Artists manager backs orchestra closure

There’s a very odd article today in the Danish national newspaper Berlingske Tidende by the artistic director of Nordic Artists Management, Jacob Soelberg. In it, Soelberg asserts that the national broadcaster, DR, is absolutely right to shut down its chamber orchestra, because the ensemble is playing Mozart and Beethoven, no longer fulfilling its national purpose.

Sample quote from the Soelberg article: ‘It is important to clarify that the decommissioning of the chamber orchestra is not just a good solution, but also a necessary solution to preserve the Danish heritage at the highest levels within and outside the DR environment.’

Flaw in the argument: If the orch is not fulfilling its designated purpose, surely it should be reminded to do so, not abolished.

danish chamber

 

Our Danish interiors specialist reports that Soelberg, whose company runs the Malko and Nielsen competitions, recently got engaged to Marie Krarup, a leading politician from the Danish People’s Party.  Marie Krarup’s sister, Katrine Winkel Holm, is (we understand) a member of the Danish National Radios board.

An upwardly mobile agent? With opinions to please the people in power.

jacob soelberg

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  • With this article Jacob Soelberg has made himself officially the man with the brownest nose in Denmark.

    His “logic” is more than flawed. Is he going to shoot Katherine Jenkins, David Garret and André Rieu next time they set foot into Denmark? Because he might see it prudent to “preserve the classical music’s heritage”. After that he will shoot all the women in the Vienna Phil, since that is a very necessary step to “preserve their heritage” too. (this is sarcasm, kids, don’t believe this.)

  • Danish Radio and Nordic Artists jointly run the Malko competition. Maybe that has something to do with it. On the other hand, an artist management supporting the closure of an orchestra/customer is a bit like turkeys voting for Christmas.

  • Unbelievable, and downright stupid. The number of flaws and outrageous allegations is just astonishing. I hope the Danish Radio payed him well for writing that, because he will have a hard time even serving coffee for any orchestras in Denmark after that stab in the back.

  • This is probably the most ignorant and disgusting article i read in the last years…
    Coming from a musician that you would expect to support his fellow colleagues

    After all It doesn’t surprise me that Mr Jacob Soelberg is writing such a non sense
    he is internationally known for forming and changing his opinion depending of his own interest in it, and obviosly we all know that he has got several in the sad story

    Someone should remind Mr Jacob Soelberg that the DRUO has built a huge reputation world wide playing works by Vivaldi, Mozart and Beethoven with an unique and amazing spirit that very rarely you hear !
    I have been sharing recording of this orchestra with friends from Menuhin Festival, London Symphony, the Boston Symphony, etc. and they all astonished by such inspiring playing
    We know very well what a genius and artist Adam Fisher is, and what in all this year he has built with this Orchestra… please do not let dying some thing so dear and precious!

  • Some people will say or do anything if it helps them earn more money and gather more “power,” even if they should understand that closing the DR chamber orchestra will be terrible for the 42 musicians. Where in Denmark will they find a new job within their field? There aren’t 42 vacancies with other orchestras in Denmark and the government certainly won’t start another orchestra to provide work for them.

    So their only options are to get unemployment benefits or get “re-schooled” in one of the government programs turning out people with quick remedial schooling in jobs that don’t require 6-8 years of specialized education. Mr. Soelberg is supporting what is, in effect, a professional death sentence for the majority of the musicians in the DR chamber orchestra.

    I hope that other artists and orchestras will take a long, hard look at doing business with Nordic Artists Management in the future.

  • I am conducting the orchestra this week. I have no idea what this man means with “preserving danish heritage”, but we’re playing a program including a new Piano Concerto by Bent Sørensen to go to the Ultima Festival in Oslo, on Saturday. Last time I was here we played for the anniversary of the Danish composers society and ALL works were danish. They commissioned and performed many new danish and nordic works and were a vital and active partner for many living composers. If that’s what he means by “national purpose”, I would hope for a voice from within the music business to be a bit better informed.

  • Actually, many musicians in Denmark agree with mr. Soelberg, but he is obviously not a good writer and his sense of timing and fingerspitzengefühl has never been good. Right now the online debate climate scares away most people – this is why only one side of the story is heard. For mr. Soelberg’s own sake, he probably shouldn’t have written this article, even if he believes he is correct. The Danish classical musicians have showed themselves as a pretty rude bunch. Especially online.

    The structure of two orchestras within the same broadcasting company, both of them playing and recording the same Beethoven-Symphonies during the last 5 years (The Radio Chamber Orchestra with Fischer and the Radio Symphony Orchestra with de Burgos) was simply never a very meaningful setup, if one wishes to spend the cultural money well. (This at the same time as one of the other publicly funded symphony orchestras in Copenhagen – the CPH Philharmonic – also recorded all the Beethoven Symphonies). And the ‘cross-over’ concerts that the Radio Chamber Orchestra participated in can be easily and more better provided on the free market.

    In a perfect world with unlimited resources: Sure, the more orchestras, the merrier. And let us all record Beethoven Symphonies. And every rock band should try to play with a symphony orchestra. And we should hire musicians for life. And freelancing musicians should receive money, regardless of how many concerts they play.
    But in the real world, tightening up the live music structure in the Danish Broadcasting Organisation and shutting the Radio Chamber Orchestra, can indeed be a very meaningful – however difficult – decision, that will end up strengthening the Danish classical music scene.
    Don’t get fooled by the one sided noise online. This decision might have been the right one.

