Anne-Sophie Mutter: ‘Munich has second-division sound quality’

The dominant German violinist has pitched headlong into the row over building a new concert hall in Munich, a debate that has been running without resolution for more than ten years.

Here’s what she told the Süddeutsche Zeitung:Dortmund hat uns akustisch absolut in die zweite Liga verdrängt. Viele international renommierte Orchester kommen nicht mehr nach München, weil ihnen diese Räume fehlen….

Dortmund absolutely relegates us to the second division in acoustic terms. Many international orchestra no longer come to Munich because these facilities are missing.’

That’s telling ’em.


boston so previn mutter

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  • After conducting the Munich Phil in the Gasteig, Seiji Ozawa said the acoustics were so bad he would never return to the hall. Seldom mentioned in the discussions is that Sergiu Celibidache, who was GMD of the Munich Phil when the hall was being designed, took a personal hand in its design.

    • Not true. When Celibidache became GMD in Munich in 1979, the general design and main acoustic setup was already finalized. He suggested a few remedies, but couldn’t change the general problems of the acoustics and was always openly critical about this hall’s acoustics.

        • He still failed to substantiate his claim that Celi had anything to do with the acoustics of the Gasteig. It’s just the usual drivel he spills every time Celi’s name is mentioned.

        • “Peres” (possibly a phony name) seems to have a notable indifference to “drivel” when it comes from his Maestro such as Celi’s comment to the Abendzeitung in an interview on Nov. 10, 1984, in which he explains his opinion of critics:

          “These people who daily poison everything, should take a pause or write about gynecology. In that area everyone has a little experience. But in music they are virgins. So they will remain, and so they will go into the other world, never fertilized by a single experienced tone.”

          (“Diese Leute, die taglich alles vergiften, sollten einmal pausieren oder über Gynakologie schreiben. Auf dem Gebiet hat doch jeder ein bischen Erfahrung. Aber in der Musik sind sie Jungfrauen. So bleiben sie, so gehen sie auch in die andere Welt hinuber, nie von einem wirklich erlebten klang befruchtet.”)

          And we note he has nothing to say about Celi calling Anna Sophie-Mutter a “violin-playing hen” — just one of countless examples of the distasteful things the conductor said. No problem for “Peres” which leads me to believe he is the one with credibility issues.

          • I don’t think insiders will question, that Celi was not only freely speaking his mind (a good) quality) but often condescending and insulting to others (not a good quality). He was a man with a growing bitterness toward the end of his life, that he didn’t receive the same gratification and attention as HvK, his big antagonist, despite regarding himself as the much deeper musician (which he probably were).
            Both, Celibidache and Karajan, were probably some of the most loneliest people ever…
            Anyway, we are getting off topic, your suggestion that Celi is responsible for the bad acoustics of the Gasteig is simply false. He came in too late to have a chance at changing the architectural fundamentals. Whatever he did was only cosmetics to an already still born child.

          • My observation is not that he is responsible, but only that he tried to improve the situation. At this point, there is no evidence that his suggestions were even implemented, though I suspect some probably were. And if they were, they might have improved the hall, though apparently not enough to make it acceptable. I also remember the addition of acoustical clouds, reflectors, and even changing the lighting (or lighting racks?) were part of ongoing efforts to improve the hall, some initiated through comments from Celi and the orchestra. As I said, I think this should be researched and documented.

          • Well a couple of things are obvious without research:

            — the basic stupid hall layout was already set, pre-Celi
            — the flying saucers, as they exist now, presumably optimized, aid onstage acoustics but actually limit transmission of sound to a MAJORITY of the seats

            In other words, an unfixable catastrophe!

          • interesting about the “flying saucers”, supposedly they improve the communication between the musicians, but I can see how they make the sound even weaker for the audience.

  • Prominent names help.

    Bernstein (“burn it!”), Muti and Rattle have all disliked the Gasteig, although Muti breaks with his own long-standing avoidance of the place with a Berlin Philharmonic concert there this spring.

  • I heard Jansons conduct Mahler 3 in the Gasteig four years ago. Had a good seat, but it was as though the orchestra was playing in the next room!

