Sibelius publisher: We never upped the fee for the Vienna Philharmonic

Sibelius publisher: We never upped the fee for the Vienna Philharmonic


norman lebrecht

November 24, 2014

On the contrary, say publishers Breitkopf & Härtel in a statement today, we actually offered a reduction. But the Vienna Phil were still too mean to pay for Valse triste at their New Year’s concert. And then they manipulated the truth.

Statement below:


vienna phil


No Front-Row Seat for Sibelius, Regrettably

Breitkopf & Härtel deeply regrets the decision of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra to withdraw Jean Sibelius’ “Valse triste” from the program of its 2015 New Year’s Concert. As grounds for its withdrawal, the orchestra claims that the publisher is demanding excessively high fees. This is not the case.

On the contrary, Breitkopf & Härtel’s initial offer was moderate already. Another substantial reduction of the fees, taking into consideration the special cultural aspect of the inauguration of the Sibelius Year in the frame-work of the New Year’s Concert, still failed to bring about an agreement.

The sole issue for the negotiation was the license fee claimed by the publisher for the film rights (synchronization rights). Only the broadcasting and public performance rights (via radio, television, etc.) of “Valse triste” are protected by performing rights organization (e.g. GEMA): they thus were not an issue in Breitkopf & Härtel’s contract offer. There were also no hire fees involved, since the sheet music to “Valse triste” is exclusively available as sales material and is subject to controlled prices in Germany and Austria.

Jean Sibelius would have deserved a “front row seat” at the concert marking the beginning of the year in which his 150th birthday will be celebrated far and wide.

(Everywhere except Vienna.)

Sibelius nicht in der ersten Reihe

Mit Bedauern nimmt Breitkopf & Härtel die Nachricht der Wiener Philharmoniker zur Kenntnis, dass „Valse triste“ von Jean Sibelius aus dem Programm des Neujahrskonzerts 2015 genommen wurde. Als Gründe für die Absage werden unakzeptabel hohe Forderungen des Verlags angegeben.

Dies ist nicht der Fall. Breitkopf & Härtel hatte vielmehr ein erstes, bereits moderates Angebot unterbreitet und dieses Angebot in Anerkennung des besonderen kulturellen Aspekts, der im Neujahrskonzert durch die Eröffnung des Sibelius-Jahres gegeben war, noch einmal stark reduziert, ohne dass dies zu einer Einigung geführt hatte.

Verhandlungsgegenstand war lediglich das vom Verlag beanspruchte Lizenzentgelt für das Filmverwendungsrecht (Synchronization Right). Nur die Rechte zur öffentlichen Aufführung und zur Sendung (im Hörfunk, Fernsehen etc.) werden bei „Valse triste“ von Verwertungsgesellschaften (z. B. GEMA) wahrgenommen. Sie waren somit nicht Gegenstand des Vertragsangebots von Breitkopf & Härtel. Auch Mietentgelte für das Notenmaterial fallen nicht an, da die Noten zu „Valse triste“ ausschließlich käuflich zu erwerben sind und in Deutschland und Österreich der Preisbindung unterliegen.

Jean Sibelius hätte es verdient gehabt, zu Beginn des Jahres, in dem allerorten seines 150. Geburtstags gedacht wird, fiktiv in der ersten Reihe des Konzerts zu sitzen.


  • Petros Linardos says:

    How is the VPO financed, what is its annual budget and how much do they make from the new year’s concert?

  • SVM says:

    This clarifies everything. It is not really a question of right or wrong, but simply a matter of commercial negotiation pertaining to one facet of intellectual-property rights.

    I expect that the Vienna Philharmonic would have no difficulty making a lot more than EUR 4000 from sales of DVDs of the New Year’s concert, but if the orchestra decides that it does not want to pay that sum for the synchronisation rights, that is its prerogative (subject to respecting intellectual-property law, and not making a film of the Sibelius).

  • Dave K says:

    I’d mind more if it wasn’t one of JS’s most overplayed pieces – also, ironically, the one that Dudamel substituted for a (short) Tubin piece when he was flown in at the Proms back in 2005.

    Tubin still awaits his first Proms performance.

    • Hilary says:

      It was the wrong choice not because it’s overplayed but because (as the title suggests) of the less than upbeat mood for this particular event.

  • Philip says:

    One gets pretty tired of the constant anti-VPO bias on this website. Come New Year’s Day it’ll be counting how many women were playing in the orchestra or that the NYDC was started by the Nazis anyway.

    It all gets very tedious.

    I agree with SVM above that it is the Vienna Philharmonic’s right to play what they want.

  • wwender says:

    Why did Norman insert a jokey comment of his own into the end of the English translation of the press release? That’s rather deceptive.

  • John Borstlap says:

    One wonders why such a worn-out piece from so long ago still has to be subject to commercial dispute. An orchestra who want to add an insignificant war horse of a couple of minutes, and a publisher who tries to milk it, if merely for a couple of thousands of euros.

  • Michael says:

    Pity the English translation of the headline is not only wrong but misses the irony/double meaning of the original German! “Sibelius nicht in der erste Reihe” also means “not in the first rank” [as a composer]. And “(Regrettably)” is not in the original. These errors are a disservice to the blog’s non-German speakers! More editorial rigour please!