Germany loses an orchestra

Germany loses an orchestra


norman lebrecht

March 25, 2016

It has been decided to merge the Thüringen Philharmonie of Gotha with the Landeskapelle Eisenach.

The two orchestras will become one in August next year.

It will not escape your attention that this bureaucratic merger is taking place at the birthplace of J S Bach.

Some 50 German orchestras, mostly in the former DDR have been ‘rationalised’ since reunification, leaving Germany with around 130 subsidised orchestras.

bach in eisenach



  • Cubs Fan says:

    This is astonishing. 130 subsidized orchestras in a country smaller than the state of Montana (albeit a much larger population). There aren’t 130 full-time professional orchestras in the entire US. Over here, we subsidize sports teams. Maybe socialism isn’t such a bad thing…

    • Christian Elsner says:

      Socialism in Germany? Today? You deserve Donald Trump as your president…

    • John Borstlap says:

      It has nothing to do with socialism. In Europe, the arts were part of cultural identity in former ages, of courts, churches, of nobility. The arts, including serious music, was a signifyer that one was really civilized, also where this was merely a justification of a regime. That is why classical music was so important to the Soviet Union: it had to ‘demonstrate’ that the regime was legitimate, and civilized, which it was not, of course. State patronage of orchestras in Germany is an important symbol of the country, calling itself a ‘Kulturnation’. Even while modernity with its pop culture erodes some of its assets, orchestras and opera houses are not merely supported by the state but enjoy large audiences. It is to be hoped it will last.

    • JJC says:

      It is a matter of culture, not politics. As for me, I want nothing from the government, it should stay far away from our business.

      • Peter says:

        and with this attitude you enable the rule of the corporations and financial elite. A weak government means a government not “by the people, for the people”, but “by the financial elite, for the financial elite”.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    Anyone know what the typical attendance levels are of these regional and local orchestras?

    • John Borstlap says:

      It seems that in general, attendance is 70% or more. And the level of performances is on average high.

  • Greg from SF says:

    It’s the USA’s fault….just ask Eddie Mars!

    • Peter says:

      Well, actually… 😉 Cultural imperialism DOES play a role in this. The US is exporting its corporate driven mass culture intensly. (And successfully, since nobody could compete in sheer scale with it) It’s one pillar of the US’ grip on controlling the world.
      Symphony orchestras are not embedded in the American culture, but in the Central European culture.

      • Mike Schachter says:

        Proabably true, but being reduced to a mere 130 orchestras does not represent a crisis? Note also that up toa third of the world’s opera performamces take place in Germany, with not much more than 1% of the world’s population.

      • John Borstlap says:

        There is more than a bit of paranoia in this remark. Americana are very popular with the masses, so it is good business also for the locals. If the world had not embraced American pop culture by large numbers, it would never have been ‘exported’. It is the demand, not the offer, that was and is the drive behind the ongoing debilisation of the world’s masses, helped by increasing democracy, information tech and the growth of economies and freedoms. (That’s why N-Korea is so anxious.)

        • Peter says:

          There is no connection between American pop/mass “culture”, and prosperity and freedom.
          Pop culture is no culture in essence, only in disguise. It is an economic model. It is a marketing attribute for conquering and controlling global markets, not for “cultivating” people as in the original meaning of culture.
          And when it comes to Hollywood, we are talking about propaganda and mind control.
          The inflationary and uncalled for promotion of violence by Hollywood is possibly one of the biggest failures of mankind to further cultivate itself, its a huge degression.

    • Brian Hughes says:

      Everyone knows that it’s all Obama’s fault .

  • Magnus Still says:

    It is important to remember that most of the 50 German orchestras that were closed since German reunification are former DDR orchestras in very small cities that have quite big challenges subsidizing with this small taxation base. It is naturally sad in each case but we should perhaps not talk of a crisis yet.

    Fun fact:
    Germany: 130 orchestras, 80mio inhabitants = 1 orchestra on 600,000 people.
    Finland: 23 orchestras, 5mio inhabitants = 1 orchestra on 200,000 people
    (Both including several smaller ensembles).

    Berlin: 8 orchestras, 3,4mio inhabitants = 1 orchestra on 425k people
    Helsinki: 3 orchestras, 600k inhabitants = 1 orchestra on 200k people
    (Full size orchestras only)

    I don’t say it’s easy in Finland either, but whether you can afford an orchestra or not is really a question of priorities and how you organize everything.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Thuringia currently has orchestras in Altenburg (population: 33,000), Eisenach (45,000),
      Erfurt (200,000), Gotha (44,000), Jena (100,000), Meiningen (21,000),
      Rudolstadt (23,000), Sondershausen (22,000), and Weimar (63,000).

      Most of these places are very small towns and it isn’t surprising if some of these places find it difficult to continue subsidizing their orchestras. Equivalent towns in former West Germany would never have had an orchestra in the first place (where it is rare for places smaller than 100,000 to have an orchestra).