Gergiev is called out in Munich for non-rehearsal

Gergiev is called out in Munich for non-rehearsal


norman lebrecht

September 23, 2016

A review in the Abendzeitung attacks the music director for his cursory rehearsal practices. The performance of Beethoven’s Eroica was, writes Robert Braunmüller, ‘casually improvised’. Textures were cloudy, ensemble flawed. The Munich Philharmonic sounded shoddy.

Gergiev’s pianist, his pal Denis Matsuev, received a similar drubbing.

Gergiev’s rehearsal absences are well attested, but in all his years with the LSO I don’t remember London critics calling him out so frankly.

Read here.

gergiev swimming

Not drowning but waving.



  • Guy says:

    His lack of preparation was often noted at LSO concerts but the effect of it was seldom so detrimental to the music-making as it seems to have been on this occasion. This may have to do with the fact the London orchestras are used to skimpy rehearsal schedules in a way that most German orchestras are not.

    p.s. I am not a robot, but I’ve never had to make so much effort to prove it as I did when trying to post this comment.

  • Stephen says:

    Knappertsbusch was well-known for his dislike of rehearsals (and consequent orchestra errors) yet I’ve never seen anything vitriolic about him. Perhaps if he’d been Russian…

    • Max Grimm says:

      Perhaps. Perhaps it may also have something to do with the fact that Knappertsbusch hasn’t conducted in over half a century and that expectations after his retirement and subsequent passing have changed.
      Criticism about Gergiev’s style of rehearsing has circulated in Munich (coming from both, Gergiev supporters and detractors) since before he officially took up his position with the Munich Phil.
      Additionally, the linked article’s author – Robert Braunmüller – brings up the topic of “Gergiev & Inadequate Rehearsals” with great frequency.
      I.e. from a year ago (Engl. translation of the German article):
      The Gasteig is no rehearsal stage for Asia
      Those who listen to concerts by Mariss Jansons and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra or by Kirill Petrenko with the Bavarian State Orchestra, know that rehearsals aren’t a waste of time. Gergiev and the [Munich] Philharmonic apparently only achieve their best after the second or third evening. It is also audible that individual rehearsals are led by assistants – a not quite unproblematic way of working.”

    • Steven Holloway says:

      Beecham often ended rehearsals early, and then in the evening conducted wondrous performances. But Beecham was a magician, Gergiev is a jobsworth.

      • John Borstlap says:

        As far as I know, Beecham mainly conducted well-worn repertoire pieces that everybody knew by heart.

        • Paul Davis says:

          This is a very late reply, as i’ve been on holiday and only now catching up, but couldn’t let the Beecham “well-worn repertoire” comment pass. Off the top of my head: Beecham’s British premieres: Salome, Elektra, Rosenkavalier… and other repertoire was hardly well-worn: much rarely-played Haydn, (most unfashionable in first half of 20C), Berlioz, (ditto), Sibelius, Delius and byways of french music, little-played even in France at the time: (Lalo, Chabrier… )… Other surprises crop up such as the Busoni Piano Concerto, (Mewton-Wood) or Barber’s Second Essay.
          If, postwar, he premiered or championed less new music it may have been because he considered that much of it wasn’t worth the effort; the celebrote remark on Stockhausen giving the key, (..”haven’t conducted any but have trodden in some….”).

          Having suffered recent (non)-performances of Gergiev, i can say there is absolutely no relation with Sir Beecham, (as the french liked to call him!).

  • JanHus says:

    am thinking of the Celibidache days

    • norman lebrecht says:

      I remember Celi taking 15 rehearsals for one concert in the Gasteig

    • Ganymede says:

      Indeed, those were the days, I went to most of Celi’s rehearsals, that was music-making of a totally different calibre.

      Hopefully the orchestra will react to such press articles and eventually get Gergiev to at least do his job adequately.

      I agree with the article that they should get someone young and promising in, there are quite a few around actually. I thought they’d learned their lesson after several total flops as music director since Celi’s passing in 1996.

      • Stephen says:

        Yet Carlos Kleiber, according to Charles Barber’s book, thought Celi a fraud and a complete charlatan. A slight exaggeration, I would say, though his 100-minute Bruckner 8th has had me agreeing.

  • Louise Healey says:

    If Putin’s your co-pilot and you fly in to your rehearsals at the last second in a private jet, you don’t have to care what anyone else thinks. Mr. Gergiev most certainly doesn’t.

  • Milka says:

    The music field has been taken over by garbage passing themselves off as musicians .Most of the audience audience is dumbed down to about zero and for the most part
    deserve whatever it gets. It is the age of Gergiev, Bron , Vengerov.

  • Elizabeth owen says:

    I saw Gennady Rodveshtensky (?) rehearse at the RFH once and he said he never rehearses for more than 45 minutes. The difference with the LSO is that it is an excellent orchestra whereas Munich obviously isn’t and needs more time.

    • John Borstlap says:

      It greatly depends upon the pieces. Repertoire war horses don’t need so much time. Unfamiliar pieces do need much time, and modernist pieces can be done a prima vista because the notes don’t count and nobody hears what’s right or wrong. (This is why they are still being performed, it’s an easy programme hole filling.)

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Except that the London orchestras are far more varied in repertoire than pretty much anywhere else in the world.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      You didn’t understand what the article actually criticizes, Elizabeth. It wasn’t about technical problems, but lack of musical refinement because of too little rehearsals. The technical level of orchestras these days is higher than ever before, and the Münchner Philharmoniker are among the best orchestras in Germany. It’s not about playing the right notes at the right time, it’s the lack of a musically fully formed and distinguished interpretation that the author of the article criticizes.

    • robocop says:

      Actually Munich is a very good orchestra, and I even heard from Germans Bruckner with Gergiev was much more impressive than that of Celibidache. Can’t judge how it was with Celibidache, but was very impressed with Gergiev’s Bruckner too.
      And according to the records it looks both Gergiev and orchestra learn a lot from each other, despite his style to rehearse right on the concert..

  • Andrey says:

    Totally agree with Mr. Borstlap’s comment.

  • Schlagzeuger says:

    I know that photo. It was taken just before Stars on Baikal last year. :>)))

  • Dan Oria says:

    Years ago, when Gergiev conducted “Salome” at the Zurich Opera, everybody involved was totally lost, I rarely had experienced such chaos on a stage before. Bu the maestro just waved his stick with relaxation – in his usual pendular or Parkinson-like way, without looking to anybody. We looked at eachother saying “he must have taken drugs, or he is just insane”. We assistants were in the wings, giving cues to singers like madmen. Gergiev never stopped to correct. Just once he stopped to say “I think this Opera house is too small for Salome” and carried on. On a main orchestra-and-stage rehearsal, the whole House was waiting, and he rushed in some 20 minutes later to say “sorry, I had an interview”. As far as I remember, he did not conduct all following performances. Critics were mostly enthusiastic, I just wonder how they could dare to praise such a scandalous way of music-making