A sixth music director quits – this time in Berlin

A sixth music director quits – this time in Berlin


norman lebrecht

October 07, 2014

It must be something in the air that has prompted six resignations in as many weeks.

This one is less hasty than some of the others.

Tughan Sokhiev, who recently became music director of the Bolshoi, has discovered the immensity of that nightmare job. Tugan, 37, has decided to leave the  Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and has given them 18 months to find a suitable successor.

Press release follows.



Tugan Sokhiev announced today that he will not extend his current contract as Music Director of the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin beyond 2016. He assumed the position in September 2012 after two years as Music Director Designate.
“The tasks I have taken on at the Bolshoi Theatre at the beginning of this year are more monumental than it was possible to predict when I took up the position. They require too much presence and attention on my part in the medium-term to allow me to stay with my orchestra and fulfil my duties in Berlin with good conscience. The DSO is an excellent ensemble which deserves an artistic leader who is able to perform the exhilarating and demanding tasks to the full and who does not have to divide his energies in this way,” the 37 year-old conductor explains his decision. “The DSO is a first class orchestra in fantastic shape and we will realise many wonderful projects together during this season and those to come.”
Musicians committee chair Matthias Kühnle: “We greatly regret Tugan Sokhiev’s decision not to be available to extend his time as head of our orchestra, but we do respect it. We have achieved a great deal together in the past years, and we are looking forward to our future projects with much anticipation.” Managing Director Alexander Steinbeis adds: “The orchestra has developed fantastically in repertoire and in its sound under Sokhiev. Even after his departure as Music Director he will remain closely associated with the DSO and will return annually to conduct the orchestra in Berlin.”

Thomas Kipp, General Manager of Rundfunk Orchester und Chöre GmbH (roc berlin), emphasises: “The DSO is currently in excellent shape,
due in no small part to Tugan Sokhiev, and is strongly positioned both artistically and economically.” The Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin can look back on a remarkably successful development in the past three years with a constant percentage of more than 80% of seats sold – 83% in the past concert year – approximately 73,000 audience members in Berlin alone, and a continuous increase in the number of
subscribers. With Tugan Sokhiev, the orchestra is setting new accents in the cultural life of the capital city, particularly in the Russian-Slavic and French repertoire. The recording recently released of Prokofiev’s ‘Ivan the Terrible’ on Sony Classical has been highly praised by the press. Other CD releases are pending. The DSO and its Music Director will tour together in Europe and to Japan in the next two years.


  • anon says:

    maybe a fitting title to this article could have been:

    Russian plans for retreat out of Berlin! 😉

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      Except that Sokhiev is actually from Ossetia, not from Russia…

      • Simon S. says:

        He is from North Ossetia, which has been a part of Russia for more than two centuries.

        BTW: The Russian language has two words for the two meanings of the term “Russian”:

        “rossiysky” – referring to Russia as a state, all citizens fo the Russian Federation (“Rossiyskaya Federatsiya”) are therefore “rossiysky”

        “russky” – referring to the Russian language and the Russian people as ethnic group

        So, Mr Sokhiev is certainly a Russian citizen (rossiysky). I am unaware of his ethnicity (which is a formal status in Russia), as there are also ethnic Russians within Ossetia, he may be ethnically Russian (russky) or Ossetian or something else.

  • Branimir says:

    Can we just agree that quitting and deciding not to extend a contract in future is not exactly the same thing?

  • Edgar Brenninkmeyer says:

    I fully agree. I hope that Tugan Sokhiev will have the tenacity and strength for the herculean task awaiting him at the Bolshoi. He has made the right and necessary decision to concentrate on his music directorship in Moscow, given the state of the house. Respect. And best wishes for the DSO Berlin, which has 18 months to find a successor. Sokhiev’s announced departure by not renewing his current contract, while honoring the remainder of it, is by no means “quitting” his job. Rather it shows a keen sense of responsibility toward, and respect for, both DSO and Bolshoi. My he be successful.

  • Vince says:

    “Nightmare job” haha. Good one, Norman!

  • Nathaniel says:

    Exactly, Branimir!
    He doesn’t quit, he just doesn’t renew his contract. Meaning, if he wouldn’t make any efforts for an extension/renewal, he would be leaving anyways!
    Let’s keep things in proportion.

  • newyorker says:

    The above posters are right. Also, Sokhiev would do well to keep both posts and do as most maestros do, just conduct and keep his head down. Maintaining a “presence” is a laudable effort but he will get chewed up and spit out at the Bolshoi either way, and then he’ll not have any position at all.

  • GG says:

    He still has a position at Toulouse, where he launched his career (his first job at Cardiff didn’t really end so well) and started his path to success. Maybe he also won’t renew his contract there, but I’d think he’ll have another orchestra next to the Bolshoi anyway (as most big-name conductors do).