Bavarian Radio chiefs hurl 13 angry questions at prime minister

Bavarian Radio chiefs hurl 13 angry questions at prime minister


norman lebrecht

February 06, 2015

Following a blast from Anne-Sophie Mutter, the heads of Bavarian Radio’s orchestras have issued a public onslaught on the minister-president, Horst Seehofer, demanding to know why he went back on his commitment to build a new concert hall. We publish the questions below in German (feel free to translate, if a nyone has the time). It is very rare for a public authority in German to challenge an elected leader with brutal frankness.




Das Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks hat die am vergangenen Montag von Ministerpräsident Horst Seehofer und Oberbürgermeister Dieter Reiter vorgestellten Pläne zum Thema Konzertsaal in München mit Entsetzen und Unverständnis vernommen. Das Abrücken vom seit vielen Jahren ins Auge gefassten, notwendigen Bau eines neuen, zusätzlichen Konzertsaals gefährdet nicht nur die Zukunft des Symphonieorchesters als Spitzenensemble, sondern setzt auch Münchens und Bayerns Ruf als international bedeutende Musikmetropole aufs Spiel.

Wir wollen den verantwortlichen Entscheidungsträgern in diesem Zusammenhang folgende Fragen stellen:

Welche Bedeutung messen Sie dem Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks für das Musikleben in München und Bayern zu?

Warum waren bei der Erarbeitung des vorgeschlagenen Modells nur die Münchner Philharmoniker, aber nicht die privaten Konzertveranstalter und nicht das Symphonieorchester vertreten?

Weshalb ignorieren Sie die Ergebnisse einer hochrangigen Expertenkommission und entscheiden sich für ein ungeprüftes Modell?

Warum soll den Münchner Orchestern und Konzertveranstaltern auch für die kommenden Jahrzehnte nur eine unzureichende Infrastruktur zur Verfügung stehen?

Warum sagen Sie nicht offen, dass Ihre Pläne substanzielle Einschränkungen für ca. 40.000 Klassik-Abonnenten mit sich bringen werden?

Wie rechtfertigen Sie die massiven negativen Auswirkungen auf die privaten Konzertveranstalter?

Warum reagieren Sie auf das rasante Bevölkerungswachstum im Großraum München und die erheblich steigenden Konzertbesucher- und Abonnentenzahlen mit einer Reduktion der Konzertsaal-Kapazitäten?

Wer sind die von Ihnen angesprochenen „Fachleute“, die – allen Erfahrungen der letzten Jahre zum Trotz – einen Publikumsrückgang im Münchner Konzertleben prophezeihen?

Auf welchen Fakten basieren deren Einschätzungen?

Wie sollen die Münchner Orchester im weltweiten Wettbewerb konkurrenzfähig bleiben, wenn die Arbeits- und Planungsbedingungen in München mit den sich stets weiterentwickelnden internationalen Standards nicht mehr mithalten können?

Wie können Sie es verantworten, dass angesichts einer Überbelegung der vorhandenen Konzertsäle die Musikvermittlungs- und Jugendarbeit der Münchner Orchester in Zukunft nicht weiter ausgebaut werden kann?

Wie rechtfertigen Sie die hohen öffentlichen Ausgaben, die Ihre Pläne vorsehen, obwohl diese weiterhin eine Beschränkung des Musiklebens in München festschreiben?

Warum nehmen Sie die Chance nicht wahr, durch einen zusätzlichen Konzertsaal der Bayerischen Landeshauptstadt eine führende Position als Musikmetropole im 21. Jahrhundert zu sichern?

München, den 04.02.2015

Der Orchestervorstand



  • Roger Powell says:

    Translation of Munich text:@
    Last Monday the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra heard with shock and incomprehension the plans put forward by Prime Minister, Horst Seehofer, and Mayor, Dieter Reiter, in respect of the Concert Hall in Munich. The abandonment of the project to build a much-needed additional new concert hall, which has been envisaged for many years, threatens not only the future of the Symphony Orchestra as a top ensemble, but also jeopardises the reputation of Munich and Bavaria as an internationally significant centre for music.
    We would like to put the following questions to those responsible for this decision:

    How much importance do you attach to the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in the musical life of Munich and Bavaria?
    Why was only the Munich Philharmonic, but neither private concert promoters nor the Symphony Orchestra, involved in the drafting of the proposals?
    Why do you ignore the results of a high-level expert commission and opt for an untried model?
    Why should in coming decades only an inadequate infrastructure continue to be available to Munich orchestras and concert promoters?
    Why do you not state frankly that your plans will bring substantial limitations for approximately 40,000 classical music subscribers?
    How do you justify the massive negative impact on private concert promoters?
    Why do you respond to the rapid population growth in the greater Munich area and significantly increasing audience and subscriber numbers with a reduction in concert hall capacity?
    Who are the “experts” referred to by you, who – despite all recent experience – predict audience decline in Munich concert life?
    On which facts are their assessments based?
    How are the Munich orchestras supposed to remain internationally competitive if the working and planning conditions in Munich are no longer up with constantly evolving international standards?
    Given the overcrowding in the existing concert halls, how can you justify denying expansion to future musical education and youth work of the Munich orchestras?
    How do you justify the high public expenditure entailed by your plans, even when they mean an ongoing restriction of musical life in Munich?
    Why do you not, through an additional concert hall, take the opportunity to secure a position for the Bavarian capital as a leading city of music in the 21st century?

    Munich, 04.02.2015

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Alternative translation from Michael Schaffer:

      Just a quick and rough translation, with no pretense of high literary quality:

      The Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks has learned of the plans presented last Monday by Minister-President Horst Seehofer and Mayor Dieter Reiter with dismay and incomprehension. Canceling the construction of a new, additional concert hall which has been discussed for many years does not only jeopardize the future of the orchestra as a top ensemble, but also the reputation of Munich as a musical capital.

      We want to ask those responsible for the decision these questions:

      – How important do you deem the role of the SOBR in the music scene of Munich and Bavaria?

      – Why were only the Münchner Philharmoniker represented in the formulation of the plan, but not the SOBR and the private concert agencies?

      – Why do you ignore the insights of a commission of renowned experts and decide for an unreviewed solution?

      – Why will the Munich orchestras and concert agencies have to make do with an ineffective infrastructure for decades to come?

      – Why don’t you admit openly that your plans will lead to significant limitations for 40.000 classical music subscribers?

      – How do you justify the massive negative impact on private concert agencies?

      – Why do you react to the massive growth of the population in and around Munich and the substantial rising of the numbers of concert goers and subscribers with a reduction of concert hall capacities?

      – Who are the “experts” you named who predict a reduction of the numbers of concert goers in Munich in spite of all signs to the contrary?

      – What facts are those predictions based on?

      – How are the Munich orchestras supposed to remain internationally competitive if the logistic and working conditions in Munich fall behind the constantly developing international standards?

      – How can you justify that the musical education and outreach to young audiences in Munich can not be expanded anymore because the concert venues are overbooked?

      – How do you justify the high expenditures of public money for your plan which will perpetuate the limitations on the music life in Munich?

      – Why do you not use the chance to give Munich another concert hall and so secure the state capital’s position as a leading musical metropole in the 21st century?

      Munich, February 4, 2015

      The Board of the Orchestra

  • william osborne says:

    The letter is from the orchestra chair persons of the two radio orchestras that belong to the Bavarian State Radio. They are speaking for the musicians, not the Bavarian State Radio. It’s not too uncommon for musicians to challenge the government, especially in labor disputes. It’s also not so uncommon for them to challenge the government in issues concerning support for the arts. I would say it is even considered an important aspect of cultural dialog. Germany prides itself on listening to artists *collective* demands and trying to meet them when it seems reasonable. France, Austria, Switzerland, and Scandinavia shares a similar ethos.

    On the other hand, it is true, that authority is more respected in Germany. Individual artists who are insufficiently obedient or who break from the ranks are likely to face more severe consequences than in many countries.

    On a higher level, it is almost unheard of for the administrative leaders of the state radio stations to challenge the government. The state radios are legally required to remain politically neutral, even in matters that affect them. This means that they can’t attack the government with their own specific view point, but they can expose government corruption or cover the various sides of controversial topics. These laws also guarantee the independence of the state radios.

    I haven’t followed the BR’s broadcasts, but I strongly suspect they are taking a politically neutral approach. They would report the musicians’ letter as one side of their coverage. I’m sure the BR leaders will privately continue to urge the politcos to fund the new hall, but they can’t use the BR as a bully pulpit. The musicians, however, can complain all they want, and I’m sure they’ll howl until they get their new hall. The best orchestra in town should not be the one without its own hall.

    As for the questions, they are important, but not terribly persuasive. I suspect the politicos could deal with them pretty easily.

    • SDReader says:

      But the Bavarian State Orchestra does have it own hall 😉

      • william osborne says:

        True. It seems reasonable to ask them to live with it while the Gasteig is repaired because it serves both orchestras. Then they can get their own new hall.