    • Wasn’t the hiring of Fruehbeck “de Burgos” and with it the Beethoven Symphonies concert recordings only possible through a private Danish foundation? So it was mentioned in the DRSO concert programs at least. Which means that that was not necessarily DR’s money spent on that…
      I just checked on Amazon, there are no Beethoven Symphonies, not from Fischer and not from Fruehbeck. What happened to these recordings actually?

      • Frühbeck de Burgos was given a contract worth around DKK 10 million for his first three years. According to the orchestra’s manager, a contract not possible without the strong relationship to Maersk.

        De Burgos and the symphony orchestra recorded the Beethoven-symphonies as live DVDs. Presumably they’re on their way to be released within the near future. The chamber orchestra is still in the recording process.

    • “In a perfect world with unlimited resources: Sure, the more orchestras, the merrier.” Aye, there’s the rub.

      The “many musicians” you refer to must be those in the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, since there has historically been tension between the two ensembles. You may remember that the Danish Radio Council already wanted to shut down the Danish Radio Chamber Orchestra in 1987, when it was saved by a hair’s breadth by the hiring of Børge Wagner as its conductor. During the Days of Per Erik Veng’s tenure as director of the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, it was no secret that he wanted the Danish Radio Chamber Orchestra shut down because he wanted its resources for his own orchestra – I heard him say so myself. But never mind old history.

      The real matter in this case is that there is no financial reason to close the Danish Radio Chamber Orchestra. The Government only required Danish Radio’s (DR)management to save 106 million Dkr. per year. It was DR’s management’s decision to “save a little bit more” so the total amount suddenly became 161 million Dkr, as reported in the Danish press. The 55 million Dkr. in uncalled-for savings is more than enough to cover the budget of the Danish Radio Chamber Orchestra. DR Chairman Michael Christiansen has said the extra savings were “to strengthen the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, DR’s Girls’ Choir and DR’s Big Band” and “to adapt to technological advances.” I wonder who will get the lion’s share of that extra 55 million Dkr.

      Let’s take a look at the need for DR “to adapt to technological advances,” or, as the Director of Cultural Affairs in DR, Tina S. Andersen put it, “we must find money for DR to be compatible with all the new media. We can not risk that we are unable to reach young people using tablets and smartphones in the future

      Dear P, have you visited DR’s website lately? It is full of downloads for the latest apps. For years now, I have been listening to live DR radio broadcasts on my laptop and Galaxy II tablet and watching DR TV newscasts and other DR TV programming in HD using a Smart TV which has a high-speed WiFi connection to the internet here in the US.

      Who, then, is DR afraid of not reaching? Have DR’s employees not figured out how to put things on YouTube or Pandora or how internet streaming works? This is not the latest state-of-the-art technology requiring huge investments, so why does it require firing 42 people and shutting down the Danish Radio Chamber Orchestra to figure out how to do something that DR – seemingly unbeknownst to upper management – is already capable of doing?

      The only reasonable case that might be made for closing the Danish Radio Chamber Orchestra is that it was performing repertoire which the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra was assignment to cover. I haven’t been close enough lately to the DR’s concert hall to assess the Danish Radio Chamber Orchestra’s season programs, so I don’t have enough knowledge to address the repertoire issue.

      Nonetheless, repertoire apart, what remains is that the 42 members of the Danish Radio Chamber Orchestra were given two hours to be present for a mandatory meeting on their day off. At the meeting they were formally and unceremoniously told by DR’s Director of Culture, Tine Smedegaard Andersen, that their orchestra is being shut down. She said she understood their anger, and that management was ready for their anger too, after which statement she left. (read the article in BT by Charlotte Nielsen from the 14th of September 2014, 12:32 p.m.).

      Now, where in the civilized world have you ever heard of musicians being fired like that? Stuff like this happens in Wall Street financial companies, but not in orchestras. There were no advance negotiations to see if a savings compromise with the Danish Radio Chamber Orchestra could be reached. Furthermore, during Adam Fischer’s 15-year tenure, DR’s management never instructed the Danish Radio Chamber Orchestra to change their programming or warned them that they were not following their mission as described in the various politico-cultural documents that outline Danish Radio’s public service duties.

      I urge you to compare DR’s method of procedure to the recent negotiations about budget cuts at the Metropolitan Opera, which lasted for 3 weeks. In an article in the New York Times by Michael Cooper on September 12th, 2014, it is stated:

      “The Met’s general manager, Peter Gelb, sought major concessions from its unions when their contracts were up this summer, causing a bitter labor battle that threatened the season.

      In the end, the unions agreed to their first pay cuts in decades — but the cuts were smaller than those that Mr. Gelb had sought, and the employees succeeded in preserving work rules that management wanted to eliminate. The orchestra and chorus agreed to an immediate 3.5 percent cut in wages, followed by another 3.5 percent cut in six months.

