It’s a bad day when Berlin Phil plays second fiddle to Munich

It’s a bad day when Berlin Phil plays second fiddle to Munich


norman lebrecht

October 13, 2015

First the Bavarian State Opera announced, with great jubilation, that it had secured the services of music director Kirill Petrenko until August 2021.

Then the Berlin Philharmonic, where Petrenko was supposed to be taking over from Simon Rattle in 2017, issued a schedule that showed its new chief conductor would be giving a ‘reduced number of concerts‘ until 2019/2020. It went on to thank the Munich opera company for its kind cooperation in releasing Petrenko for those few dates.

Finally, the Bavarian State Orchestra posted a picture of Petrenko with an exclamatory ‘Yeah!’

petrenko munich

This is not the way it used to be, Berlin bending the knee to Bavaria, grateful for being allowed a corner of its conductor’s cloak. Herr von Karajan would not have been amused.


  • Daphne Badger says:

    I think it’s great. The Berlin Phil throws its weight around far too much as it is. The Munich position was there first. If Berlin want him then it’s only right that they compromise and allow him to honour prior commitments and existing artistic relationships. If they can’t deal with sharing, then they shouldn’t have offered him the job in the first place, or they should have made conditions…

    • Erich says:

      It is indeed a rum state of affairs to have to wait nearly six years to take posession of a new MD. the

      • Erich says:

        The fault lies entirely with the BPO and in particular with Mr Riegelbauer who wanted both Thielemann as MD and himself as new Intendant – and buggered both intrigues up spectacularly. So now they wait. Serves them right

        • Emil says:

          Of course, this has nothing to do with Rattle announcing 5 years in advance that he would quit.

          • Jevgeniy says:

            Exactly! How dare Munich attempt to negotiate with the BPO’s music director? Who cares about Munich’s problems, when Berlin will be abandoned a half decade from now by its charismatic leader?

  • Cynical Observer says:

    If it suits both parties how is it a bad day? Unless of course the alternative is someone you would have preferred and the BPO chose to ignore your advice.

    • Erich says:

      Au contraire. Petrenko is perfect but if they had handled the vote secretly before the first round rather than making it a media spectacle, they would have had a much better chance of getting him then. He was acared off my the hype…

  • Cardoso Peres says:

    Serves them right. These are the effects of a ridiculous choice. And when Nelsons takes over Leipzig the BPO will be closer to losing its place as Germany’s main orchestra.

  • Simon S. says:

    Petrenko was never supposed to take over the post in Berlin in 2017. Firstly, because Rattle’s contract doesn’t expire until 2018, and secondly, because deliberately no precise date was mentioned when they announced Petrenko as new chief.

    It has always been very clear that Petrenko didn’t want to leave Munich in a hurry but wanted a solution that statisfies the needs of all sides involved as much as possible. So they would negociate a compromise, which is what they have done.

    To me, this looks like a fair transition period. Berlin has Rattle til 2018. They will spend one year without a chief conductor (but with Petrenko as guest), which is nothing unusual in the orchestra world. In the 2019/20 season, Petrenko will be the chief of both bands, and from 2020/21 onwards he will be chief in Berlin only, acting as guest in Munich for this one season.

    So, effectively they will share one chief for only one season. So what?

    And why sould Munich not express its satisfaction for this solution? I can’t see any offense towards Berlin in this.

    And by the way, Karajan served in parallel as chief of the BPO and of the Vienna State Opera for eight years.

  • Andrew R. Barnard says:

    Norman’s just being a sensationalist as usual. Nothing strange or even unexpected about what happened.

    If the Berlin Philharmonic wasn’t the world’s premiere orchestra, Norman wouldn’t have to make up such far-fetched stories to try to prove his point. Sad.

    • Ray Richardson says:

      To submit this comment I have to tick to say I’m not a robot. There have been four items on this not very interesting topic in about the same number of hours today. Pity NL doesnt test himself as this seems pretty robotic behaviour!

    • MacroV says:

      Indeed. It seems to be the practice that the Berlin MD doesn’t usually have a second job – except for Karajan when he led the Vienna State Opera – but it’s almost only in Berlin. Almost every other director of a top-class orchestra has another major orchestra or opera job.

  • J. says:

    Daylebrecht Mail strikes again.

    • Philip Amos says:

      Just so. As Ray Richardson points out above, NL has been milking this — four posts on it in a matter of hours. And that means he’s grinding another axe.

  • Stereo says:

    Who cares!

  • Bennie says:

    Kirill appears to be a man of high character and commitment. Nothing wrong with that. We shall applaud that.

    When some conductor dump a top job almost immediately when offered another top job, that’s very questionable character.

    When some conductor keep saying he’s committed to a top job, and being told that he’s expected to be fully committed to that job during the interview, then, merely an year later, forced the orchestra to form an ‘alliance’ with another orchestra across the Atlantic so he could hold another top job, that’s just low life. (ok, career climber, ok?)

