Berlin names conductor election date

Berlin names conductor election date


norman lebrecht

February 21, 2015

It’s May 11, according to Berliner Morgenpost.

All 120+ members of the orchestra are obliged to turn up and vote for a new chief conductor.

If you’re looking for straws in the wind, Mariss Jansons conducts the orchestra the previous two nights.



  • MacroV says:

    Just in case anyone really knows: Do conductors actually inform the BPO of their candidacy/non-candidacy? Or is this like electing a Pope, where the musicians can select anyone and it’s just assumed that he (and I think we can assume that this time it’s still a “he”) will accept? How sacred are contracts that may tie these conductors to other organizations beyond the anticipated start date?

    • Max Grimm says:

      They will have approached their candidates of choice and sounded them out regarding their interest and availability in being considered for the job.
      As for contracts potentially tying conductors to other orchestras, I do not know how sacred they truly are. I would assume that in today’s business world, most contracts of this nature would maybe have some sort of “escape”- or cancellation-clause.

    • SDReader says:

      An excellent question!

  • Bizio says:

    I wish it was Jansons. But he’s too old for the job 🙁

  • J. says:

    “If you’re looking for straws in the wind, Mariss Jansons conducts the orchestra the previous two nights.”

    Nonsense. They won’t just announce, they will vote. So they don’t know who exactly is the guy. The Jansons concerts are scheduled at least for two years.

  • J. says:

    “If you’re looking for straws in the wind, Mariss Jansons conducts the orchestra the previous two nights.” .

    Nonsense. They won’t just announce, they will vote. So they don’t know who exactly is the guy. The Jansons concerts are scheduled at least for two years.

  • Bizio says:

    So how long after the vote is the announcement?

  • mr oakmount says:

    Not as thrilling as the BPO, I know, but apparently the Bruckner Orchester Linz are going to present the conductor to take over after Russell Davies leaves in 2017.

    I recently visited the new “Musiktheater” (Opera House) in Linz, and it is stunning in every possible way.

  • John Borstlap says:

    It seems probable that the players will vote for someone who 1) would be available, 2) would continue Rattle’s policy of including non-teutonic and more contemporary pieces, 3) would not be too old and not too young, so someone in his fifites and 4) would bring back the German glow of the Karajan era. Then, the list of options would be very short indeed.

    • Aimere46 says:

      I dont see anyone who fullfills all 4 requirements…

    • Anon says:

      That list would have not a single name on it. How much of the mainstream classical repertoire is actually “teutonic”? I would guess about 50% or more?

    • Peter says:

      That glow of the Karajan era was not “German”. It was “Karajan”. Karajan was a genius in creating an image and also a corresponding signature sound, that fit most musical styles, except maybe Haydn, Mozart and before. He learned eagerly from the aesthetics of Leni Riefenstahl, despised anything not “beautiful” and strong.
      He really was a great conductor, actually most outstanding compared to his competitors in opera, but what set him apart from other equally or even better musically equipped competitors of his time was his discipline and his appetite for control of all aspects of his artistic image, literally directing the TV cameras and going to the studio and making a balance on the mixing desk himself. (which his recording team discreetly and gracefully undid after he left, he was horrible in that.)

  • Concert listener says:

    This is more exciting than the election of a new pope. Also it is more relevant.

    • erich says:

      There is no perfect candidate. The problem with this orchestra remains the power and arrogance of the Orchestral Committee, which regards itself – or at least behaves as if, it were more important than either the chief conductor or the Intendant. The ‘usual suspect’ supposed candidates: Chailly, Thielemann, Nelsons, Dudamel, Petrenko are all people who would be liable to resent being treated in such a way (just ask Rattle!). Jansons would probably accept this and be the most acceptable for the orchestra, but as some comments above mention, his health is iffy. Barenboim would still give his eye teeth for it – and has apparently even offered to do the job without title as an Interim measure – but would bring absolutely nothing new to the post. He is far too much of a ‘known quantity’ in Berlin and is too ubiquitous. They have a real problem.

      • Concert listener says:

        My bet is: If it has to be someone winning the vote *against* Thielemann, it would be an interims *pope* and the best one for that role wold be Barenboim by far. An interims pope would have to be older, so biologically he would not occupy the position for too long.

        Then after a few years it would be clearer, which one of the young and promising is *really* promising.

      • Shalom Rackovsky says:

        But here is the thing- if I understand the operation of the orchestra correctly, it IS more important than the music director or the Intendant. The members of the Orchestra hire them both, and, to a significant degree, run the orchestra. And, I have to say, that is a refreshing change from and a great advance over the appalling spectacles we have witnessed recently in Minneapolis, Atlanta, Denmark, other places in Germany, Belfast, and before that in Philadelphia, for example. There is no reason why the music director should live on a completely different plane from the musicians who make his work possible (particularly musicians of the caliber of those in the BPO). As for the Intendant, his work is no doubt important, but it is entirely administrative in nature, and its purpose is to make the work of the musicians possible. I have no problem whatsoever with an Orkester Vorstand who assert themselves.