    Acoustics are an increasingly important issue for me. I live in Bonn and avoid the Beethovenhalle like the plague. Chances are they’ll not get around to building that Festspielhaus by Ludwig’s birthday in 2020.

    While I agree wholeheartedly with Frau Mutter on Dortmund, a hall that also has the friendliest staff in the entire area (rare in Germany), it should be mentioned that Cologne and Essen also have fantastic halls, and I wish there were more symphony concerts in Wuppertal, which has one of the finest halls in Europe. Sir Simon even said he’d rather conduct there than in Munich. I wish he did…

  • My wife was in the Munich Phil during the construction process, so I followed the events closely. Celi’s influence on the hall’s construction was widely discussed, which included changes to the floor in the seating area for the public. The hall was not completed until 1985, about five years after Celi took the helm of the Munich Phil. Many changes were made to the original plans for the building, mostly due to cost overruns. These conditions allowed for Celi’s influence during the ongoing project.

    The Gasteig’s Black Box Theater also ran into serious problems. Due to cost overruns toilets were eliminated from its dressing rooms. Costumed performers thus have to use the public restrooms. And the exit lights were so poorly positioned that many of the lighting effects for which black box theaters are used became impossible.

    The best hall in the Gasteig is the Kleine Konzertsaal, which is a gem.

    I would encourage readers to be skeptical of anonymous posters. They are obviously unwilling to stand behind the comments with their name. Celi’s influence (or attempted influence) on the hall’s construction is an interesting topic and should documented.

    It is indeed true that I am not one of Celi’s fans. Regarding Anna Sophie Mutter, when she was a guest soloist with Celi and the Munich Phil, he treated her so badly she walked out of the rehearsals and cancelled her performances. In an in interview shortly afterward in El Pais (a major Spanish newspaper,) he referred to her as a “violin-playing hen” – a comment that will no doubt please SD’s ample crowd of misogynists. See: “Celibidachi contra todo”, El Pais, October 11, 1991, p. 39.

    • Main problem with the bad acoustics in Gasteig is its principal layout and size. Celi had nothing to do with the design of the hall. He came to Munich when the hall was already in the building process and he could only suggest a few cosmetic remedies here and there. Celi never made a secret of his opinion, that he considered the hall substandard acoustically.

      • As I clearly said, his efforts were to improve the acoustics after construction had begun. (See above.) It’s true the shape of the hall and its basic design are the problems. The architects and the city government wanted to fit the building into the asymmetrically shaped Gasteig hill, so geography influenced the design as much as acoustics — a big mistake. It is really tragic that the city spent 360 million DM to create a situation that is irreparable. In this they join Avery Fischer Hall which I think is going to be torn down at some point. Lincoln Center even had to pay off the Fischer family so that the new hall can have new name — a mausoleum to a new donor.

        • William, it’s Fisher without the “c” – find his name on one of his old tubed amplifiers. As of now, the Fisher redo is SUPPOSED to begin in ’19, leaving the building’s outer shell but gutting its inside with the NY Phil and Lincoln Center splitting the cost. Where the Phil plays during the two-year reconstruction is still being worked out.

          I’ve never understood why the Phil has to pay rent in its home, originally named Philharmonic Hall before Fisher gave money for the first rebuild. The financial advantage to orchestras like Cleveland, Boston, Chicago, LA, etc. is that in owning their halls they not only don’t pay rent, but make money renting out to other attractions.

          • Thanks, my spelling is practically dyslexic. Perhaps the rental issue has something to do with the way Lincoln Center manages its spaces. Rental costs were a central factor in the demise of the NYCO. And on many other levels, Lincoln Center is a good example of how clustering many performing arts orgs into one center is a problematic idea.

            Munich is fortunate because almost every major performing arts organization has its own hall — two separate opera houses for two companies, a hall each for the Munich Phil and Bavarian Radio Orchestra, a house each for the city and state theater, and a large hall where touring musicals (and other types of shows) are shown. Plus several more.

