that so many people express hatred for him, both as a musician and as a person. The long entry above, that attempts to refute most of the negative comments about him, and demands quotes or proof of any of this, must be answered, as the proof is out there and I invite anybody who is interested to just go to Eschenbach’s Wikipedia entry and you will find many quotes that give credence to the fact that there is definitely something wrong with this man and that he has turned so many people against him. I will say no more. Here below, I have cut and pasted a few of these quotes, taken directly from Eschenbach’s Wikipedia entry. These quotes sadly confirm the vast majority of comments on this blog:

    Following the announcement, Dobrin in the Inquirer wrote that Eschenbach’s tenure in Philadelphia has been difficult for many musicians:

    “In three seasons, Eschenbach and the orchestra have produced a handful of brilliant concerts. More often, though, his rehearsals and performances have elicited a long list of complaints from musicians: getting lost in the score at concerts; leading disorganized rehearsals and then asking for overtime; and insisting on a peculiar rushing and slowing of tempos.”

    “It hit many musicians like the dull thud of pragmatism, this decision in January to hire Eschenbach as the orchestra’s seventh music director, starting in September 2003. At a meeting announcing the decision, players responded with silence. No applause, no excited stamping of feet. Silence. And then the resentment poured forth.

    One musician used the word “underwhelmed.” Another said he felt “betrayed.”…

    “In addition, the new orchestra president (as of 2006), James Undercofler, had spoken with orchestra musicians, and had told Eschenbach this summary of his discussions with them:

    “-that 80 percent of the musicians did not agree with his artistic interpretations;

    -that 80 percent of the musicians left concerts feeling great anger;

    -and that the orchestra was a “ticking time bomb.”

    • NSO musician says:

      That’s impressive TempleUniversityProfessor. Thank you for your garbage. I can assure you that Maestro Eschenbach does not get lost in scores (impressive as he does the huge masterworks from memory), never leads disorganized rehearsals and has never asked for overtime here in Washington. Perhaps we are the superior orchestra to our brotherly neighbors. No doubt we should be traveling each and every season to perform in Philadelphia instead of the other way around.

      • TempleUniversityProfessor says:

        Why are you angry at me? Why do you call my post “garbage”? I did not write what is there. They are documented accounts from a major world class orchestra. You must also remember what initiated this blog, unanimously bad critics from Vienna, from every single major newspaper in the country. That followed an August fiasco where Eschenbach was booed in Salzburg at another production and again received damning press. If you add those two incidents together with far too many to count unfortunate incidents in Philadelphia, Paris and elsewhere, then any reasonable, sane and pragmatic person would certainly draw some conclusions about this man. I have not, nor am I making any judgement of my own here. I have only tried to focus the discussion on precedents and past events and when doing so one sees a very bad track record, a long pattern of failures and disappointments on the part of Mr. Eschenbach. If you enjoy playing under him, that is fine with me and I hope that there are many others who agree with you, but you can not simply ignore that something is amiss with this guy for a very long time. There is simply too much out there and he has too much baggage and anger towards him from too many sources for me to simply dismiss it all as “garbage”. Wake up! Be an adult and see things with neutral and unbiased eyes and listen with unbiased ears. If you do that and still believe in him, that’s fine, but don’t condemn others for doing their homework and seeing that there is indeed many issues with Maestro Eschenbach.

  • astrodreamer says:

    This is the remark I posted on Eschebach’s wiki talk page:

    There is a disproportionate amount of negative and damaging material in this entry. It seems like Wikipedia is being used to further some vicious fanatic’s revenge. Generally, an encyclopedia entry should report the honors and praise which have earned the subject his fame. If there is controversy that should be mentioned, but criticisms should not be given equal time — he’s not important by virtue of his mistakes, after all. See these comments please:

    • TempleUniversityProfessor says:

      Will you also attack and attempt to negate all of the critics in Vienna, Salzburg, London, Philadelphia, Paris and elsewhere, as well as the hundreds, if not thousands who have booed Eschenbach after appalling concerts? I know this is all not nice and it is never nice to read negative things, nor see a person, any person maligned, but it is also not correct to pretend that all of the extremely negative critics and failed music directorships are a fabrication. Facts are facts and they speak for themselves. They don’t need any further comments. It’s when people attempt to be revisionists, that truth gets distorted and that doesn’t serve the common good.

      • TempleUniversityProfessor says:

        astrodreamer wrote above:

        “Generally, an encyclopedia entry should report the honors and praise which have earned the subject his fame.”

        Oh really??!! In that case while you are trying to get Mr. Eschenbach’s Wikipedia entry revised and cleansed of any negative remarks or comments, you should do the same for Adolf Hitler, just praising him for having been behind the development of the Volkswagen Beetle and the ‘autobahn’…after that you can move on to Stalin, Mussolini, Pol Pot and all of the others.

        Your pseudonym is appropriate, you are in space and you are dreaming, that is for sure. Please come back to Earth and deal with the facts and truth!

        • OK, enough mutual abuse. This thread is about possible abuse of authority by music directors. Stick to the topic. No more disparagement of Mr Eschenbach. Every viewpoint has been aired.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            Agreed. I am not a big fan of Eschenbach myself, but I am surprised and puzzled by the sheer hatred that he seems to trigger in some.

            Instead of bickering about his qualities or shortcomings as a musician and a person, we should watch this wonderful video in which he still has a lot of hair and which also features Norman’s favorite conductor – playing the piano, too!


        • astrodreamer says:

          Surely by bringing Hitler et al. into the discussion you prove that you are far from neutral and unbiased. I’m sure everyone recognizes the difference between an encyclopedia reporting on physical atrocities of tyrants and dwelling on a musicians bad reviews.

  • Daniel Farber says:

    The commentary here is becoming highly repetitive. Suffice to say the NSO has always been a second-tier orchestra; their MDs, with the exception of Ivan Fischer and possibly Slava (a great spirit rather than a great conductor), have also been of the second tier; the hall at the Kennedy Center that they perform in is not even second-tier and makes Avery Fisher sound attractive by comparison. CE’s programming is conventional and mostly stultifying. His musicianship is, at best, erratic. I could care less about his lifestyle, and his favoring of soloist-pals is a relatively minor issue. The Board, unless it has been bought by CE’s support group, should take a hard look, sooner rather than later, at Osmo Vanska, who is currently (and incredibly) out of a job. One wonders if he could do for the NSO what he did in Minnesota: i.e. create a FIRST-tier orchestra that played everything as though their lives depended on it, an edge-of-the-chair, “one-buttock” orchestra.

    • MWnyc says:

      I’m sure lots of orchestras have their sights set on Osmo.

      But I wouldn’t be surprised if Osmo himself is holding off on any decisions, waiting to see how the situation in Minnesota shakes out over the course of this season.

  • Minneapolis Music Lover says:

    Osmo Vanska is an excellent idea for the NSO! They would be extremely lucky to have him and he will transform them and inspire them as few can do. I’m from Minneapolis and we miss him terribly.

  • NDR Hamburg musiker says:

    I was told to check this blog about Eschenbach, amazing stories being shared here. All I can say even though Wiener Philharmoniker works on a number of occasions with him, his result with them has always been mix and doubtful

    We know him too well here in Hamburg, nothing surprise me reading about his failure in many places!