  • MacroV says:

    The only person I can think of who would meet even three of these criteria is Alan Gilbert, who actually strikes me as the only person out there capable of continuing Sir Simon’s mandate to make the BPO an “orchestra of the 21st century.” And he’s available (maybe not a coincidence). He won’t bring back the glory of the Karajan era, but face it, nobody will; both Karajan and that era are dead.

    • ganymede says:

      I guess it will be Thielemann. Not my first choice, but neither was Rattle…

      When he gets older I hope Harding will get the job one day, he’s brilliant.

      • MacroV says:

        Thielemann is magnificent in Wagner and Strauss, and his recent two-week gig at the BPO with Eroica, Henze and the Brahms Requiem were terrific. The big question is whether he’s as forward-looking as the BPO wants. Does the BPO want to continue on a modernization path that they began with Sir Simon? Or is his tenure a blip? Thielemann was described even years ago as an “old” conductor even though he’s only 55 now (looks great for his age, BTW).

        • John Borstlap says:

          Someone like Jaap van Zweden (recently successfully debuted at the BPO and the VPO) combines both the Germanic depth (Wagner, Bruckner, Mahler) and the modern HIP assets (Historically Informed Performance) as his Beethoven shows. Also with his orchestra in Dallas he regularly introduces contemporary works, and knows how to blend them into the programming. And Pablo Heras-Casado comes to mind, with performance intensities from Granada where he comes from, which would lighten Rattle’s often rather bland heritage. These are no-nonsense people but cooperative and wildly talented, also technically (important for the BPO). And Heras-Casado is, I believe, in his forties.

        • John Borstlap says:

          Thielemann – although being fantastic of course in almost all respects – seems to me too ‘earthy’, too reminiscent of hunting galopes and deer antlers. The BPO would need someone more spiritually gifted and less prepared to back-up Pegidia protest rallies, a thing not very popular in Berlin.

    • Jaypee says:

      Thielemann’s repertory is way too small.
      He doesn’t conduct Mahler, doesn’t conduct much French music and doesn’t seem interested in modern music either (can you imagine Thielemann conducting Messiaen’s Turangalila? or Boulez’ Rituels?). No English or American music either…

      However, if the orchestra wants someone who’s idea of music stops in 1945 (with a special interest for music composed in Germany during the 30s and 40s), he’s the man…

  • Concert listener says:

    I wish for someone raised and educated in the German-Austrian-Hungarian-Bohemian-Eastern European and a bit Italian (only as far as Opera is concerned) tradition of making music and producing sound as an orchestra.
    That’s the tradition that made the Berlin Philharmonic great.
    That’s what their greatest chiefs were nursed with when growing up musically Niekisch, FurtwĂ€ngler, Karajan. No American grown chief please, that will kill the sound and make it bland. Like the NY Phil’s sound: High gloss. Perfect. Lacking depth and passion. Boring…
    Who can make this orchestra sing and vibrate?
    Rattle is a fantastic conductor with strengths and weaknesses as anyone, but he can’t make an orchestra sing. He is a genius with rhythmical texture, Sacre…, French stuff that benefits from nerviness
 But who unleashes that streaming thick texture, who can actually conduct a long legato line?
    Crossing my fingers that most of the Berlin Philharmonic’s musicians think alike.

  • Greg says:

    I wonder about Semyon Bychkov, he has no post at the moment, and he does a lot of opera the orchestra has and is know for: Strauss, Wagner, Verdi. He would do works like Elektra, Die Frau, Aida, Don Carlo, the Wagner canon, etc. His works in the German area are very good….I saw him do three concerts with the VPO of mostly Germanic works (Mahler, Schubert, Schumann, Wagner, Brahms, Bartok). I seen him conduct Alpine live…he also does Russian works very well for obvious reasons. While he is a bit older he might have 10-12 years if the orchestra has sights on Dudamel or Nelsons long term but feel they are still to young and hope both “muture”.

    It is interesting that Gilbert is leaving the New York Phil. He has been in Berlin often of late. Bychkov, might be a better choice now than Thielemann.

    • Concert listener says:

      There is a category of the greatest and deepest musicians among the conductors
 who appeal to a small crowd of insiders but don’t sell in the relevant bigger world (read generate additional income for the BPhO)
 Bychkov is maybe one of them. So is Ivan Fischer. Kyrill Petrenko maybe too. There are more.

      Then we have the category with reversed parameters. shallow musician, “bella figura”, selling well.

      BPhO looks for the candidate who impersonates both features, or are they antagonisms? Does he exist? With appeal to enough worlds (plural) out there?

