The LPO’s Munich concert was even emptier than we thought

The LPO’s Munich concert was even emptier than we thought


norman lebrecht

September 28, 2016

Official reports claimed that the Gasteig hall was half-full for the London Philharmonic’s ‘Bartok for Europe’ concert on Monday.

A reliable source in Munich paints a much worse scenario.

It appears there were fewer than 150 people in a hall of 2,387 seats.

Worse, many of these were ‘paper’ – people who had been invited on free tickets.

The ticket price was, reportedly, 40 to 85 Euros, way above the Munich Philharmonic subscription concerts which cost from 20 to 60 Euros.

The concert was managed from Hungary by Concerto Budapest.

The conductor, Vladimir Jurowsky, came out on stage, looked at the meagre audience and said ‘have I come through the right door?’ (UPDATE: We understand he made these remarks not on stage but some time later.)




  • Halldor says:

    There are reliable sources and reliable sources. Count some heads: the picture alone (presumably, from the empty orchestra chairs and closed piano, taken some time before the concert began, and showing only about 2/3 of the hall) shows more than 200 people present. Speaking as a venue-manager, audience members and performers habitually over- or under-estimate the size of an audience when they rely solely on the evidence of their own eyes. (I’ve heard a well-spaced crowd of 400 in a 2000 described as “a couple of dozen”). Ticket sales figures, or the front of house staff’s headcount, will be the only really reliable source in this case.

    That said, this was clearly a disappointing turnout. Musicians do have a habit of assuming that they have merely to show up and play, and the world will beat a path to their door. Let this be a lesson to anyone who derides orchestral Marketing Departments. This is what happens when you don’t have one (or it doesn’t function adequately). There is barely a conductor, orchestra or soloist in the world who can sell tickets on the strength of their name, unaided. Every single concert has to be sold, sold, sold, by people who know what they’re doing, and – outside of a major festival – that goes double when out of town. At least the LPO can be sure of getting its fee, though they may think twice before taking a booking from this promoter again.

    • Halldor says:

      Apologies – I meant “a well-spaced crowd of 400 in a 2000 seat hall”.

    • Bergermeier says:

      I totally agree. Also world top orchestras need a professionel presenter who has a high-quality-series in the town, own structures and good marketing. Musicians overestimate themselves.

  • Sid Viscous says:

    As they say, emptier than the plenary session of the last Glasgow Virgins Conference.

  • Stephen says:

    Hungarian for fiasco is “fiasko” (with a grave accent on the “o” which I can’t type).

    • norman lebrecht says:


      • Max Grimm says:

        Alongside the Munich Phil, you can add the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, where tickets to similar subscription concerts run from €18 to €82 (€5 for standing-room).

    • V.Lind says:

      Use a character map and cut and paste. If you do not know how, it is go to ALL Programs in your start menu, click Accessories, then System Tools. A whole new world of typing adventures awaits.

    • Jaybuyer says:

      fiaskò – just hold down the o on your keyboard and you get all the accent options, certainly on phones and tablets. And your device remembers awkward words, once you have typed them, like Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla ! (senior learner)

      • John Borstlap says:

        “There are serious objections against accents. They are mostly used in languages of peoples who can’t properply spell. Look at Chinese which consists entirely of accents.” (Oscar Wilde on his tour through Transilvania).

        • Wai Kit Leung says:

          While we have tones in our language (various dialects of it), we don’t have any accent marks or anything remotely close to that.

  • John says:

    Please take into account, that organizing and presenting a concert (on top of that with a program of Bartók) during the “biggest fest” of the world (Oktoberfest München) is always a bit risky …

    • V.Lind says:

      Yup. Thinking of which, I would be interested in Monday’s figures for Tristan and Mirga. The TV ratings for the battle of the intellectual titans was apparently very high.

    • RW2013 says:

      Wasn’t only Bartok-

      Komponist: Claude DebussyWerk: Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune
      Komponist: Ludwig van BeethovenWerk: Klavierkonzert Nr. 1 C-Dur op. 15
      Komponist: Claude DebussyWerk: Iberia
      Komponist: Béla BartókWerk: Der Wunderbare Mandarin – Suite

      and the Oktoberfest is something I, for one, visited once and never again.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Wonderful programme. A shame it lost from something like beer.

        • Jaybuyer says:

          Yes, I agree. A most attractive programme. I don’t think many of those imbibing at the Wies’n – at reputedly 10,70 € a beer – are regular concert goers

          • Peter says:

            To be fair, the 10,70 € is for one liter of beer, “ein Maß”.
            By quantity that’s equivalent to four “beers” in the US.
            And by alcohol content it is equivalent to about eight “beers” in the US.
            So it’s actually not a bad deal. 😉

          • Jaybuyer says:

            Peter, a Maß is whatever the pourer wants it to be (literally ‘a measure’). There’s a suspiciously large amount of froth on top of the beer at the Oktoberfest and if it measures exactly a litre I’ll eat my Töttchen (bucket at the ready!)
            However, I do agree with you about beer in the US (although American ‘lager’ sold in English pubs is stronger and becoming quite popular.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            “Ein Maß” is exactly one liter now, not “what the pourer wants it to be”. Used to be a little more depending on the region but became exactly one liter when the metric system became more common. The amount of foam on top of the beer doesn’t matter as there is a fill line on beer glasses in Germany, so the customer only pays for the beer, not the foam.

    • Will Duffay says:

      I don’t understand. What’s the issue with Bartok?

      • John says:

        The concert was promoted as “Bartók for Europe Festival” (regardless the real program of the performance). Bartók is – unfortunately – not the most popular composer in Germany. On top of that all media comments are focused on the Oktoberfest in this period of the year. This might be a partial explanation ….

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          I have been to many sold out concerts in Germany with featured Bartók works as the main attraction on the program, and some which were all Bartók. So your explanation isn’t even a partially good one, John. Sorry you had to hear it from me! 😉

  • Ben says:

    1) Did the hall’s acoustics improved with such minimal attendance?

    2) May as well blame widespread flu than OktoberFest. 🙂

    P.S. Philadelphia Orchestra had an snow-out concert last year perhaps, due to an nasty winter blizzard. The programme was changed too as not all musicians could make it to the hall. I saw more people in attendance that night, than what was shown in this photo. Sad indeed. BTW Manny (Ax) played a magisterial Beethoven 3rd concerto albeit numerous empty seats that night, enjoying the chamber-music like intimacy with the audience. He surely didn’t question the stage door. 🙂

  • debussyste says:

    Bartok is not that popular ! It’s a fact …

    • Jaybuyer says:

      I fear that Miraculous Mandarin doesn’t put bums on seats.
      Perhaps they should have risked something ‘English’ – Elgar 1 or 2? After all, Barenboim and Rattle have been trying to make Elgar more ‘salonfähig’ in Germany for some time now. And the Russian visiting orchestras stick firmly to Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovich.

  • karlkk says:

    Sorry but Jurowski is an utterly boring conductor.audience is not to blame.

    • Jaybuyer says:

      Is that his reputation in Munich? Would that have been a reason to stay away? Or does LPO have less drawing power than LSO?

    • Harold Lewis says:

      What a staggeringly obtuse comment! Vladimir Jurowski is an admirable conductor. I’ve never heard him deliver a performance that was in any way boring, bland or lacklustre. Perhaps ‘Karl’ is thinking of his father, Mikhail Jurowski.