          • On the other hand, the Met and Juilliard DO own their buildings, so it’s a mixed bag in Lincoln Center. The NYCO was at a disadvantage vs the NYCB in the rental arrangements at the State (now Koch) Theatre. In fixing the acoustics – needed more by the opera than the ballet – and redesigning the seating on the main floor, it was the opera that vacated during the reconstruction, not the ballet. The opera had to pay its musicians, singers, etc. for not working and bringing in tix income. Then there was the Mortier fiasco brought on by an incompetent management and board. It’s a long sordid soap-opera in itself.

    • william osborne says:
      January 4, 2015 at 6:59 pm

      I would encourage readers to be skeptical of anonymous posters. They are obviously unwilling to stand behind the comments with their name. Celi’s influence (or attempted influence) on the hall’s construction is an interesting topic and should documented.

      I agree, it would be rather interesting to know what influence Celibidache had on the way the hall turned out to be, all the more so since C babbled endlessly about how his music making was influenced by his superior perception of room acustics blablabla. Which I never noticed – I saw him conduct the same repertoire in Berlin and Munich, and even though the acoustics of the two halls are very different, his tempi and balances didn’t change at all.

      So – I would encourage you to rather than doing your typical “anonymous posters are out to get me” thing, to go ahead and share whatever insights you have, after all you said earlier you were sort of around when all that happened and that C took a personal hand in its design, but you haven’t really told us what he did, except for suggesting unspecified changes to the floor of the seating area.

      However you also said that he was GMD of the Munich Phil when the hall was being designed and that is almost certainly not correct. The main design of the hall was done by the time he became GMD, and indeed the actual construction phase had begun one year earlier:

      So it is hard to see how he could have influenced the design of the hall as substantially as you suggested, beyond a few touchups as the hall was already under construction.

      In an in interview shortly afterward in El Pais (a major Spanish newspaper,) he referred to her as a “violin-playing hen” – a comment that will no doubt please SD’s ample crowd of misogynists.

      And our own SD host Norman as well, after all he found even more condescending words about her, calling her “soap bubble”, and “bumptious fiddler” who “should be banned”:

      What do you think about that, William?

      BTW, you failed twice to spell her name correctly. It is neither “Anna Sophie Mutter” nor “Anna Sophie-Mutter” but Anne-Sophie Mutter.

      See: “Celibidachi contra todo”, El Pais, October 11, 1991, p. 39.

      BTW2, his name is spelled Celibidache, and the link to that article is here:

      • I answer “Michael Schaffer’s” questions to the extent of my limited knowledge in other posts. Remember that his name is a pseudonym and that he is deeply and rudely resentful toward any criticism’s of his Vaterland. It is pointless to talk to him.

        • During the hall’s construction, the cost overruns were so problematic and caused so much political controversy, that changes were indeed made to the hall’s “design.” I don’t know how much these affected the big hall, but their affects on other spaces such as the black box theater were significant.

        • william osborne says:
          January 5, 2015 at 12:31 pm

          I answer “Michael Schaffer’s” questions to the extent of my limited knowledge in other posts. Remember that his name is a pseudonym and that he is deeply and rudely resentful toward any criticism’s of his Vaterland. It is pointless to talk to him.

          TBH, I didn’t expect much of substance from you here, just the usual ad hominem attacks and name-calling, but at least now you admit that your knowledge of the subject is “limited”. And you contradict yourself completely in some of those other posts. First you say that C took influence while the hall was being designed, then you said his efforts were to improve the acoustics after construction had begun.

          My name is my actual name as even Norman has told you before, and the above has absolutely nothing at all to do with any criticism of the “Vaterland”.
          There is also nothing at all “rude” in my post there. Nor is there anything “resentful”.

          You, on the other hand, are a shameless name-caller who calls anyone who disagrees with him a racist, sexist, misogynist, you keep smearing me as some kind of nationalist even though my posts rarely if ever have anything to do with that subject.

          Have you no sense of decency, sir?

          • Show us a website or FB account or soemthing else on the web that might prove your identity.

          • I am on FB and I can see your wife is, too. But I do not see you there. Does that mean you don’t actually exist?