        • Anon says:

          Never. BRSO can only hope to jointly use a hall that serves all. The law does not allow to build a hall for a radio orchestra with a single cent of tax money. Unless BR fully pays for it out of its own budget, based on the radio fees. And that will never happen…

          The BRSO has become a de facto concert orchestra and cultural lighthouse of the region, but they have no mandate for that. Their mandate is to produce content for the radio to be broadcast to all people of Bavaria. It seems to have been forgotten by too many.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            I don’t know what the exact legal definitions here are, but as I understand it, the basic mandate for the German public radio stations is to ensure the “Grundversorgung für das kulturelle Leben Deutschlands” – really hard to translate that, basically it means is that the readoi stations are there so that everyone can have access to and be able to participate in cultural activities. Still doesn’t sound quite right, but I don’t know how to translate that better.

            Anyway – that doesn’t just mean producing and broadcasting content. And since the SOBR concerts are usually broadcast anyway, that already fulfills that madate, doesn’t it. Being a “cultural lighthouse” is not such a bad side effect either, I would think. And it does seem to fit well with the above definition.

          • Anon says:

            That’s not right. The “Bundesverfassungsgericht” ruled in the so called “Niedersachsenurteil” regarding the mandate of the “öffentlich-rechtlicher Rundfunk”:

            “Die Grundversorgung umfasst »die essentiellen Funktionen des Rundfunks für die demokratische Ordnung ebenso wie für das kulturelle Leben in der Bundesrepublik.”


            That means it is only mandated as far as broadcasting is concerned. No general cultural mandate exists, only through broadcasting programs. So the same applies to all the radio orchestras. Their mandate is to produce program for broadcasts. Nothing else, like it or not, that’s their mandate and that’s what they are paid for.

            That also means no public tax money can be used to finance a concert hall for a radio orchestra primarily. Already the Bavarian “Rechnungshof” has ruled, that the orchestras in BR have lost touch to their original mandate.

    • Gerhard says:

      Actually, judging by the reprinted text above, it is solely by the orchestra committee of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. The Munich Radio Orchestra is nowhere mentioned, and the signature reads “Der Orchestervorstand” which indicates a single committee, not two. This also makes sense, because the discussed and promised new hall had been meant explicitly to become the new home of the BR Symphony Orchestra.

  • Martin Locher says:

    In Vienna I attended the Sinfoniker on a Saturday afternoon, then catched the Philharmoniker’s evening concert – both concerts in the same hall. Brilliant for the restaurants nearby, I know I wasn’t the only one who went to both concerts.

    As far as I read the coverage, the city of Munich needs a new hall.

    The orchestras can easily share such a place, as long as they are willing to and as long as it covers most of their needs. They shouldn’t forget that substantial amounts of their budgets are covered by tax payers who don’t care even a bit about the existence of the orchestras in question.

    The governmental budgets shall be used sensibly. 300 million Euros to renovate a concert hall like the Gasteig doesn’t seem to deserve justification.

    To me a shared use of a new hall with great accoustics in a building which has other uses that add commercial value makes sense. Such added values can be additional, smaller concert halls, restaurants, hotels, even a shopping mall or whatever else makes sense to make the investment feasible.

  • Anon says:

    A rich town like Munich with such cultural wealth and excellent musical ensembles should build a new concert hall *and* refurbish the ghastly Gasteig.
    The sensible thing would be to build a new 1.800 seating concert hall, preferably shoebox variant, specifically for classical music.
    Refurbish Gasteig acoustically and keep the seating capacity high about 2.300 seats for the very big events and star artists, as well as multipurpose use and gala shows.
    With Herkulessaal as the third hall, Munich would then have halls for all purposes, Herkulessaal with 1.200 seats, New Hall with 1.800 seats and Gasteig with over 2.300 seats. It would be the ideal scenario for all orchestras and the private concert promoters.

    • SDReader says:

      Agree with all of that.

      Changes to the Gasteig, of course, could take any of several forms. A complete gutting would cost €400 to 500 million, I guess. Anyway, a fortune. A superficial fix would waste maybe €150 million.

      • Anon says:

        And if they build the new hall first and refurbish the Gasteig after the new hall is completed, also the logistical problem of accommodating the subscribers while the Gasteig is closed is a lack of only 500 seats, not of 1.200 seats as in going from Gasteig to Herkulessaal.

        • Martin Locher says:

          The new hall should of course be built first, then both Gasteig and Herkulessaal renovated.

          However if it takes, as some reports suggest, 300 Million Euros to renovate Gasteig, then I’m pretty sure the building of a new hall there too makes more sense than renovation.

  • erich says:

    Quite curious that so far there has not been a peep out of Jansons……