  • Holger H. says:

    The headline suggests someone is really upset, that BPO didn’t take Thielemann. It would have made a much better target for all the endless Germano-phobia and cultural penis envy this blog is famous for

    • Michael says:

      Best SD comment of all time!

      • Olassus says:

        I don’t know about that, but it is certainly true BPO/Thielemann would have been the new Center of the Universe, the ideal target, and without it all the stars are out of alignment, all the pairings somewhat askew, temporary-seeming. Ah well.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      And what, Herr HH, are you famous for? The envy is yours alone.

      • Philip Amos says:

        Interesting question. As this is a sort of music blog, I can’t help wondering if Holger H. might be the expert in empirical algorithmics who developed the SALIERI music programming language and the GUIDO music notation system. I can’t be sure, but it’s a reasonable guess. If correct, he’s famous enough to have a Wikipedia entry.

      • Ray Richardson says:

        What the hell does it matter? Fame fortunately isnt a requisite for making valid and worthwhile points whilst at the same time neither is it unfortunately a guarantee of them being made!

      • Andrew R. Barnard says:

        Norman, as a professional journalist, how can you justify posting the same story four times all in the same day? Especially when your spin is completely fabricated?

      • Holger H. says:

        This is the internet. Anything you say can be used against you eternally. I’m not crazy to post under a real name. So you will never learn what I’m famous for. 😉
        But my respect, that you allow free speech, moderately, on your blog.

    • Max Grimm says:

      How can there be cultural envy, if the only feelings someone has for said culture oscillate between latent dislike and thinly veiled contempt?

    • El Grillo says:

      I find this kind of language is truly reminiscent of George Bush saying that any country not happy with American economic exploitation, and wishing it to stop, is jealous of the American way of life.

      “Penis Envy” by the way was something Freud made up in order to avoid actually admitting, reporting or exposing the amount of childhood sexual abuse that was going on, as if a child being sexually abused was jealous of her father’s penis. It doesn’t even matter whether Freud’s “diagnosis method” was made up consciously to avoid the issue, or he just thought he was being a “genius.” But not only is it highly degrading in essence, but it has become the code word so much malicious goading one can only wonder why you don’t read it used in tabloid headlines more.

      To try to use it to humiliate someone, or push their buttons, as if it’s the indication of some sort of psychological or psychiatric understanding, only points out where the person using such terminology is coming from.

      • Holger H. says:

        Sorry, but your understanding of ‘penis envy’ is absolutely nonsense.
        Literally Freud’s hypothesis is a theory of anxiety issues (envy is related), in the development of the female psyche, around the time they realize that they do not have a penis. The equivalent for men is castration anxiety. (not my ideas, but Freud’s)

        It is frequently and casually used as a metaphor, attributed to people who bad mouth and ridicule something, they subconsciously actually desire, but are never able to possess themselves, in a compulsive manner.

        Music critics are a prime target, obviously. 😉

        • El Grillo says:

          To begin with, this is not “my understanding” of the term penis envy, it is well documented (see Against Therapy by Jeffrey Mousaieff Masson)..

          There’s ample evidence that Freud was given quite a bit of evidence of a lot of sexual abuse towards women, and that this involved him making up his “theories.”

          To make theories about women being envious they don’t have a penis speaks for itself, in how convoluted this is.

          I made it clear how these “theories” about envy (with it’s about penises or anything else) are turned around, also by marketing agents, as if anyone that doesn’t like their product is jealous, so anyone buying their product is also superior to whoever because they are jealous rather than have a different taste (anyone criticizing said-marketed-artists is jealous, has penis envy); or that a male dominated world that STILL denies women equal pay is some power struggle about who has a penis or who doesn’t, and those who don’t are jealous.

          It really makes me laugh how ridiculous it is.

          If you don’t like Music Critics or Norman, than why are you even reading these posts or commenting.

          Get a life!

          • Holger H. says:

            OK, so, in your “logic”, if you don’t like the original meaning of “penis envy”, and it’s popular use, then “why are you even reading my post and comment? Get a life!” 🙂

            Projections… Apparently today Freud would be busier than ever.

        • El Grillo says:

          I have to point out that the beginning of this post is off-topic, I’m trying to steer it back to the topic.

          “Penis envy” given it’s context and popular use, has a little “original meaning” as any number of derogatory words. The context you used it in was simply a personal attack. If “penis envy” even was a therapeutic tool, that would only be even more abuse of the English language.

          That someone would decide, in a time when there was widespread oppression of women, that at a certain time in life young women grow to have envy of their father’s penis, this is quite obscene, to begin with. That this is then coined to have “original meaning,” would give any number of other bizarre attempts at supporting or hiding suppression “original meaning” such as that dark skinned people are less sensitive than white skinned people, and their purpose in life is hard labor or subservience, and when they show any distress from such oppression they are showing signs of being jealous of white skin (sparkle-envy), a supposedly natural part of growing pains.