            Who do you think you are to demand proof of identity here? Your persistent and inflationary name-calling and defaming of anyone who disagrees with you is probably the single most degrading factor for the quality of discourse here. I post under my own name and I have myself occasionally criticized other posters for not doing the same, but with people like you around, it is understandable that some posters here want to protect their identity from someone like you. You have even once said here that you tried to find out who I am but somehow didn’t manage to do so. No wonder some posters here are afraid to use their own name, with someone like you out there cyberstalking people. That’s pretty sad and freaky, too.

            You do all that name-calling and defaming just to avoid any real discussion because you don’t really have all that much substance to offer. I am slightly amazed that you haven’t even realized yourself how little credibility you have left at this point. But I guess that is what being in a bubble of self-righteousness does to people.

            The above, although a historical quote, was, like in its original context, not meant as a merely rhetorical question. Do you have no sense of decency? Do you not even think before you insult someone as a racist and sexist etc even when there is nothing in the context of what the person has said which even remotely warrants such grave labels?

          • Give us the precise information to find your FB page, such as a url. (There are many Michael Schaffer’s on FB.) One must also wonder why you present yourself here as such an expert if a FB page is the only presence you have on the web? This would go to your weak credibility.

          • To settle this anonymity question on the internet for ever:
            In times of eternal storage of every but of information, if not on servers of the commercial giants google&facebook, then on the NSA servers, it is downright silly or even stupid to post personal opinions under real names.
            Everything said on the internet can be retrieved with unknown intent for all eternity. An Orwellian scenario? Yes, and today’s reality.

            I would not make a single post, if I had to do it with my real name. Not because I don’t stay behind what I say, but because I don’t know who could abuse it against me at which point in the future by profiling me with malicious intent.

          • Presenting yourself as using a real name when you aren’t is a different matter. That’s just deception and intellectual dishonesty.

            And I’m not sure your alarmism is fully justified. Many sights require using real names, like Facebook. Using a real name obligates one to responsibility, something the web needs much more of.

          • No response from “Michael Schaffer” who presents his name as real when it is a pseudonym. This is the sort of intellectual dishonesty that hides behind anonymity.

          • To think the NSA can find out who’s behind a pseudonym is more than naive — as if the NSA were a problem around here. Any intelligent reader can see the ends to which anonymity is being used in this blog.

          • william osborne says:
            January 6, 2015 at 7:54 am

            No response from “Michael Schaffer” who presents his name as real when it is a pseudonym. This is the sort of intellectual dishonesty that hides behind anonymity.

            Hang on Willy, I don’t have much time to chat right now, unlike you, I actually have a real job that goes with my real name, so as much as I enjoy them, I don’t always have time for our delightful discussions here. Plus I am in California right now (the real California), so the time offset is bigger than usual. But, as the former Governator said, I will be back! 🙂

  • ==Anne Sophie Mutter, when she was a guest soloist with Celi and the Munich Phil,
    ==he treated her so badly she walked out of the rehearsals

    I remember that, from 1980s. It was Sibelius Concerto and Celi wanted one of his insanely slow tempos with no compromise.

  • Mark –

    My understanding is that Celi didn’t know the Bartok 2nd concerto, and after an exasperating rehearsal, Mutter said, “Kindly call me when you actually know the piece we’re currently playing”, and left.

    Sort of like when she told Masur that the violinists in the NY Phil “sound like a pack of wild dogs.”

    • No, it was the Sibelius Concerto as mentioned in the BR report linked below by “John.” Sophie-Mutter was only 21 years old at the time. I don’t think she told Celi off or anything like that. She remained very professional. It is the only cancellation due to a conflict with a conductor she has ever made. The report quotes her as saying Celi made little effort to explain why the adagio movement had to be so slow and they she felt simply put under a yoke that made no musical sense to her.

      The report notes that Celi was never comfortable working with soloists, but there is one case I remember that was very successful, his work with the pianist Michelangeli Arturo Bendeitti — two men very similar in their eccentricity.

      • BTW, the rehearsals with Sophie-Mutter back then were not in the Gasteig which wasn’t yet opened. They were in a gymnasium in Munich-Giesing that the orchestra used as its rehearsal room.

