Tops and flops of 2013

Tops and flops of 2013


norman lebrecht

December 18, 2013

The soaring comets and falling stars of a classical year that celebrated Wagner, Verdi and Britten.

The tops:

1 Jonas Kaufmann

The tenor for all tastes

jonas kaufmann

2 Anna Netrebko

Every minigarch’s dream, she dumped an absentee husband and soared in Berlin’s Trovatore

3 Janine Jansen

The first classical soloist to sell strongly on download

jansens vivaldi

4 Daniil Trifonov

A Tchaikovsky winner who prefers Schoenberg, he won a gilt-edged DG contract.

5 PatKop

The barefoot violinist goes boldly where others fear to tread.




And as for the flops:

1 Christoph Eschenbach

A conductor can get away with one bad night. This one had three massive flops.

2 Erwin Schrott

Beefcake baritone lost his diva ticket


erwin schrott


3 The Bolshoi

Will the last conductor please turn out the light?

4 Steinway and Pleyel

One piano maker sold to asset strippers, the other went out of business

5 New York

…. which lost both City Opera and the Brooklyn Philharmonic with barely a public whimper.

Let’s hope for better performances in 2014.


  • Eric says:

    I wouldn’t say that the City Opera went out without a public whimper. It was talked about daily for weeks, reported daily for weeks, argued about, memorialized, rumored…..there was much more than a public whimper, but not enough in the fundraising or management category to save it.

    • MWnyc says:

      There are still public whimpers about it. And with year-end round-ups coming, there will be more.

      As for the fundraising, I agree with the explanation that the donors who could have saved the company as it was concluded that it was doomed (City Opera had been on or near the brink financially off and on for at least 35 years) and that it was better to let it go and allow some new company to arise in its place.

      The Brooklyn Phil disappeared with barely a public whimper because so much of the public had forgotten it was there. Its activities had been fading away for years; the glory days of Joseph Horowitz and Robert Spano, when the Brooklyn Phil was more consistently interesting than the New York Philharmonic, were long past.

      • Eric says:

        Agree with you on the Brooklyn Phil. There wasn’t much of a to do about their closing, which is sad. One of my most cherished moments was playing with them when I was in HS, through a program they used to do with communities in NY and Long Island. That experience led me to want to be a professional musician. That outreach yielded great results over their many years. But, they barely had any concerts the last few years (yes, they “came back” but then stopped again). Just sad.

  • Alex Benjamin says:

    Management of the Malaysian Philharmonic and of the Minnesota orchestra top my list of flops.

    • Zimon says:

      As organizations you maybe right to mention MPO and Minnesota Orchestras as the top 2 flops of the year but the top flop of a singular artist without any doubt is Christopher Eschenbach. With the appointment of Deborah Card-Rutter as the new Kennedy Center President she will make the priority to get rid of Eschenbach from NSO when his contract expires in 2015!!

  • MarieTherese says:

    I truly don’t think that Erwin Schrott needs his ex to get bookings, as your comment seems to infer. Frankly, he’s more reliable when it comes to actually showing up and is a fine singer and delightful actor.

    • Yespica says:

      Completely agree with MarieTherese. He was absolutely wonderful as Procida in Les Vêpres Siciliennes at ROH, had never heard him sing Verdi before, and I was positively impressed, while I can’t say the same about Netrebko, for instance. Schrott seems to be very diligent when it comes to studying the roles he has to perform, while Netrebko has massive faults in pronunciation and expressivity. She gets away with it on stage because she is a good actress, but I often wonder if she actually knows what she is singing…

  • Yi-Peng Li says:

    I would say that the 70th birthday events of Gardiner were like a top that countered the flop of the death of Sir Colin Davis.

    I know that I’m still thinking about the flop of Warner handling the divested European divisions of EMI, including the classical labels. I sense this probably can’t last long.

    However I am looking forward to the next Andsnes Beethoven concertos disc and even Jarvi’s new Chandos Nutcracker, due for release next year. But I am still hoping for Gardiner and the ORR to record Mendelssohn soon.

  • Windy City Musician says:

    I am not surprised by your choices, although I would have added a few.

    I live in Chicago and we have Eschenbach here this week. I am very close to two musicians in the CSO and they both told me that already in the rehearsal Eschenbach got many of the musicians extremely irritated and there was a general feeling of boredom and detachment in all that he did. I have decided not to attend the concert this weekend as a result of their strong condemnation of this seemingly uninteresting and failed conductor.