      Mr. Gelb agreed to an “equality of sacrifice” provision, calling on the Met to trim an equal amount from its nonunion workers. The labor agreements that the Met signed noted that it could cut costs for administrative employees “through the same aspects of compensation as well as through headcount reductions.”

      In the end, the Met unfortunately had to fire 22 non-union administrative personnel (which is sad, since it was through no fault of the employees themselves). What Mr. Gelb did NOT do was suddenly call the Met chorus into a meeting room to tell them all “you’re fired.” Nobody got everything they wanted, but that is the nature of negotiations conducted in a professional way in a professionally led cultural organization.

      What you seem to forget, Mr. P, is that closing the Danish Radio Chamber Orchestra will be terrible for the 42 musicians on its roster. Where in Denmark will they find a new job within their field? There aren’t 42 vacancies with other orchestras in Denmark and the government certainly won’t start another orchestra to provide work for them. So their only options are to seek early retirement if eligible, work abroad (good luck with finding orchestral vacancies in the EU and how do you move if you have a family and kids, etc.), get unemployment benefits and once those eventually run out, get “re-schooled” in one of the government programs turning out people with quick remedial schooling in menial jobs that don’t require 6-8 years of specialized education.

      For these reasons, Mr. P, what you and Mr. Soelberg assert is that acting against all normal rules and conventions and with a total disregard for the musicians involved – and needlessly at that – is perfectly OK. If I wrote what I think of such statements, my comment would be deleted, so I’ll just leave it at that.

      In conclusion, I should mention that I am also extremely disappointed in the actions of the Danish Musician’s Federation. All they’ve done so far is express their “anguish” in articles and in TV interviews. While the musicians of Danish Radio Chamber Orchestra have started a petition website and gathered a respectable 30,000 signatures so far, this is not going to change anything. For once, the political parties across the board don’t want to get their hands dirty with this, so they’re leaving it to the DR management. Michael Christiansen’s mind is made up, and without political pressure he won’t change it. I’d like to refer a similar situation to the attention of the Danish Musician’s Federation Chairman, Anders Laursen; the 2003 strike on Broadway in New York.

      In negotiations over a collective bargaining agreement with the Broadway musicians’ union, the League of American Theatres and Producers proposed to reduce minimum orchestra size requirements from 24-26 to as low as 7 members, with a virtual orchestra filling the gaps. If the musicians and unions didn’t agree, the producers would replace all musicians with a virtual orchestra.

      Then, too, 30,000 signatures supporting the musicians were gathered. But they had no effect on the negotiations. Instead, when the bargaining deadline passed, 325 musician members of the Broadway Union went on strike, where they were joined by 650 actors from the Actors’ Equity Association and 350 stagehands from the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. The loss of employees from these unions caused all Broadway musicals to shut down. Those on strike picketed Broadway theatres and staged a mock funeral for live music in Times Square, with many famous Broadway actors in attendance.

      Because of the great strain on New York’s economy, with $7 million lost per performance for New York businesses (taxis, restaurants, and hotels, etc.), Mayor Michael Bloomberg intervened and invited Bill Moriarity, president of the Broadway Musicians’ union, and Jed Bernstein, president of the League of American Theaters and Producers, to meet at Gracie Mansion on the night of March 10, 2003 to continue mediated negotiations. After all-night negotiations – which no doubt involved a lot of arm twisting by Mayor Bloomberg – the parties agreed to reduce minimum requirements for musicians from 24-26 to 18-19, which would stay in effect for the next 10 years. Nobody got all they wanted, but they found resolution which they all could live with.

      Isn’t it about time that you started to urge your members and fellow unions to think along these lines, Mr. Laursen? If the Danish Musician’s Federation truly represents the interests of all Danish musicians, now is the time for all of them to show some of that much-vaunted Danish solidarity.

  • Repertoire has never been mentioned in the organization’s explanation for shutting down the chamber orchestra. If that had been an issue for the DR, they’d had around 17 years to get rid of Fischer and avoid any repertorial collisions with the symphony orchestra. The board of directors have primarily argued that the organization must focus on reaching the youth on their iPhones and tablets, hence the need for axing the orchestra that reaches the widest and most divergent audience across the country.

    The essumption that this move will strengthen the symphony orchestra is pure nonsense, and one has to be an idiot to believe it will lead more resources being channeled to the rest of the classical scene. This is really not a question of big money. It’s a question of priority. And here, not only the chamber orchestra is losing – all classical ensembles in Denmark are, and failing to see that is incredibly ignorant. Notice the symphony orchestra is not mentioned in the new media agreement anymore; don’t be surprised if within the next ten years the symphony orchestra might face a similar threat to being shut down.

    And as a final comment – P, if you have outlined a solution that makes “cross-over” concerts like the ones the DRUO has made over the past years financially sustainable on the free market, I’m sure the ensemble would like to hear from you!

    • “don’t be surprised if within the next ten years the symphony orchestra might face a similar threat to being shut down….”

