German orchestra vote 98-2 for next maestro, and get vetoed

German orchestra vote 98-2 for next maestro, and get vetoed


norman lebrecht

May 17, 2015

Trouble at the Beethoven Orchestra of Bonn, where music director Stefan Blunier is on his way out. The players held a ballot for his successor and voted overwhelmingly – and with a decisive clarity that must be envied in Berlin – for the experienced, Munich-born Jun Märkl as the next chief conductor.

But a selection committee consisting of Beethovenfest director Nike Wagner (pictured), the Bonn theatre manager, Bernhard Helmich, and a musicologist Peter Gülke have ignored the musicians’ decision and handed a contract to the Frenchman, Marc Piollet. Our man on the spot says local bureaucrats wield far too much power in Bonn, believing they are still running the German capital, rather than an aimless ghost town.

This will not end well.

nike wagner


  • John Borstlap says:

    I feel sorry for Piollet, who will land in a difficult situation. The Beethoven Orchestra and the Beethoven Festival is, by the way, no mere provincial pastime, as is suggested by the last sentence.

  • RW2013 says:

    Old Liebermann favours still being paid back?!
    (Piollet’s mother was married to Rolf Liebermann)

  • Simon S. says:

    “aimless ghost town” – err, Norman, when was the last time you’ve been in Bonn?

    It certeinly isn’t Berlin, but considering the town’s size and the fact that there’s a number of considerably larger cities nearby, it’s pretty OK.

  • tristan says:

    and again Nike Wagner who is generally overrated like her cousins Eva and Katharina – the only great thing they offer is their name Wagner

  • Novagerio says:

    Utterly disgusting.

  • Alexander Mayer says:

    this looks more like a coup of Peter Gülke: Piollet was one of his protégés at the Deutsche Dirigentenforum…

  • serge says:

    At least they get rid of Blunier. What a ridiculous conductor.

  • Alexander Hall says:

    Germans have a habit of priding themselves on their democratic principles and the supremacy of the Rechtsstaat. The reality is very different. If you are in academic life and the search committee puts you in number one position for a vacant professorship, the Kultusministerium can overturn that decision and nominate the third-placed individual for the job. And take a look at the stranglehold politicians have on public broadcasting stations. You need to be a party member to have any chance of landing one of the top journalistic positions and, if the “other lot” have got a majority on the board that has the final word on appointments, you can forget it. There are countless stories of orchestras who expressed a wish for a particular conductor as their next Generalmusikdirektor, only to have their views ignored by the politicians who wield ultimate power, not least because they hold the purse-strings. British orchestras who bemoan the lack of public funding should keep all this in mind: meddling politicians who think they know best and are kitted out with the trappings of power often end up taking arbitrary decisions rather than listening to what the democratic majority really wants.

    • John Borstlap says:

      But how can we know that a majority is right? ‘Die Mehrheit ist der Unsinn. Verstand ist immer nur bei wenigen gewesen.’ (Friedrich Schiller)

  • Lauren says:

    I wonder if the future of the classical arts may be some combination of old-school patronage from fellow artists (rock musicians, modern dance companies, et cetera) and new-school crowd-funding. The less corporate and government interference in cultural matters, the better. They should provide infrastructure only and let artists and fans do the rest.