Washington confirms: It’s two more years of Eschy

Washington confirms: It’s two more years of Eschy


norman lebrecht

March 24, 2014

As we reported yesterday, the outgoing Michael Kaiser has given his old pal the parting gift of a new contract.

“For the past four seasons, Maestro Eschenbach has elevated the stature of the National Symphony Orchestra and the Kennedy Center,” Kaiser said in a press statement. “I am pleased this relationship will continue for an additional two seasons.”

Were the musicians asked for a view? Of course not.

Anne Midgette in the Washington Post is determinedly sceptical. Kaiser ends his career on a faltering note.



  • Don Ciccio says:

    From Anne’s article: ‘the winds and brass, certainly, are sounding markedly better.” So sorry, Eschenbach did have a positive impact on the NSO.

  • Darren says:

    Well, interestingly his ‘pal’ only managed to get him two more years, instead of the usual five. That means it was most certainly a battle, and even with all the friendships he wasn’t able to get more than 2 years.Actually 2 seasons fly by very fast, and it is just about enough time for the new executive to start looking into new Music Directors. So, in a way this means Eschy’s days there will be over soon.

  • Stereo says:

    Oh dear,obviously not a popular reappointment.

  • Elba on the Potomac says:


  • David Boxwell says:

    In his defense, I love his recording of Zemlinsky’s Lyric Symphony (Capriccio, 2006). But the question remains: why can’t he be this involved and this interesting all the time? Or even much of the time? Instead of just some of the time.

  • Marvin M says:

    Anne Midgette is right to be “determinedly sceptical”. It should be clear to any person reading this “announcement,” and knowing of Eschenbach’s litany of past imbroglios and failures with other orchestras (Zurich, Philadelphia, Paris…) that a contract renewal of only two years, for a music director who has been on the job in Washington for five seasons already, looks peculiar to say the least. Eschenbach, once again, finds himself in a far from optimal situation with, yet again, another orchestra. A similar thing happened to Eschenbach in Philadelphia, where a Philadelphia Orchestra friend just wrote to tell me that his initial contract there was only extended by a couple of years and then, when that was running out, they got him out. He was told that his contract would not be renewed again in October 2006, only three years after he took up the music directorship there in September 2003. He only remained there for exactly two more seasons after that, departing in May 2008 having had the shortest music directorship in the history of The Philadelphia Orchestra. Based on his past track record and the obvious problems that exist with him in Washington, I have my doubts that this “marriage” will carry on for a long time.

  • Zimon says:

    The scenario of Eschy’s contract negotiation was his agent David Foster doing the usual tactic of horse trading with Michael Kaiser. Mind you all, Eschy is still the biggest money maker in the Opus 3 Artists conductor roster with at least $ 1.93 million salary based on the last available tax return information. For David Foster it is crucial Eschy wasn’t going to be thrown out by the NSO in 2015 because that would mean a substantial lost of income to Foster’s agency if Eschy has no immediate Music Director post that follows the NSO.

    Now it has been made official the new contract calls just for a two year extension which is a perfect time frame for Deborah Rutter to negotiate with a far more superior Maestro who is willing to build the NSO after Eschy’s departure in 2017 and a Music Director salary which is “reasonable” and “affordable” for the orchestra. Eschy uses the NSO as his cash cow; this is great for David Foster if an artist like Eschy brings easy money to the agency but I doubt this can continue much longer………?????

  • nick says:

    I don’t get it. Why Norman always instigates these CE bashing columns? The personal nature is all too overtly evident.

  • Hasbeen says:

    The negativity in this site about Eschenbach is hard to reconcile with the continuing high level of his career. Are we to believe that orchestras from Boston to Vienna are wrong in their support of Eschenbach and contributors to this site know better. Furthermore what evidence is there that Michael Kaiser and David Foster are engaged in ‘horse trading’ ?

    • Marvin M says:

      Please readers, let the facts speak for themselves! It is all too easy to turn real criticism into accusations of unjustified “bashing” and “negativity”, but the facts speak for themselves.