      Maybe not in ten years, but maybe in 20 or latest 30 years, that generation that now grows constantly staring into their iPhones instead of into the real world… that generation will have no attention span to actually “survive” a symphony concert. They will close it down once they send the decision makers to the political and administrative bodies.
      By then classical music will have withdrawn to the absolute centers of the classical music world. Germany, Austria, maybe Russia,… And then there is Asia too…

      • If they can shut down an orchestra overnight, nothing is really certain. In the past few days, several “public service experts” from university circles have been quoted as saying that the subsidy of classical ensembles has no relevance to the general obligation of public service media. The former general director of the DR indeed stated on live TV a couple of days ago that the live ensembles today were essentially redundant in a broadcasting organization, due to everything already being available on tape.

        If they eventually succeed with closing down the chamber orchestra, a door has been kicked in to questioning the existance of any symphonic orchestra. That will only make it increasingly difficult to defend the intangible qualities of supporting a classical scene with public funding, and I think a 20-30 years estimate before the DR SymfoniOrkestret faces a serious threat is optimistic.

        • “The former general director of the DR indeed stated on live TV a couple of days ago that the live ensembles today were essentially redundant in a broadcasting organization, due to everything already being available on tape…”

          Did he really say that? Because that would be such a tragic(for him) and at the same time idiotic statement.
          Apparently he doesn’t understand, what art and what the creative process is. He also doesn’t know, how human perception works. Sounds pretty stupid for a former general director of a nation’s public broadcaster.

    • A most excellent and pertinent question, Peter, one which I’ve been asking myself for several days now. The behavior of the Danish Musicians Federation and its Chairman, Anders Laursen, are incredibly timid considering that this is pretty much the worst disaster Danish musicians who are members of the DMF are experiencing in the modern history of Danish classical music.

      But knowing Mr. Laursen, it may very well be that his sympathies are more oriented towards rock and jazz rather than classical music. If that is the case, one can speculate that he wouldn’t mind terribly if money saved on the Danish Radio Chamber Orchestra is spent on the Danish Radio Big Band, as DR management has promised.

    • Novagerio, why do you think he – a classical artist manager – wrote an article which will make Danish musicians dislike him in the extreme (put politely), which is in line with many parliamentary politicians’ sentiments?

      In a tiny country like Denmark he might indeed become Minister of Culture, and that is what is so frightening. Can you imagine someone who started out as a violinist writing an article which is so arrogant towards and dismissive of orchestra musicians becoming the Minister of Culture?

      DF is an extreme right political party which has built its agenda around hostility towards immigrants, especially Muslim immigrants. It is gaining voters fast, so the possibility of Mr. Soelberg having a shot at Minister of Culture is not outside the realm of possibility at all.

      No doubt he would also be happy to accept the as job of Chairman of Danish Radio along the way.

        • Novagerio – With good reason. I didn’t make Mr. Soelberg’s connections clear in the above. Elsewhere on Mr. Lebrecht’s blog, you can read that Mr. Soelberg “recently got engaged to Marie Krarup, a leading politician from the Danish People’s Party [DF]. Marie Krarup’s sister, Katrine Winkel Holm, is (we understand) a member of the Danish National Radios board.”

          The Danes have a term for this, “sammenspist,” which literally means “having eaten together.” Danes understand this term as a generic expression for people who’ve befriended/slept with/formed alliances with/sucked up to, etc. with other people in with a status and position in society so as to form a mutual support group for upward mobility.

          Mr. Soelberg is nothing if not “sammenspist,” something which he is very good at, regardless what one might otherwise think of his person and capabilities. If one knows how to read Danish tea leaves, it’s not difficult to figure out what the direction of someone’s ambitions are within a reasonably small margin of error.

          – See more at: https://slippedisc.com/2014/09/artist-manager-backs-orchestra-closure/#sthash.JgwMDJ9l.dpuf

  • It seems Mr. Soelberg is campaigning to close the orchestra. Another Danish newspaper made an interview with him.

    Regarding the repertoire, Fischer conducted Mozart and Beethoven, but his concerts were four times in a year. I don’t know exact number but Danish National Chamber Orchestra must have at least 30-40 concerts in a year. Is 10-15% Classical music too much?

    In 2014-15 Season Fischer and DNCO scheduled 7 concerts at Copenhagen. Two of them are Handel’s Messiah, which DNCO plays every year but nobody complains because it is not “classical concert” but “Christmas concert”. They play all Beethoven Symphonies in five concerts. But there was a reason for that.

    2015 is 200 anniversary of the Musikverein Steiermark, in Graz, Austria. Since Beethoven himself was the member in his days, the association decided to honor him to have series of concert including “Fidelio” by Vienna State Opera and eight Beethoven’s Symphonies by Danish National Chamber Orchestra in April. DNCO were scheduled to play Symphony No.9 in the next November, at the day of the anniversary, too. Since Graz pays performance fee, why not play the same program in Copenhagen? It saves the cost.

    Because Fischer also conducts “Fidelio” by Vienna State Opera, I suppose he is the person who made it possible. Management in Denmark, like Mr. Soelberg’s organization, may not be involved in this project. If Danish National Chamber Orchestra is invited to the world famous venues, management in Denmark may not happy. Of course this is my fantasy conspiracy theory.

    Anyway, Graz’s very important season was seriously affected by the Danish Radio’s decision. The project was announced several months ago and its internet site still says the Beethoven subscription ticket will be on sale in October. It would not be so easy to find the ensemble which can play the entire Beethoven symphonies on a short notice. Most of good orchestras have already fixed this season’s schedule.

