The conductor from hell

The conductor from hell


norman lebrecht

September 15, 2014

Anyone recognise him?

(Click on blue word ‘Post’ if video does not pop out).





Anyone know which movie?

UPDATE: It’s this.


  • Paul Mason says:

    He’s actor J.K. Simmons; the scene itself is from a 2013 short film called Whiplash.

  • william osborne says:

    Not so far from reality:

    He never could get my wife’s name straight….

  • Alex says:

    I’m more offended by Celibidache’s plodding pedantry and deathly dull tempi.

    • william osborne says:

      I sometimes wonder if his slow tempos, pedantry and abuse of musicians were related. His desire for total control led to crushing the music with ponderous tempos and a sadistic manipulation of musicians as evidenced in this rehearsal with the Swedish Radio Orchestra:

      Celi was thus driven from cities like Stockholm, London, and Bologna, but finally found his home in Munich which has strongly authoritarian traditions.

      • Beaumont says:

        “Munich which has strongly authoritarian traditions” – which is why (with one exception) it has been governed by Social-Democrat mayors since 1948.
        Oh dear, oh dear,…..

        • william osborne says:

          Particularly under Georg Kronawitter, who was the Mayor of Munich at the time, the party was known in Germany as the “Lederhosen SPD” to describe its conservative tendencies — a necessity to remain in power in Munich. It should also be remembered that the traditions and mentality of Muncih and Bavaria are shaped by far more than the SPD Party. An example would be a speech given by Edmund Stoiber, the Christian Socialist Union Minister President of Bavaria in the early 90s, in which he warned about the dangers of a “mongeralized society” (“durchrasste Gesellschaft.”) National Socialism was founded in Munich. Socialism in that city can have many meanings.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            william osborne says:

            An example would be a speech given by Edmund Stoiber, the Christian Socialist Union Minister President of Bavaria in the early 90s, in which he warned about the dangers of a “mongeralized society” (“durchrasste Gesellschaft.”) National Socialism was founded in Munich. Socialism in that city can have many meanings.

            Except that wasn’t in the early 90s, it was in 1988, and it wasn’t in a speech, it was in a conversation with journalists – a conversation, not a press conference – and Stoiber didn’t “warn about the dangers” of a “durchrasste Gesellschaft”, he said that a far right wing party had used the term and it was later clarified by journalists who were present that Stoiber had used those words as an example for the threat from right wing extremists, not as something he himself subscribed to or even wanted to “warn about”.
            So, it was actually the opposite of what you want to tell people here.

            Still, the quote was taken and reported out of context, and it haunted Stoiber for many years.
            But it has also been many years that that has been cleared up, so I wonder if you are just very badly informed or just very selective in what information you want to store and use when it suits your agenda – or maybe both?

            Stoiber is a total babblehead and he has actually said lots of other stupid things, so I never felt sorry for him because of this, but he doesn’t deserve to be directly linked to the Nazis, as you just did.

            Like Beaumont said, oh dear, oh dear, William, oh dear…

          • william osborne says:

            Yes, Michael, deny, deny, deny. Never mind that Stoibers supposedly out of context statement fits well with countless other things he has said — and some stating exactly the same point. I remember when Edmund Stoibler took office as the Minister President of Bavaria (during Celis reign at the Phil) he said he would “give Bavaria the one-man democracy it is used to.” An ironic statement in the birth city of the Third Reich. I saw these authoritarian cultural values in practice on a daily basis.

            As for the SPD, the prominent SPD politician Thilo Sarrazin published a book in 2010 which claimed that foreigners were lowering Germany’s average IQ. He said most Turks and Arabs are incapable of integration, and that foreigners come to Germany just to exploit its social welfare system. In an interview with Welt am Sonntag he caused a scandal when he claimed that “all Jews share a certain gene like all Basques share a certain gene that distinguishes these from other people.” Sarrasin’s book is the best-selling book on politics in Germany in the last decade. It has sold 1.1 million copies. A reprint edition sold out in hours. For details on his views see:


            The website below provides statistics that show that xenophobia and anti-foreignerism are stronger in Bavaria than in the rest of Germany. (In short, 37% held anti-foreigner views as opposed to the national average of 29%.) The survey found that 16.8% of the people in Bavaria felt that the Third Reich had positive aspects – twice the national ratio. Read this survey how you will, but the numbers are not comforting. Details here:


            Forgive me if I don’t debate these topics. My experience with people’s denial about these issues has taught me that most dialog is pointless and deeply distasteful. That said, progress in Germany is steady and continuous, and the Austro-Bavarian region does not define the norm. These problems will for the most part eventually be part of the past, and in some parts of Germany already are.