        In other threads, we’ve been discussing the legacies of WWII. The Munich Phil’s hall was destroyed by bombs during the war. They were thus still rehearsing in places like that gymnasium even into the mid 80s. The Gasteig and its problematic acoustics are thus another ripple effect of those terrible events.

  • The problem with ‘modern concert halls’ often is, that architects want to create a building with a glamorous, utopian touch and are thus reluctant to take the well-tested oldfashioned designs as a model. In times when acoustics as a science were not as yet much developed, architects accidentally hit upon a design that happened to work very well: the wooden ‘shoebox’ with multiple interior decorations which spreads and in the same time, harmonizes the sound: Wiener Musikverein, Amsterdam Concertgebouw. The Schermerhorn symphony hall in Nashville is an interesting example of contemporary architecture which tries to pick-up such classical design:

  • As an iconoclast requiring double the rehearsal time allowed under American orchestra contracts, it’s no wonder “Celi” didn’t conduct here. Further, our best orchestras and their musicians neither required his “instruction” nor wanted to work under such conditions.

    • Is the number of rehearsals per concert really limited by union contracts in the US? Can’t they have as many as they want – as long as they pay the orchestra for the extra services, of course?

      • The number of rehearsals is not limited by the contract, but by the schedule of the orchestras. I am pretty sure that they were simply unwilling to devote the amount of time for a single program that Celibidache would have wanted. It would have been interesting to see what the results would have sounded like, had he actually conducted here (I understand that he did conduct the Curtis Institute Orchestra). The comment about American Orchestras neither needing or wanting his rehearsal time is specious, as if you think that American Orchestras are far superior to European ones. That certainly is not the case now, and was the case only in some technical ways a generation or two ago, not in the actual musical results.

  • I was going to refrain, but seeing that Mr. Osborne has — at current count — taken the time to write twelve posts on a subject (bad acoustics at the Gasteig) where there seems to be 100% agreement in this discussion, I kind of wonder if he badly needs something else to occupy his time.

    Norman, I know that many people can really get into it with you on some of your views. As the moderator of this blog, I’ve always been rather amazed that you have managed to resist the temptation to respond to each and every attack. This kind of restraint is a virtue some others would do well to cultivate.

  • The assertion by “william osborne” that FB requires its users to post under their real names is so ridiculously naive that it is downright laughable. There is no such requirement. My wife and I are on FB under a pseudonym for the reasons described above here by “anon” (at 3 pm on January 5). Our family and close friends know our identities and that is all we need. A person who is presenting himself as an expert on classical music issues should at the very least be able to spell correctly such illustrious names as Anne-Sophie Mutter and Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. If anyone here on this blog has a major credibility problem, it is none other than “Mr. Real Name” aka william osborne.

    • As one of Norman’s recent posts indicated, there is a good deal of bigotry in the SD comments. In fact, its becoming proverbial in the classical music world. We see how invested these people are in their anonymity.

        • Go through the comments on SD and you will find ample examples — as is already obvious. Specious questions such as yours are also an example of the low level of discussion encouraged by anonymity. In some cases, anonymity can be a valued tool. It’s unfortunate that it is inevitably abused in an open and widely read blog like this.

          • If the examples of bigotry in my comments are “ample”, it should be easy for you to point out at least one or two. You have not shown a single one yet. Instead, you are continuing your favorite exercise of making baseless accusations.
            Apparently, you are not only unable to spell names of some of the most outstanding classical musicians of recent past and present, but you also don’t know the difference between a request and a question. As usual, you have offered neither explanation nor justification for calling my comment “specious”. You certainly deserve credit for consistency!
            Thanks for agreeing that anonymity can be useful. It can and it often is. As for abuses, virtually anything can be abused, but so far here I am seeing you abusing your right to post comments by making baseless accusations.

  • The thought comes to mind : having
    heard Sophie Mutter sawing away on
    that poor belabored instrument what in the
    world would she know about sound?

    • In terms of violin sound – command and control, as well as intelligent and imaginative usage of it – ASM has been one of the world’s very best for the last four decades.

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