    If I were a concert organizer, I would be really careful to invite Danish ensemble. If it happens to “National” Chamber Orchestra, similar thing could happen to any organization. It is sad that Danish Radio and artist managements don’t see the international impact.

    • If I were an artist manager, I’d just be really careful about inviting anyone represented by Jacob Soelberg’s management agency. To make a pop culture reference, he’s like The Brain in Spielberg’s “Pinky and the Brain.” Today Denmark, tomorrow the world!

    • So Fischer was called a chief conductor with about 4 to 6 concerts a year? Fabio Luisi, we learned on this blog, will be their Symphony orchestra’s chief conductor with 5 concert projects a week. It’s getting more bizarre by the minute. Don’t they know what a chief conductor is in Denmark?
      Are they just trying to buy some names to put on the plate outside the door, so people get impressed?
      Do they care about artistic values, or do they just want to act like a big fish in a small pond?

      Could everybody who is in the know please reply, how many engagements chief conductors of the major orchestras of the world actually have? I was under the impression that it’s usually around 12 to 16 projects (concert programs, tours, recordings) a year, sometimes even more.

      • There are no internationally accepted standards for how many concerts a conductor must conduct in order to achieve the title of Chief Conductor for any orchestra. Fischer may have conducted 6 concerts a season, but it’s probably safe to say he’s been in Copenhagen for a bit longer in order to record all Mozart symphonies over the past years. I would, however, say that the artistic outcome is more important than time spent, and in my opinion the results of the DRUO/Fischer-combination speaks for itself.

        I can add to that that most conductors will drive their musicians absolutely nuts if they are to spend more than 15 weeks with the orchestra every year. There is a fine line between achieving optimally and getting sick and tired of the same guy. I would say even ten weeks a year with the same guy is more than enough…

        • Only very spoiled musicians say that. Or musicians in orchestras that are not good enough to attract very good conductors (for more than five weeks).

        • So you’re saying that 50-60 years ago and more musicians were all nuts because they had the same music director for 30 weeks a year?

          • Well – I believe orchestra playing has evolved quite a lot during the past 50-60 years, and a lot of the things musicians had to take back then would never be accepted today. 30-weeks-a-year musical directors? I don’t know, they might exist, but I can’t think of many conductors today that could successfully conduct the same orchestra for such a long time without compromising the sanity of the musicians.

            I think the variety of having different conductors, different perspectives on the same music, different ways of working and different attitudes, is fantastic. I don’t know if that’s the attitude of a “spoiled musician”, but I suppose the reason why most orchestras (to my knowledge) have settled with that solution is because it’s the way that works the best for all parts.

          • I don’t disagree with you, though I think 6 weeks/season is too little for a Music Director. But that depends on the length of the season and the number of different concerts.

            Most orchestras have settled for this pattern because the conductors in demand want an obscene amount of money to appear. Barenboim got a cool 1 million USD for 6 weeks a year (and no doubt he travelled 1st class airfare and lived in a suite at the Radisson while there). If conductors have 3-4 gigs like that why take 8-10 concerts for a million since they’re already busting the orchestras’ budgets?

            But Lord knows it’s too much as well if orchestras giving 6-8 concerts per season have the same conductor for 20-25 years.

          • Christian, neither Tom nor me were suggesting 30 weeks for today. But 5 or 6 weeks is not enough to shape an orchestra. To work on their technical refinement and on their sound, not on an individual level, that’s the responsibility of the musicians, but on the group level and on the level of the overall orchestra. It’s a jet set business, and ridiculous as such.
            Only agents and management profit from this type of musical circus business. Music suffers.
            And the musicians are spoiled, yes, if they think they can’t be bothered to put up with the same face for more than 6 weeks a year. The conductor is not there for their entertainment but to make them work hard, uncomfortably hard at many times.
            They should humble themselves and start working on their own flaws first. There are more than enough to work on, before the conductor becomes even an issue…
            Do the musicians think it is nicer for the conductor to look at the same uninspired bored faces, their faces, for so long?

        • Christian, you might be interested to learn, that the really good orchestras, e.g. Berlin Phil or Gewandhaus Leipzig or Staatskapelle Dresden etc. do have chief conductors with substantially more working weeks (about 12 to 16). They also work with visiting soloists on a more regular basis, “artist in residence” is the concept they follow. That is because these ensembles understand, that for artistic reasons it is important to withstand the pressure from agents to surrender to the agency profit making jet set model.
          You can never improve an orchestra with a “chief” conductor visiting only five weeks a year and in between chasing all kinds of other conductors and soloists through. Nothing good and superior can come out of this.

      • As Christian says, it is difficult to tell the number of project, because some orchestra may have more concerts than others. But a regular classical concert project consists of 2-3 days of rehearsal, dress rehearsal (could be the same day of the first performance) and one or more concerts. I don’t think it is possible to have 5 projects per week for a symphony orchestra. Luisi’s contract may be five concert projects per season. In this case it is similar as Fischer.

        Fabio Luisi is the GMD of Zurich Opera, which has a performance every day, 10 month a year. As GMD he must conducts some of new productions, as well as rehearsals. He may be invited by other orchestras as a guest conductor. Five concert project, plus a small tour, and one recording project per year is close to reality.

