Thielemann bores for England

Thielemann bores for England


norman lebrecht

July 27, 2016

The Bayreuth music director has given a guarded interview to the London Times.

The feature appears to have been prompted by the BBC Proms, where Thielemann will appear with his Dresden orchestra in September, and by SkyArts, which is livecasting the Bayreuth Ring.

Thielemann, apparently at his most relaxed, says precisely nothing.

Why did Andris Nelsons walk out from Bayreuth? No idea, nothing to do with me. ‘An enigma.’

Why was Serge Dorny fired before he could start his job in Dresden? Blank.

Are you a dictator? ‘No. Not at all. I never was. I have a north German way, half-Saxonian and half-Prussian, and this is very direct; a little rude, but also nice.’

The interview is so guarded that even the photograph is credited on the page ‘courtesy of Christian Thielemann’.

You’ll find it here, behind a paywall.



  • Sue says:

    He looks like a priest in that picture in The Times. And it’s impossible to believe he’s in his late 50’s already.

    Go Christian!!

  • Frederick West says:

    He likes truffles they wrote. The usual Sky/Times/Murdoch plug. Er, that was about it.

  • pianofortissimo says:

    Again, Mr Thielemann failed to fulfill the expectations of people who dislike him.

  • D says:

    He can be pitched in the media as antagonistic and difficult. This season’s Bayreuth fiascos have not helped, and if you know nothing about this, it can be pretty difficult to want to like him.

    The real question I have is this: is his music making any good? What is it that appeals?

    I have never been moved by one of his performances, but I’m very much willing to be persuaded. Maybe I haven’t found the right approach to truly appreciate what is going on.

    Very interested to hear anybody’s thoughts on this.

    • erich says:

      Thielemann is like Eliot’s Macavity…he’s ‘not there’ whenever unpleasantness broke or breaks out around him, be it in Nürnberg, Berlin, Munich, Dresden, Salzburg or Bayreuth. “Was’nt me, guv” will be written on his tombstone.

      • Halldor says:

        Musically? Purely personally, I’ve always found a chilling, leaden quality about his music-making (beneath the gorgeous surface sheen). Dead behind the eyes. A conductor for the kind of music-lover who thinks there’s something called “the core German repertoire” (usually annexed to that faintly sinister “blood and soil” notion that only German conductors and orchestras can play it properly). Who likes their performances “authoritative”. And for whom no live performance by any living musician can ever rival a Karajan box set.

        Thielemann is certainly worth following with interest – he’s clearly gifted, and artists mature. But little I’ve seen that he’s said or done in public has done much to counteract this impression.

        • D says:

          This ‘leaden’ you describe was what I felt put me off his music.

          I am less interested in all the more unsavoury things which seem to have become attached to him, because although you could say ‘no smoke without fire’, he’s not actually here to defend himself.

          But if he’s really such a great conductor, I wonder – with a sense of desparation sometimes – why there isn’t something more strikingly interesting about the performances he gives!

      • Olassus says:

        James Levine has the same knack.

    • Olassus says:


      Start with his 2011 DVD of “Die Frau ohne Schatten” filmed in Salzburg.

      But it is true that in much music he is not especially effective.

      • Tristan says:

        FROSCH in Munich was more impressive and conducted – obviously – by Petrenko! I have heard both and Thielemann was much too loud which he is very often. Still, only musically, he is a fantastic conductor for a limited repertoire – he will never match Kleiber or the young Karajan and in my opinion Petrenko is more exciting! Berliner, you were absolutely right as on top CT is ruthless, has no manners and left every cultural institution in agony – the man is only good in the pit but not for Italian repertoire PLEASE!

        • Bogda says:

          It’s a matter of taste and can’t be judged objectively. Both Petrenko and Thielemann are amazing conductors and it’s only a personal preference whom you like more. For example, Petrenko is a master of creating beautiful moments but for me he lacks an idea that holds the whole piece together. His interpretations to me sound like a unconnected, but extremely interesting pieces of music performed together.

          Thielemann on the other hand creates an arch over the whole piece

          Just compare their Bayreuth Rings. Heard them both, loved them both.

          Yes, Thielemann does play a limited repertoire, but when he plays Strauss and Wagner, it’s always extremely fresh and exciting. Just listen to his last year’s Tristan from Bayreuth or this year’s Lohengrin from Dresden. You might not agree with all his musical choices, but claiming that this boring is just pure hate talk

        • Olassus says:

          Petrenko was good. I attended the 2013 premiere and at least one more performance.

          But Thielemann was sensational, more imaginative, much more powerful in climaxes, in the house 2011 and as recorded.

          Vienna Philharmonic and Bavarian State Orchestra — a tie!

  • G. Lüdenscheidt says:

    I am seeing and hearing Christian Thielemann every season in Berlin. I think it is really ok to not be loving every interpretation he is doing! Many are genuine earthquakes, though. Many concerts unforgettable.
    But I think we here can not understand his talents so well like others, maybe? If a player of the Gewandhausorchester is saying this, I think that must really be an opinion, that one can respect, no?

    • Tristan says:

      of course he is an enormous talent and though often musicians judge different than sophisticated people in the audience I don’t think their opinion counts more to be honest – they are human ending like the others and just think of someone like Eschenbach (no doubt a good musician liked by many in various oruxhestras) but obviously not by most of the audience. CT is an amazing conductor but for me less exciting than p.e. Petrenko.
      Why you think did the musicians of the best orchestra worldwide vote for him instead of CT??? Here you might be right, the musicians should know better
      I think they did the right choice as CT lacks so many other important human qualities….this you might btw hear from many musicians also and singers!!!!

  • Novagerio says:

    One little correction: CT made his Vienna debut in 1987 at the Staatsoper with Così fan tutte. His official debut with the Vienna Philharmoniker was in October 2000 with the fulminant straussian Alpenisnfonie, the one that later was issued Live on DGG.