Video of the year: Diana Damrau, conductor

Video of the year: Diana Damrau, conductor


norman lebrecht

March 18, 2014

Carnegie Hall have just posted this on Youtube. More fun than they’ve had all year.

Damrau, Diana_Michael Tammaro_2_300dpi


  • Funny. I’ve encountered Zubin Mehta a couple of times, and always seemed to me someone with no sense of humour.

  • radawoued says:

    not so good!!

    I thought this was a parody until I recognized members of the vienna phil, poor them.

    she can’t beat, as if she was not a musician.


  • G Ell says:

    Call me a snob but I fail to detect the humor or charm or purpose in this clowning around. But this is exactly how this soubrette has built a name for herself. Hint: it’s neither voice nor singing nor personal imprint through vocal-acting. As for Mehta to go along with this, for one he is partly responsible along with his record company at the time for the dumbing down trend without bottom in classical music. Read The Three Tenors spectacle. So for him this is more of the same. But when was the last time he did anything in the realm of serious music that merits equally serious consideration or interest?

  • G Ell says:

    I am left incredulous despite all manner of evidence to the contrary from these two that they subjected the Vienna Philharmonic and the audience to this level of debasement and humiliation.

    • John Kelly says:

      I was there and it was thoroughly enjoyable. After a very generous program (3 hours) which included a quite spectacular Korngold concerto played by Gil Shaham (and a Kreisler encore) Diana Damrau came on to sing several numbers including Voices of Spring and the Czardas from Fledermaus. What you see in the video is the last of the encores.

      The trombones stood up each time as they entered together for their little fanfares in the Donner und Blitz that Diana Damrau “conducted.” Sort of a Viennese version of the standing NYPO brass in Stars and Stripes.

      Mehta on very good form and the orchestra sounded resplendent throughout the evening.

      Not every concert has to be a profound spiritual experience (Erich Leinsdorf)…………except maybe for you.

      • G Ell says:

        The estimable VPO reduced by the soubrette and her enabler to an American-style frat/sorority party or Spring Break debauchery or vulgarity. Take your pick. And to think that the clown on the podium is a former recipient of the Fürtwangler Prize. There is no shame.

        • F Burns says:

          Geez…lighten up, Francis.

          Spring break debauchery? Debasement? Humiliation?

          You are the embarrassment. You are embarrassing yourself and this glorious art form with your elitist comments from some fabricated holy shrine that exists in your mind.

          It looks like everyone, including the musicians, had a good time. What the devil is wrong with that? (even it’s, God forbid, the sacred VPO! How ghastly!)

          People like you are the reason that classical music has such a stodgy reputation with the general public.

          Why don’t you that stick out of your rear end and learn to enjoy yourself? It’s good for you.

          I think Goethe had it right:

          “For a person remains of consequence not so far as he leaves something behind him but so far as he acts and enjoys, and rouses others to action and enjoyment.”

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          And to think that the clown on the podium is a former recipient of the Fürtwangler Prize.

          “Fürtwangler”? LOL

          You must realize that for someone who acts as snobbishly as you do, not even being able to just spell the name of that conductor correctly does not really make you look like the kind of expert you apparently think you are. Also, you should look up what “debauchery” actually means. Damrau’s hopping around may have been a little silly, it may just have been lighthearted, but it certainly didn’t have anything to do with “debauchery”.

          • G Ell says:

            Blame the misspelling on my device’s ennerving autocorrect feature. Moving the umlaut where it belongs. Furtwängler. Happy now? But that you were more offended by this minor slight than by DD and ZM’s monkey business (where none was called for) says everything about you and your priorities. In other words, you are the contemptuous primadonna you deny. I stand firm in my beliefs even as I see that they stand in opposition to the majority’s. I can live with that. But at least I recognize and admit my tendency for stodgy seriousness especially in the musical arts. No shame. As for you, enjoy the circus.

        • Gerhard says:

          Do you really want your commentaries to come across as they do? They would certainly deserve a Hiedegger Prize.

      • G Ell says:

        Vulgarity without cause, for its own frivolous and selfish sake.

    • ML Fallis says:

      Relax.. I Hear this was the final encore.. You maybe would not even attend this concert anyway.. Given your very exalted taste.. Lighten up.. Mehta has performed very well here in canada with the MSOnin earlier years, recording brilliant performances of French music.. Give him a break.. W

      w Hen one knows the rules one is permitted to stretch them. he had serious chops. give them both a break.

    • Russell Platt says:

      I attended most of the concert. It was wonderful. Gil Shaham playing the Korngold; Mehta conducting his beloved Webern, and Hugo Wolf, and (for once) the entire Intermezzo from Schmidt’s Notre Dame. And the orchestra sounding MUCH better then they did under the very business-like Welser-Möst. As to this final flourish, they were just having fun.

      • Don Ciccio says:

        Correct. Indeed, the orchestra sounded much better than under any other conductor that I heard it in the last few years: Welser-Möst , Maazel, Harnoncourt, even Nelsons.

