Berlin seeks three music directors

Berlin seeks three music directors


norman lebrecht

June 04, 2015

In the aftermath of what is known locally as the Berliner Failharmoniker (tweet (c) Johannes Kreidler), Der Tagespiegel points out today that the city is actually in the market for no fewer than three chief conductors.

The Philharmonic appears to be no closer to making up its collective mind about Simon Rattle’s successor, perhaps because it refuses to address exactly what it expects from a music director. I discuss the situation in an essay for the new issue of Standpoint magazine here.

The other vacancies are more straightforward. The Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester needs to replace the over-busy Tugan Sokhiev (music director at the Bolshoi and Toulouse) and the radio orchestra is losing the veteran Marek Janowski.

Both of those positions are in the gift of the organisations’ managements. The DSO has set up a search committee composed of three musicians and three members of the management. The radio orchestra is rather more top-down in its search. These two appointments may well be made before the Berlin Phil finally gets over its anarchic spasm.

bild berlin



  • Olivier Ochanine says:

    Ok ok. Fine, I surrender. Come get me.

  • SVM says:

    It is not a ‘failure’ to take a long time to deliberate as to who should fill the most senior artistic position in one of the most highly regarded orchestras in the world. In my view, this is far preferable to the undemocratic ‘fait accompli’ rubber-stamping approach taken by most other committees and orchestras. Democracy is messy, but necessarily so.

    • Olassus says:

      It wasn’t messy of necessity. They have had years of notice.

      They planned badly, so that most of their conductors in 2014-15 and especially 2015-16 are not eligible. Look at the names, subtract Rattle, subtract the oldies, and you are left with Harding, Nelsons, Nézet-Séguin and few others.

      These seasons should have been planned with a view to venturing and trying out various relationships.

      • Peter says:

        BS, these seasons were mostly planned, before SR resigned to the end of season 2017/18.

        • Olassus says:

          Peter, I do find it hard to believe that, when Rattle quit in early January 2013, Berlin Philharmonic management could not have programmed with more (some) “successor” thought for the season starting in September 2014, and especially for that starting in September 2015. The slots cannot have been all wrapped up by that time, with three
          and 15 months to go, respectively, before the announcements, and, if they were, Rattle’s decision should have prompted rapid gear-switching. You don’t simply proceed with lineups that are 80% Rattle and or old guys unsuitable.

          They are now without their research and, as Norman points out, without even a proper sense of what their search criteria and weightings should be.

          • Peter says:

            Orchestras like BPO plan about three years and more in advance, two years out the few remaining holes are filled.

          • Olassus says:

            I can only repeat what I said about switching gear. It is a failure of Berlin Philharmonic management.

            Also, I have become tired of hearing and reading in this Rattle succession about the players or the orchestra liking or not liking certain conductors, as if anyone has actually gone around and tabbed individual members for their precise views. Instead we just hear what a few loud mouths happen to think, whether they are section leaders, committee members, outside agents, front office honchos. It is the institution’s laundry.

          • Peter says:

            Olassus, it’s not under control of BPO management, that world class musicians have to be booked three years in advance. It’s great when amateurs like you are interested in these matters, but to think you know better than their management and committee is just foolish.
            I also don’t get your claim, that they need to try more conductors. They gave tried all of those who could seriously be considered, quite extensively most of them.

            The problem is not that they wouldn’t know the candidates. The problem is, that supply doesn’t meet the demands, not in an overwhelmingly obvious way at least.

          • Olassus says:

            We are all foolish amateurs, Peter. Read your Shakespeare.

            As you have it, “all of those who could seriously be considered” are somewhere on the Berlin Phil’s slates for 2014-15 and 2015-16.

            So I challenge you: subtract Rattle and the oldies from those seasons and list for us Slipped Disc people the names remaining.

            Your list will not be feasible.

          • Peter says:

            I’m with you, Olassus. Something is rotten in the world of classical music. And if it’s only the way conductors can not keep up musically and artistically with the otherworldly demands of today’s technically extraordinarily technically accomplished top orchestras.

            We need more humanity, more courage, more passion, more love, more music making in everything. Not more technical perfectionism. But that is discouraged. Look at the youngsters you listed. Where is their deep, reflected yet courageous, passionate, not necessarily extrovert but from within, approach? Where is their humility in front of the score, their search for expression and emotional interaction?

            They are masters in how to proceed in the business, with helping agents behind them. They are actors in a circus maximus. But music is on the way out. Musical talent has been rendered from essential to circumstantial. Is it the fault of the audience? The management and the agents? The musicians themselves? Maybe from everything a little.

          • Peter says:

            What list? The five most revenue generating conductors aged between 30-50? We all know that. Doesn’t solve the problem.

          • Olassus says:

            No, we amateurs don’t know that. Please share.

  • Peter says:

    I guess the searches would be easier if the supply side would have kept up with the demand.
    Bake me an “Überconductor”.

  • Rob van der Hilst says:

    AreThey Not Forgetting Someone?
    What about an absolutely non-Old Elephanttype like conductor Thomas Hengelbrock?