        During 15 years, Fischer conducted Bayreuth Ring, New York Metropolitan opera or Vienna Philharmonic. He was awarded as “The conductor of the year” by the German magazine. He could get a better position at the top level opera or orchestra. But he was true to the Danish National Chamber Orchestra and spent a lot of time for recordings and rehearsals. Fischer and the orchestra developed a unique style and that got international attention.

        But it didn’t matter for Danish Radio. So they shuts down the orchestra. Same Danish Radio appointed the international star conductor to the Chief of National Symphony Orchestra. And yesterday they announced that they will expand the Symphony Orchestra! Closing one and expand the other does not make sense! It was much better if they ask Fischer to become the Chief of both orchestras and gradually merge.

        • A regular classical project in Denmark takes about a week. 4-5 rehearsal days. This may be slightly different in the DR Symphony Orchestra, since their concerts are on Thursdays, but unless their working conditions have changed, they rehearse 6 hours a day Mon.-Wedn., which is the equivalent of 4-5 days in other Danish orchestras.

      • “Are they just trying to buy some names to put on the plate outside the door, so people get impressed?
        Do they care about artistic values, or do they just want to act like a big fish in a small pond?” – A very good point Henrik. It smells way out of vanity if not down right self-endulgence and snobbism.

        – “And yesterday they announced that they will expand the Symphony Orchestra! Closing one and expand the other does not make sense!”

        SO: This story gets certainly weirder and weirder. Reading these pages, I understand that there is going to be at least 3 entire Beethoven Cycles in circulation simultaniously by 3 different orchestras in a city with a population of about 570.000. Wow! That certainly beats everything else! How smart was that? I mean, no offence but surely cosy Copenhagen is not London or Berlin in matters of resources!…
        Now, I think it starts looking clear that (inept) cultural politicians are asking questions! Shouldn’t an early warning have been more appropriate instead? As far as I can see, the DR UNDERHOLDNINGS ORKESTER translates in english to Radio Pops or Concert-Orchestra. When did they get the title DR Chamber Orchestra? Was somebody trying to profit within a personal career-agenda by deviating an orchestras actual function, or did I miss the point? Clearly, there is a lot of back-stabbing, Schadenfreude, nepotism, self-made “cultural spin-doctors”, personal profit, vanity and everything else due to what seems to be a complete lack of structure….

        • Novagerio, methinks thou dost protest too much (to misquote Hamlet in conformity with your information).

          You need to add 1 million people to the population of Copenhagen to get the right number. The population with access to the cultural attractions of Copenhagen is in fact at least 1 million people higher due to recent bridge-building and fast trains.

          Who says there are going the be 3 Beethoven cycles in Copenhagen at the same time? Not even the Danes are that d…er…capable of such lack of coordination. The DRUO is going to play Beethoven’s 9th in Copenhagen in November and were supposed to play the remaining 8 symphonies on a tour to Austria April 20-23, 2015 (which the Austrian concert agency, btw., still has listed on its website – maybe they have more positive news than they have in Denmark or nobody has bothered to call them to inform them that the orchestra they booked has been geschlossen).

          When did they get the title DR Chamber Orchestra, you ask? When the shrink told them to. Danes tend to have slight inferiority complex when it comes to matters of culture, so they feel a need to call their orchestras something that Barnum & Bailey would have approved of in English. No doubt that if the DR Symphony Orchestra expands, it’ll change its name to the “Galactic Symphony Orchestra.”

          PS Pardon my sarcasm.

          • Thanks Tom and Christian and others for the clarifications and sorry if my questions/remarks appeared slightly impertinent! Cheers!

        • Novagerio, I don’t know who you’re accusing of self-indulgence and snobbism, if it’s the chamber orchestra or the symphony orchestra. Fischer has been in the DRUO for 17 years; he is in a league that would entitle him to have a good laugh at an offer as chief conductor from a small orchestra like this one. Yet he’s stuck to the ensemble, and as you may notice, he’s furious about the closing plans. I strongly doubt he came for the money or prestige – nobody is buying any names there. Regarding the hiring of Luisi, I honestly believe they got him because the orchestra considered him to be the top candidate to the position to develop the orchestra in the future.

          Regarding the name, DR UnderholdningsOrkestret’s history goes back 75 year – I’ve heard back in those days the orchestra played popular tunes on demand at clubs and bars. The repertoire today seems to be split between pop music, modern music and Mozart/Beethoven. Recently, a lot of the official names have been shaken up in the entire Danish Radio organization. For instance, the Danish Radio is no longer officially called the Danish Radio (Danmarks Radio), but only DR. The symphony orchestra used to be called Radiosymfoniorkestret, but became the DR SymfoniOrkestret, just like Radiounderholdningsorkestret changed to DR UnderholdningsOrkestret as a part of this branding strategy. Since they’re only known for the classical music abroad, and because it is in fact a chamber orchestra, I don’t find it inappropriate the orchestra called the Danish National Chamber Orchestra in English.

          • Chistian, I agree with you. But one question regarding the name. Why is it called “National”? I thought that members of a national orchestra are public servants, therefore only the government can lay them off, not DR.