        To answer another thread, concertmaster Rainer Küchl is one of the VPO musicians who played during Boskovky’s time. There should be a few more, but I can’t think at the moment…

  • Anonymous says:

    Um…what? These comments flabbergast me. The orchestra seems to be having a blast, as evidenced by the wide smiles on nearly all of their faces, and so are Mehta and Damrau. Oh, and by the way, so is the audience, which is the point, really…

    If you don’t think classical music should be fun sometimes, then you’ve got a big problem.

  • Cambridge says:

    Oh come on guys! Is a little humour and fun out of place? Some of us have been sucking lemons!

    BTW glad to see old Mehta joining in. Thought he was too serious for that! Well done that man!

  • Paul says:

    Let’s see. I think I see 2 women in the orchestra. A cellist and a violinist. Can’t they do better than that?

    • John Kelly says:

      Not much better but there were 6 on stage. I counted.

      • NYMike says:

        Actually, more – moving in and out depending on repertoire. In total – 3 1st violinists, 2 2nd violinists, 2 violists, 1 cellist, 2 harps and 1 oboist. Not all listed in the program as regular members and the oboist not even listed. Other women listed, including one concertmaster, did not appear on Sunday.

        Damrau’s high notes reminded me of the Victor Borge skit where he falls off the bench and under the piano when his soprano lets out a screech. That said, I chose the Sunday VPO/Carnegie concert precisely because of the “Vienna Kitsch” although the well-played Webern Six Pieces are not exactly that.

  • Tony Fedderley says:

    Vicky Pollard and the Vienna Phil. A first.

  • m2n2k says:

    It is absolutely delightful and completely appropriate for the spirit of this program’s last hour. Some of us should lighten up sometimes.

  • cabbagejuice says:

    Just awful, there is a limit to acting like a cute kid past a certain age and size.

  • As sacrileges as it might sound, I think the Vienna Phil is learning from André Rieu (the Blue-haired lady rock star) when it comes to showmanship. Now if the Philharmonic would just go back to the Stehgeiger conductor, their waltzes might begin to leave behind all that nationalistic self-importance and capture the Strauss’s original spirit. Here’s a video of Rieu’s Blue Danube Waltz with 1.7 million hits filmed in Vienna and stealing business right under the Philharmonic’s nose:

    And of course, note that Rieu doesn’t have any problems with including women and even puts them in beautiful Viennese gowns.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      I fully agree with William about going back to the Stehgeiger tradition. If only the star system didn’t get in the way…

      I see nothing wrong with the VPO lightening up with Damrau and Mehta in an encore, but to me this clip with Willi Boskovsky looks more tasteful and no less fun:

      For showmanship and entrepreneurship they may have to look at Rieu, but for style they’d better look at their own glorious past.

      William, do you know whether there are any VPO musicians from before 1978, i.e. who had played Strauss with Boskovsky?

      • That would require a current tenure of 36 years for the player. Might be a few, but I don’t know. The orchestra has a large roster of pensioners so it’s possible there are some retired players who worked with him.

        Boskovsky represented the true Viennese waltz tradition, but the orchestra likes to market CDs for each year’s concert, so they decided to use a different star conductor each year. That way they sell more CDs, even if the Viennese waltz tradition was sacrificed to commercial interests. Boskovsky was the real thing, but with so much money in play it’s unlikely we’ll see a Stehgeiger again.

        • Petros Linardos says:

          The business side of the New Year’s day concert is so ironic. The VPO need for their signature event a star conductor, who may not necessarily steeped in the Viennese tradition, when musically and theatrically they might probably be better off with a Stehgeiger (standing violinist) of their own. And yet the VPO is the only world class orchestra without a chief conductor.

  • The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is doing just fine. Diana Damrau is a very fine singer. Mehta is an excellent conductor, not a clown. The snobbery on display in the comments section demonstrate an idiotically high level of self-importance. Half the program was dance music for dances. You know–fun? I can be a puritan as much as the next guy, but the criticisms of Darrah and Me ha for having fun are excessively self-important.

  • Sorry for the various misspellings in my comment–my auto correct went nuts.

  • nextgeneration says:

    Ridiculous snobbery by the negative commenters. If spontaneity is not what a night of live music is aboutthen why dont we just sit at home and listen to dusty old records? For those it upset, I can only hope that it really upset you, I mean like really really made you suffer. Get over it. OH and cabbagejuice, to suggest that enjoying ones self is to be limited to those below a certain size!? You are lost.

  • Marc says:

    “Classical” music has a wonderful history of silliness, much of it self-deprecating. Look at Bach, letting his hair down at Zimmermann’s Coffeehouse on Friday nights, turning bawdy in the “Peasant” Cantata or poking fun at the joint’s customers and their addiction to the bean in his hilarious “Coffee” Cantata; Beethoven penning those goofy little canons, taking merciless swipes at his plump friend Schickaneder among others; Mozart thumbing his nose at all those formulaic divertimentos in “A Musical Joke”; Haydn tricking his clap-happy listeners with those false endings in his “Joke” Quartet; Rossini turning a pair of operatic ladies into meowing cats; Satie making fun of everything, including himself, at every opportunity. C’mon folks — join the fun!

  • Gaffer says:

    Every year in their New Year concert, the VPO members and the conductor chosen to lead them clown it up at some point during the concert. It is part of the treadition and it always gets a laugh from the audience.

  • David Eaton says:

    It looks like the orchestra was having fun with it…no big deal.