    • rambonito says:

      I think they want someone who work with them getting back the BPH sound that they lost with Rattle.
      The only one able to do it is of course Thielemann. They don’t need somebody “nice” who wouldn’t bring anything. They had enough of superficial music making the last decade. All the Gilbert or Byshkow are irrelevant

      • Concert listener says:

        Rambonito, nice nickname ;), can you describe what that sound *is* that the Berlin Philharmonic lost? And what makes you think Thielemann “of course” is the only one able to work on getting it back with the orchestra?
        I experienced Thielemann as a musician who is creating a good “flow”, but not shaping sound willfully. He can conduct and make an orchestra play, but neither does he know nor does he care much about what makes a great orchestra sound better.
        He didn’t have much influence on the sound of his previous and current orchestras. He took them as they are, but has no elaborate idea how they should sound, it’s all very vague.
        If you sit in his rehearsals, it is not surprising, little does he do about the technicalities of orchestra sound. Ultimately I don’t feel his inner drive is triggered by the desire to create sonic sensations, unlike Karajan. Thielemann I feel gets his gratification by being in control alone.

        • rambonito says:

          Easy to understand:rattle can’t conduct melody. He concentrates on effects.Winds can find their way but strings needs someone wo lead them. Which is never happening with his vertical way of showing the music.
          Thielemann has the right gesture to make the sound never agressive and round. They sound compact and have a clear interpretation which always have a strong impact on the orchestra and audience.

  • Ben says:

    Yawn…. Berliner want everybody to think it is at the center of the universe. It is not.

    The fact is – Berliner consistently deliver good performances, gave great performances a few times a year. However, I rarely found their performances transcending.

    What’s worst is that the organization seems to be full of itself, and many people buy it. People act like whoever conductor elected is the most powerful, most influential, most whatever conductor in the world. It’s not. Please review Abbado’s interview when he was introduced in Berlin. He made a great point there.

    The post has been turned down a few times in the past. The elected no longer view Berliner as the destination post neither. Abbado was at his most sublime in his post-Berlin years. I am sure Rattle will be too.

    Nevertheless, I hope the Berliner does not break their new toy, new trophy, or new whatever which is also named the Artistic Director.

  • Felix says:

    It came to few days ago that Christian Thielemann would succeed Sir Rattle as the next Music Director of BPO.

  • Ben says:

    Re: Straws

    Perhaps Janson is not a candidate but would help to sell his fellow Latvian for the post while in Berlin? 🙂

    • Malcolm James says:

      I have no doubt that Nelsons might be MD of the BPO some day, but not this time. If he has any sense, he realises he’s well off in Boston. Not only is he very well paid, but this is an orchestra which regards itself, and is widely regarded, as one of the very best in the world, but has probably not fulfilled its true potential consistently for many years. Ozawa was there for a long time, but, beyond his ability to attract squillions from Japanese corporations, it is a mystery why and Levine may have been occasionally inspirational, but was not there long enough to leave much of a legacy.

      They are probably looking for a Messiah who can lead them to the next level, and if Nelsons can deliver on that and stay 15-20 years, he will cement his reputation as a truly great conductor. And he’ll only be mid 50s; plenty of time still to be MD of the BPO. That’s unless Mrs Nelsons decides she doesn’t like living in N. America and wants to move back to Riga, of course!

      • Erich says:

        The problem with Thielemann – apart from his dreadful personality – is his serious lack of broadbrush repertoire. He also has a major stamina problem. The job is not just one of conducting a few choice concerts and the occasional tour, but being a visible leader. He will not be interested in outreach or young people’s concerts or an education programme, all of which has flourished under Rattle. He will also be unlikely to want to relinquish his ‘playground’ of Bayreuth, Vienna Philharmonic and Salzburg Easter Festival. Dresden is an orchestral and an opera orchestra. Berlin has never mastered the operatic idiom and he would miss this considerably.

    • Mick says:

      Good point

  • Dave T says:

    Just ten weeks to go. Do you think the number of posts here on this topic 1,000?
    I’m betting they can. Come on, Slippeddiscers, you can do it! Just keep these wildass guesses coming and we’ll get there!

    • Max Grimm says:

      A good friend of mine is a violist with the Berlin Phil and told me that the orchestra has been deliberately hinting at Thielemann in a very cloak and dagger disinformation campaign. The orchestra is actually torn between Georges PrĂȘtre and StanisƂaw Skrowaczewski. Word on the street is that Skrowaczewski has slightly more support from the orchestra’s movers and shakers.

      • rambonito says:

        I heard about Pablo Heras Casado and Emmanuelle Haim…

      • Erich says:

        ….which in itself is further cronic disinformation, because in a scoop which even you, Norman, have failed to ‘land’, it can now be revealed that Herbert von Karajan, far from being buried in Salzburg, was kryonically frozen and will return to lead the orchestra from 2018 onwards.

        • John Borstlap says:

          At the CharitĂ© hospital in Berlin they are already working on a Karajan clone, based on a sample from his nose, and a small lump is already growing on the back of a mouse, adorned with a wild bunch of conductor’s hair.

      • John Kelly says:

        Very funny. Both gentlemen 90-ish. LMAO.