          • SO – I told you naming orchestras for domestic consumption and foreign export is a Danish mind trick. The Copenhagen Phil used to be called Sjællands Symfoniorkester in Denmark and the Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra on recordings and tours until fairly recently. The Odense Symfoniorkester were the Carl Nielsen Philharmonic or something like that once, so of course the Danmarks Radios UnderholdningsOrkester had to have a name like the Danish National Chamber Orchestra. I think something similar was the case for the Danmarks Radios SymfoniOrkester, which, if memory doth not deceive, was the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, and Det Kgl. Kapel, Which was the Royal Danish Symphony Orchestra (and still is, instead of the Royal Chamber Orchestra, which is the direct Danish translation). I told you it was all a case for a shrink based on a national inferiority complex.

          • PS Yes, the members of the Danish National Chamber Orchestra are all Danish government employees under the Civil Servants Employment Act. Since their employer, DR, is a Danish national institution subsidized through government legislation where all employees are civil servants, the DR can lay off civil servants since it is one big conglomeration of civil servants that reports directly to the Danish government.

          • TOM, Thanks for the clarification. I think naming confusion is not only for the Danish ensembles. I know that some ensemble uses the name of “Vienna” but no relation to the city, touring Asian countries playing Strauss waltz in Russian/German/international style. I don’t think it is right, but I don’t think discussing such an issue here changes the future of 42 musicians of DRUO, either. So I don’t comment on naming issue.

            The news about DRUO has a very big impact on international music community because if a rich country like Denmark closes the “National” institution in a short notice, any other country can. And the answer of Danish Cultural Minister seems very irresponsible, because judging from the English name. She should be the person who makes the final decision.

            In order to reverse the decision, oppositions must make it clear that who can veto. That is the reason why I asked.

          • Of course the politicians can veto anything they want in a country like Denmark. Unfortunately for the cultural institutions that are formally run by the national government as opposed to those run nominally by local government, the Minister of Culture can wash his/her hands of decisions made by the (supposedly) independent board and its chairperson. When it’s convenient, it can work the other way around. These kinds of decisions are all discussed during informally during coffee breaks to reach a consensus among the top players. Once there’s agreement, the board chair or the minister will make a public announcement and the other party will either cry crocodile tears or say they can’t do anything about the decision since it was taken independently.

  • As far as I know, the London orchestras (of wich there are at least a dozen) don’t have the same stately security as the scandinavian orchestras. Yet, I never heard of any specific orchestra having priority over determinated repertoire-areas. How many Beethoven or even Mahler Symphony-Cycles aren’t there in the market with the LSO, the LPO, the RPO, the Philharmonia, the St.Martin’s, the London Classic Players, the Academy of Ancient Music etc etc. If something works out fine and it sells, then why shut it down?

  • Henrik, I don’t think you can jump to any conclusions in regards to chief conductors. The Vienna Philharmonic has never ever had one, for instance. I’ve played in an orchestra where we had the same conductor conducting 15-20 concerts a year. It was disastrous. I have played with enough conductors to recognize that there is only a few truly great conductors here on the face of earth, and if you can get a great guy to drop by for 5-6 weeks a year, that’s awesome, regardless what title you give him.

    In the specific case of Adam Fischer, I encourage you to have a listen to the recordings he’s made with the chamber orchestra before denying that 6 weeks a year (assuming that’s how long time he spends in Copenhagen) can be sufficient for a conductor to shape an orchestra.

    Generally speaking, the relationship between the conductor and the orchestra is crucial. It’s an extremely delicate issue, and I can tell you that even the smallest, apparently pointless things can turn nice week into an utterly awful one. There is so much psychology involved, and whether you consider modern orchestra musicians spoiled or not, that’s how things work today.

    • what Novagerio said regarding the Vienna Phil. Not comparable to other orchestras, particularly not to the ones in Denmark we were talking about.

      As far as Adam Fischer’s Mozart is concerned, I personally don’t like it in general much, not my cup of tea. Too much haste, lack of cantabile phrasing, often rushed, hectic, and quite a few edges and lack of technical capability by some players audible. Like the orchestra can’t really follow the conductors intentions. Also recordings don’t really count for insiders for evaluation of orchestras, since they often show after editing what a good producer can achieve together with an orchestra, less what an orchestra and a conductor are actually able to show live on stage by themselves.

      And again, I don’t believe that orchestra musicians really need conductors that much to become better musicians and to perform better. It’s just that they want the big names in order to feed their egos. Of course its more fun to play with a truly great conductor. But a great conductor himself makes no great orchestra if you catch my drift.

      What makes an orchestra great is what Novagerio describes. Being forced to work under difficult conditions and forced listening to each other and to the singers on stage, basically training to play without a conductor most of the time.

      And that the principals educate much of their own young players in the academy, according to the prevalent style of the orchestra also helps.

      • I gather that you are a fan of the metronome in Fellini’s “Prova d’orchestra.” Musicians may or may need human conductors; there have been orchestras chamber orchestras without conductors in the USSR and other countries behind the Iron Curtain. But that does not seem to have caught on. Bernstein did it once at a New Years concert with the Vienna Phil, but that was with a Haydn symphony movement which doesn’t need a conductor if the orchestra is good enough and knows the repertoire. I’d like to hear an orchestra play the Rite of Spring or the Turangalila Symphony without a conductor some day. It would most surely be a very funny experience.

