Christoph Eschenbach: ‘ I’m able to always discover new worlds’

The conductor, 75 today, has given a soft-soap interview to Deutsche Welle. He has found the key to happiness: ‘Routine is a horrible word. It shouldn’t exist for anyone. I preach that practically like a priest,’ he says.

He speaks of his love of Washington, DC, failing to mention his demission this week. Read here.

Eschenbach-Feyerbacher

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  • The best gift this man could give us, and himself, on his birthday, would be to distance himself from conducting. Perhaps that is exactly what he intends on doing, as it should be obvious to him that his forays into conducting and holding music directorships, whether they be in Zurich, Paris, Philadelphia or Washington have sadly all ended in failure. Yes, it must be hard to accept, but it is better to accept it rather than continue down this disastrous path, better to be remembered and considered as a fine pianist, a great accompanist and a champion of many contemporary composers, than as a failed conductor.

    • That’s a tad cruel, Jay, to say he has failed. Christoph has done some very fine work here in Britain, and particularly in London, and some of us have had the pleasure of working with him as musicians. He is extremely hard working, and he’s a fine, instinctive musician all round – something missing in so many today.

  • “A champion of many contemporary composers”
    Very true.
    As a conductor as well as pianist, which suggests he has more than a modicum of ability in this area!
    But even Eschenbach makes mistakes…. Why on earth would he conduct the turgid,inflated Concerto Grosso by Penderecki? The most tedious piece of ‘new’ music I’ve ever heard at the Proms (on this case Dutoit was conducting). If ever there was a case of undoubted talent being ruined by fame, it would be the composer Penderecki.

  • You know, the word “failure” is often held – rightly – as a badge of honour in the arts. Artists strive, they fail, occasionally they succeed. I have heard Eschenbach give some astonishing performances. To describe him as a ‘failed conductor’ in a pejorative sense is ludicrous – even his critics on this site has usually acknowledged his capacity to pull something incredible out of the bag from time to time. Whether a particular music directorship has suited him or not – and I think he has been pretty successful in many ways in Washington – he is a conductor of real and special attributes. But he an instinctive musician – they tend to be erratic, yes, but special creatures. We should appreciate what we have in him.

    • Wise words. I attended a stunning performance of Schumann IV with Eschenbach, while the rest of the programme was so bland I never could remember it.

  • When I heard the news that Eschenbach was let go, I couldn’t help thinking that they fired the wrong person from the Kennedy Center: they should have gotten rid of Francesca Zambello instead, who is ruining the Washington Opera.

  • I’ve seen Eschenbach conduct several times. Almost always interesting, and I never regretted the price of the ticket. Comments have mentioned his “failures” in Paris, Philadelphia, Washington — don’t know about those, so I’m unable to comment. But I knew a violinist in the Houston Symphony who resigned after he did because she felt it no longer worth while to play in that orchestra without him leading it.

  • A music directorship can fail for reasons other than mediocre conducting. The Philadelphia Orchestra replaced Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder at short notice with… Vivaldi Four Seasons! under his watch. Which he conducted, followed by Bruckner 9.. I have heard some good and some excellent performances by Eschenbach, but that programming decision demonstrates for me his inadequacy as a music director.

    • …but as others have noted, his good programming choices were frequently clipped in the wings by orchestral manegment. Eg. Bruckner 4+7 instead of 6. Or Transfigured night to replace the more daunting 3 orch pieces of Berg.
      Having said that, I’m all in favour of the Mahler/Vivaldi substitution. I love Mahler but the subject matter of this Song Cycle is troublesome.

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