      1. Eschenbach is being paid $1.93 million dollars to lead a second tier orchestra and carry the title of Kennedy Center Music director for about twelve weeks in the year. That fact alone should make any sane and rational person’s ethical standards be challenged, especially when knowing that the Kennedy Center is a public/federal institution, supported and maintained by a combination of federal taxpayer money and private donor funding. This, at a time where arts organisations are in great difficulty, with many having already closed or about to, i.e. New York City Opera, San Diego, etc., etc. Yes, there is something very wrong with that, if you give a hoot about culture in your country and want it to be constructed and built upon sound and decent foundations.

      2. The above fact becomes all the more disturbing and seemingly unjustified when any person takes the trouble to look at the results that Eschenbach has achieved at the NSO/Kennedy Center and what his past track record tells us. Sorry, but the facts tell me that this man has a serious qualitative problem and has been in constant conflicts and has been thrown out of no less than three major orchestras in the recent past. Any sceptical reader here should just Google Eschenbach/Philadelphia Orchestra to read about the animosity and disdain under which he had to leave that orchestra. Then do the same with Eschenbach/Orchestre de Paris and you will discover the same scandalous and acrimonious departure from that orchestra as well. Then, if you want to go further back, check out his time in Zurich at the Tonhalle and you will realise that he was thrown out of there as well and remained without any orchestra association for more than two years after his departure from there. So, these are facts and these facts portray a real problem. They are not “bashing”, they are not a witch hunt. No, they are facts!

      3. The very fact that so many on this blog repeatedly react with animosity towards this man, stems from a perceived injustice, in that his notoriety is not in synch with the reality and all of the management and PR machines have created a massive smoke screen to camouflage this reality, but true music lovers and those capable of forming educated musical opinions clearly see that something is amiss here. Neither the remuneration, using partly taxpayer funds, nor the result achieved by Eschenbach is worth the investment. I challenge anybody reading this to imagine for one minute that if a corporate CEO had a track record as bad as Eschenbach’s, whether that CEO would keep landing new even higher paying positions over and over again. It would be impossible, because the shareholders wouldn’t hire a CEO that carried so much tainted baggage, as does Eschenbach. It is this injustice, this pretending that something is great and worthy of being paid nearly five times more than the President of the United States of America, that irks me and many others, who would welcome a more sane and just world for the arts. Eschenbach violates that premise, with poor quality and being grossly overpaid with partly public funds.

      4. Yes, there may be a good concert here or there, but there is absolutely no consistency with this man and, as has been highlighted on this blog countless times already, many are outraged at Eschenbach’s hiring of soloists, not always based on musical criteria. The disasters related to this are also documented in the press, i.e. Dan Zhu, Tzimon Barto, Claudio Bohorquez, and many, many, many others. These non-musical choices have eroded the little credibility that Eschenbach has with serious music followers.

      To summarise, the intent here is not to bash anybody, nor to stir up any dirt. The intent here is to try to bring back some justice to a dysfunctional classical music “business” and allow it to thrive and survive in the future. Eschenbach is only the tip of the iceberg, but a flagrant case of remuneration not based on quality, nor any healthy criteria and that should stop, if classical music is to find itself on healthier ground. That’s all!

      • Darren says:

        Thank you for this post. You are so right.

      • Laurids says:

        You say “‘Ëschenbach is only the tip of the iceberg…” Please elaborate, naming names.

        There is undoubtedly a sadism, a joy in persecution at work here, whatever CE”s shortcomings, just

        right for the anonymity provided by the internet. Please put CE in perspective and roll back the log to

        reveal the maggot swarm of the Music Industry. Let us open all windows, all doors.

  • Daniel Farber says:

    In today’s NY Times, Allan Kozinn lamentably and irresponsibly prints the laudation of C.E. published by the Orchestra WITHOUT ATTRIBUTION, as though it were universally accepted FACT. In any case, the standards of US music critics are so lacking in foundation or taste that C.E. has managed to fool most of them all of the time. The NY Times reviews of his recent appearances at the Vienna Festival were uniformly positive.