        The fact remains, that for inexplicable reasons, certain conductors like Rattle, Dudamel, Toscanini, etc. are able to inspire their orchestras to extraordinary performances and make their orchestras consistently great. It may be charisma more than baton technique – I don’t think there’s any scientific research done on that. But they are the 1% among classical music conductors. The rest are often not worth much more than metronomes at best and like 10 metronomes running at different speeds simultaneously at worst. There are maybe 10-15 conductors in the world today who can draw an audience by virtue of their name and reputation. The rest don’t make much difference in attracting or scaring audiences away. If musicians think these conductors are “big names” they’re kidding themselves.

        The Berlin Phil and Vienna Phil hardly work under difficult circumstances, yet they are very good. You learn how to play together by playing chamber music from your conservatory studies onwards, like string quartets, wind quintets and so on. The greatest orchestras consist of groups of musicians that are capable of thinking and playing like chamber musicians. Listening to each other is a given in, and the the hallmark of, great orchestras full of great musicians.

        Principals can’t educate mediocre musicians, who end up playing in mediocre orchestras. Principals should be like the first violin in a string quartet, which helps the other players play together better and execute rubati together. Experienced orchestra musicians can usually hear if the sound of a musician will fit in with theirs during auditions or, at worst, during the trial period. Orchestras as a whole are amalgamated, not educated to become excellent.

        Certainly, you can bring in a bunch of the best music students from all over Europe and have them produce surprisingly fantastic results. But such temporary groupings usually rehearse 8 hours a day for a couple of weeks to get that way. By the time the are done as students, they should be able to play the same way with anywhere between 16-25 rehearsal hours.

        Today’s orchestras, all professional musicians of a certain age agree, generally sound better than those of 50 years ago thanks to better educators and education practices. This proves that your ideas about how great orchestras are made are somewhat antiquated, since they didn’t produce better results.

        Finally, a short remark about recordings. There was a time back in the 70s and 80s when recordings were made by splicing together many takes to create a “perfect” final version. For that, certainly, excellent technicians were needed. Today, given the number of classical recordings sold and being made, recordings need to be made quickly and efficiently. Many, indeed, are released as live recordings. The main difference technicians make (even though they do use some limited splicing which is so much easier today using a computer) is in placing the microphones and balancing the recording so certain groups don’t dominate others, so it has just the right amount of resonance, etc. This is done on a trial basis during rehearsals and used to save time when the real recording happens, especially in the case of live recordings, of course.

        Being an audiophile, one can hear if the fault in a recording is due to bad recording technicians creating a flat sound or “shower” acoustics, imbalance between sections of musicians and all the mistakes they can make. These mistakes, however, can not hide whether an orchestra plays together, in tune and if the tempi and rubati chosen by the conductor make sense or not. The only thing difficult to judge in a recording is what causes a muddled sound within an orchestra. That could be the musicians’ or the technicians’ fault. But even then, if we’re not talking about a compilation recording like “Beethoven’s 20 Greatest Hits”, one can judge if the recording techs are good or not based on different movements in the recording. If the orchestra is perfectly balanced and sounds crystal clear in slow and moderato movements but are a mess in the really fast ones (or those requiring a huge orchestra), then it’s a problem with the techs. The same vice versa.

        • Tom, there is much conjecture and half-baked information in what you are saying about orchestras and recording. While it’s probably true that in average orchestra musicians today are technically better, including their instruments, in the same time the quality of music making is not. The culture of musical phrasing, singing of lines and expression is increasingly lost. Just listen to some of the best American orchestras like NYPhil or Chicago. Perfect technically, but often most boring and empty musically. Also if you think that so called live recordings are not heavily edited, then you are wrong. Also if you think that you need technicians rather than musicians (with some technical skills) to “splice” a recording together then you are wrong also. Also, in average, today’s recordings are much more edited than recordings only 20 years ago, you are wrong there as well. Mostly due to the editing being so much easier to do in the digital domain than in the analog domain.

          • Anonymous, if my information is half-baked, yours hasn’t even made it into the oven. Stick to detailed commentary about something you’re familiar with, and which you don’t gather second-hand from amateur musicians. And stop repeating what I’ve written above already – that’s copyright infringement!

  • The Vienna Philharmonic play 6-8 annual subscription concerts, besides world tours, recordings and televised activities. Then, the principal leaders spend their times teaching at the Hochschule. Their real job however is in the opera pit, cos their official name is Orchester der Staatsoper Wien, and there they spend more than 300 nights a year, playing under the entire alphabet of conductors that hardly – with few exceptions, would get an invitation to conduct one single subscription concert. Of course they won’t need a chief conductor when they operate under their private title Wiener Philharmoniker and where the orchestras board made of orchestral members can choose guest conductors. Each member will have to do at least 5-7 years in the pit of the Opera House before gaining membership of the Philharmoniker, so, they are an entirely different ball game.

  • My comments regarding eventual self-indulgence and snobbism were only directed at eventual corridor-opportunism from non-musical parties of course. Thanks again for your clarifications! Cheers!

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