          There are enough people that have suffered true suppression, have trauma from this, and instead are labeled as being crazy or jealous or who knows what, this deserves to be straightened out would anyone that has suffered such abuse happen to be reading here, or know of someone was has been so abused. If Freud had truly related to his patients such as , he might have found out that the trauma he was trying to falsely label, if truly looked at is a natural healing mechanism that is Universal to the human condition. Making up logic that is full of false mental constructs enough to sound like it means something when it’s fabricated doesn’t accomplish this.

          To get back on topic, since this is a Norman Lebrecht Blog about and the post is about the Berlin Philharmonic, and about classical music, not about that anyone seeing things differently than H Holger has some sort of psychological condition and needs to have therapy with Freud or consorts. That would be more the kind of behavior one finds in a totalitarian state, where people who express disagreement with authority are so labeled and oppressed:

          No, I don’t see that criticizing or pointing out what goes on with the Berlin Philharmonic means that someone exhibits signs of Germano-phobia, either. In fact, what Norman was pointing out actually points towards respect for Germany and that the Berlin Philharmonic, as a symbol of art in Germany, should be demanding more of a commitment from its music director. I on the other hand believe this might bring in more flexibility.

          Looking back at Holger’s original post, to make assertions of envy that Thielman wasn’t selected, or of irrational fear of the country Germany or even references to jealousy of male body parts, is quite bizarre (along with asserting when someone disagrees with this “enlightenment” they have personality flaws), this all in context of whether the Berlin Philharmonic should have demanded more commitment from it’s music director or not. This doesn’t make any cogent points. He should be glad I don’t advocate the use of psychiatric diagnosis or outdated “theories” such as penis envy. I don’t think that would be helpful. I would just suggest he try to express himself (in English) to elucidate his original points.

        • El Grillo says:

          I would imagine that in this blog, which you complimented for a certain level of free speech, you would be free to share the scientific data concerning “Penis Envy.” The necessary surveys of women who admit that yes at a certain age they do or did have distressing thoughts because the were bereaved of such, and indeed the theories of Freud helped them to attain a state of well balanced thought. Or you might turn to fear of castration in men (castration anxiety), and enlighten us to the scientific basis for its and its sibling’s validity as part of common subconscious machinery and thus applicable for use as a “frequent and casual metaphor.”

          Then you might go on how this relates to music critics, Germanophobia, Thielemann worship or Thielmann hatred, and whether the B P should have a conductor that has more or less commitment.

          • Holger H. says:

            Amigo (amiga?) you are overcomplicating this.
            Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and a cultural inferiority complex is just a cultural inferiority complex.
            This blog is infamous for it’s reliable anti-germanic spin. So be it, it’s a free world, but lets not get delusional either.

  • El Grillo says:

    That Von K would not have been amused is quite amusing in itself. And how would he respond? Blacklist someone else who has also moved on? And how would this effect things? Would Margaret Thatcher be cackling about it, and who would hear her? Would this create again tension between France and K’s place (France lying in between, still: unless it has moved on)?

    I had to look twice at this announcement, thinking (somehow as thought goes) that it was in reference to someone who has been gone on about enough, and whose name emerges when you take the first syllable of Munich, take away the n, put Da (as in dadaism) in between what’s left, and surround this whole phonetic contraption with Dell (either some place pussy is known to be or a computer manufacturer).

    Well. That’s not right either. Dell rhymes with where someone tried to drown pussy (ATTENTION cat in Well needs attention!)

    It’s the farmer in the Dell (not pussy)

    No, apparently Dudamel hasn’t come crashing in to save……um…..Berlin

    Or is he involved?

    • El Grillo says:

      I skipped a reversal, should read: “Take the first syllable of Munich, take away the n, turn it around and put Da…”

      I had to look twice at this announcement, thinking (somehow as thought goes) that it was in reference to someone who has been gone on about enough, and whose name emerges when you take the first syllable of Munich, take away the n, turn it around and put Da (as in dadaism) in between what’s left, and surround this whole phonetic contraption with Dell

      note: to take the first syllable of Berlin, remove the last consonant and turn this around seems to make a statement all by itself, already (when you do it slowly)…

  • Rob van der Hilst says:

    Children, what’s the fuzz all about?

    • J. says:

      Dailebrecht Mail need some clicks.

      • El Grillo says:

        It would be a bit disingenuous of me to say that I remain baffled when people with their “English” insist on not only insulting various amazing products of creativity (cows, mules, ants, weasels, pigs quite a bit and even monkeys) believing they are being descriptive, but then also insist on including children with this.

  • El Grillo says:

    I don’t know about this.
    In this day and age of celebrity over-shadowing,
    that the B P would be a bit flexible rather than promoting it’s head of state
    as a territorial solidification, this might create a bit more of a lyrical fluidity.

  • Derek Castle says:

    Enough child’s play! Ed.

  • Holger H. says:

    NL: “This is not the way it used to be, Berlin bending the knee to Bavaria…”

    Au contraire, Karajan until the end of his life resided in “wider” Bavaria, a suburb of Salzburg, and was bending Berlin’s will from there.
    And there is also that infamous certain short guy with a mustache who also started his fatal “movement” from Bavaria.

    Berlin never ruled over Bavaria, it was more the other way around.