Maestro move: ‘Saviour of music’ gets a German orchestra

The Russian-based Greek conductor Teodor Currentzis signed on today as chief conductor of the SWR radio symphony orchestra in Stuttgart, starting in 2018-19.


Currentzis, 45, has made his career up to now entirely in Russia, as music director in Perm, and on record.

But is seems he is ready to branch out.


In July he will make his Salzburg debut with La Clemenza di Tito and next season he is booked at Covent Garden.

An orchestra in the German heartland will give him a significantly larger footprint.

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  • The poor citizens of Stuttgart will not only have to cope with this charlatan but also with his divette of choice: Simone Kermes. Pity.

    • You are not up to date! Kermes has fallen out of grace a long time ago… She was in the recording of Don Giovanni that Currentzis did not want released. He recorded it again without her. She also was replaced by another singer when he performed Dido and Aeneas here in Berlin. All this happened quite a while ago…

  • Any information on how many declined this job in protest against the forced merger of two formerly independent orchs?

    • My understanding is Currentzis was the first person to be offered the post. Shortlist included Christoph Eschenbach and other mainstream household names. There must be good reason for their choice.

  • In my opinion it is to early to make an appointment. This orchestra is still playing as two groups on one stage.

  • Well if non-German speaking, jumping up and down on the podium, pageboy hair flapping, “I learned the score from the CD” conductor Kent Nagano can land Hamburg, and now non-German speaking, jumping up and down on the podium, pageboy hair flapping, “I learned the score from the CD” conductor Teodor Currentzis can land Stuttgart, then the profession has really lost all integrity: It’s all in the record deal that the conductor will bring to the orchestra.

      • Well, obviously “May” doesn’t know any German himself, so he has no way of knowing how good Nagano’s German is – it’s actually really quite good -, and that means he just freely made up all the other stuff, too.

        • Hahaha… Erwischt! Lieber Michael, weder meine SprachfĂ€higkeiten noch mein Geschlecht hast du richtig getroffen. Klar kann Nagano einen Satz im Schneckentempo zusammen basteln, aber wenn man bedenkt, er arbeitet in Deutschland seit ĂŒber 20 Jahren, ist sein Deutsch erbĂ€rmlich.

          • I agree with your broad judgements on Nagano. It’s often forgotten that he made a terrible mess of the HallĂ© when he was their principal conductor: they absolutely hated him and were glad to see the back of him. I have never come of out of any of his concerts feeling that he had a spark of genuine animation in him. Das hĂ€tte ich auch ebenso auf Deutsch formulieren können, aber vermutlich sind deine Englischkenntnisse besser als die Deutschkenntnisse Naganos.

          • Google Translate really works quite well these days. But if this is an honest demonstration of your actual own German language abilities, it’s not bad, but not really any better than Nagano’s. So no reason for you to call his German “erbĂ€rmlich” – and you were certainly still wrong in saying that he didn’t speak the language at all.

          • Ich weiß nicht, ob er sprechen und schreiben auch zumindest fĂŒr einige Sprache kann. Sein Russisch ist schrecklich.

    • Since when was speaking German a prerequisite for the job? Most Germans speak very good English thank you and don’t forget this is an orchestra that had English-speaking Roger Norrington as Chief for over a decade.

      • It may not be “essential” for basic communication for the reason you gave, but given that a very large portion of the “classical” repertoire was written by German and Austrian composers, I think an at least solid working knowledge of German (and hopefully other languages such as Italian and French and maybe Russian, too) is pretty essential for a “serious” conductor. And it’s not just about being able to read primary sources and secondary literature in the original. It’s also about being able to read the literature that the composers read and that influenced them, and other sources, and get a really good “feel” for the cultural background overall.
        I think Norrington speaks fairly good German, too, BTW.

        • Excuse me, but the “primary sources” are not German, or Italian, or French, or English, but musical notation. I’m wondering how many of those who comment are fluent in it.

          • You completely missed my point. Of course musicians have to be able to read music but they all are, and what I said had to do with the wider cultural context and background. And that in itself actually plays into how people can read and interpret the written music itself, too. For instance, if you study baroque and classical music seriously, there is a lot of primary and secondary literature about performance practice itself. But, again, what I was talking about here was primarily context and background, that’s very important, too.

  • I have never seen or heard this conductor live, and I don’t know if he learns his music by listening to recordings (he wouldn’t be the first…) but I can tell you this: the performance of Wozzeck he did several years ago on DVD is brilliant. And his Shostakovich 14th is superb, too. So I’ll give him a chance – being as there are no Toscaninis, Stokowskis, Bernsteins or Karajans around to attract the attention of potential classical listeners, if Currentzis can do something, more power to him!

  • I am increasingly concerned about the tendency of arm-chair critics to criticise without experience or knowledge. The announcement of a new Principal Conductor is like the announcement of a marriage. It should be greeted with optimism and hope for a wonderful future. No orchestra would wish to develop a relationship with a creative leader they did not fall in love with and want to see a long marriage! Please trust the musicians to make the best decisions for themselves.

    I have heard many of Teodor Currentzis’ performances in both Perm and London and I have to say that I have been very impressed with him. I have found that he brings a new perspective to works that I thought I knew. CUBS FAN is correct – his Wozzeck was astonishingly good as are his recordings of Le Nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni – in my opinion. I was disappointed with his Cosi which I saw onstage but have been greatly moved by many of his other performances. Most of the times I have heard him have been with his own orchestra MusicaAeterna which is an extremely flexible and exciting young band of musicians who play out of their skins for him.

    In Perm, Currentzis has been successful in starting to educate and develop a highly musically literate audience of young people as well as the old guard and his performances are anticipated with huge enthusiasm. This is a good thing! If some stuffy, older people are put off by his appearance or his utterances then that is a matter for them, and I might say it is their considerable loss. For classical music to survive we need people like Teodor Currentzis, with charisma and dynamism. The fact that he occasionally says things that makes even supporters wince is not a problem for me. The results are all!

  • Now, now, let’s be fair. He didn’t say he was going to save MUSIC, only that he would save classical music. Apparently, music, in general, will survive as an art form without his assistance.

    • I think that the person like him is necessary if we want the classic music world to be saved. Go to any opera house now – from Kaiserslautern to La Scala: over 70% of the audience is old. Looking from above, you see the sea of white hair. Which is wonderful. An audience who knows the tradition and knows what they want to hear. Not always open to a new vision. More keen on recognizing than on discovery – in most of the cases.
      But most of my musician friends – looking with me on this sea of white hair in the audience – ask themselves: for whom are we going to play in 20 years when all those die?

        • Yes, that’s true, but a new element has entered the general tone of critique which is entirely irrational and politically-motivated which has never been the case: the populist tone. In Europe, where concert halls, orchestras and opera houses are being supported by the state, politicians now see an opportunity for political gains in wielding the ax of subsidy cuts. What is happening in countries like the Netherlands and Denmark has not happened before: orchestras forced to merge, then the merged orchestras have to merge again with other merged orchestras, radio orchestras being folded, etc. etc. It has become a necessity to formulate justifications for classical music on a level and on a scale as never before. And the main point of discussion is whether classical music is compatible with the modern world.

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