          • Michael Endres says:

            You have done some splendid research here.
            I also find some Bavarian traditions deeply disturbing:


          • Michael Schaffer says:

            william osborne says:

            Yes, Michael, deny, deny, deny. Never mind that Stoibers supposedly out of context statement fits well with countless other things he has said

            No, William, facts, facts, facts. And not “supposedly out of context” – that has been clarified long ago by several journalists who were there.

            But that is not the point here. Nor is it the point here that I also think that Stoiber is a total egghead and that he has said many stupid things * . You should be able to gather from my above remarks that my opinion of him isn’t much better than yours.

            The point here is that once again, you have presented “evidence” taken out of context, embellished with wrong “facts”, to inflate your own soapbox. As much as a babblehead as Stoiber is, he does not deserve to be pushed into the Nazi corner by you in this way.

            And then you drag in Sarrazin, another egghead from a completely different time and place, to “prove” that the SPD in Munich are also all really total Nazis.

            You have obviously made the experience that since in Germany, the N subject is taken very seriously so if you throw around the N word, you get your instant soapbox, and you often abuse that for your own agenda. And of often totally out of context.

            Your submission here that Celibidache, a known authoritarian and certified douche (albeit one with quite outstanding musical abilities nonetheless) was really hired in Munich because they are all really just Nazis is just completely bizarre and, as the German saying goes, “total an den Haaren herbeigezogen”. **

            Forgive me if I don’t debate these topics.

            Yes, we already know that you always say that when you run out of solid arguments. Which is usually very quickly. Frankly, that hit and run tactic has gotten very old by now. I don’t think with the very loose attitude towards facts and coherent arguments that you often display, you are even qualified to “debate these topics”. Either they are too complex for you to grasp or you just want to stand on that instant soapbox – hard to say, and irrelevant anyway.

            * And many involuntarily hilarious things, too:

            ** Literally, “dragged in by its hair”, similar to the English expression “dragged into sth. kicking and screaming”.

      • Michael Endres says:

        Some more of that ”sadistic manipulation of musicians “…

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          Yes, terrible, heartbreaking to watch – especially the segment around 7:30 where he has the nerve to tell the choir they are singing “very beautiful”. But that was 30 years ago – these days, conductors can’t push around musicians like that anymore, thankfully.

          • Michael Endres says:

            I have sat through my student years to many of his rehearsals and it was a truly spellbinding experience : his ability to craft the tiniest detail in relation to the whole work and the balance of sound he created I have seldom heard elsewhere ( apart from Carlos Kleiber, who –in a different way– worked on a similar level of sensitivity.)
            One performance has always stayed with me : the Bruckner f minor mass ,and particularly the searing intensity of the Benedictus .
            Here is a vid that shows him rehearsing again…

  • carlos says:

    I am convinced the clip is inspired by this video of Karl Bohm rehearsing Beethoven 7: The poor flautist,embarrassed like that in front of the orchestra

  • cabbagejuice says:

    Not toscanini, right?

  • Bob M says:

    Sacrifice is what has been left in the æther of history.

  • Bob M says:

    Oh, brother…

    • Erich says:

      well…er….wasn’t there a recent incidence of a certain (be)knighted conductor with a certain London orchestral member? Unfortunately this doesn’t only happen on film. But of course, legendary conductors like Toscanini or Szell or Reiner were also famous for their tantrums.

  • Michael Schaffer says:

    The “poor flutist” embarrasses himself by not being able to play a very basic rhythmic element in this critical transition passage in time and in, well, in rhythm. Böhm is just pointing that out, and not in an unfriendly way either. That is part of the conductor’s job, you know.
    The oboist sitting right behind him playing the same thing has no problem getting it right.