What Thielemann’s orchestra does when he’s away

What Thielemann’s orchestra does when he’s away


norman lebrecht

July 28, 2017

This is the Staatskapelle Dresden while the boss is in Bayreuth.


  • DESR says:

    Blimey. Maybe they need to busk thus, to raise the money to afford him?

    • DESR says:

      This is mainly just Norman trolling Thielemann!

      Has he ever granted you an audience, Norman?

    • Christine Heinke says:

      Keep calm – This is a “Happy birthday” tribute on the occasion of Herbert Blomstedt’s 90th birthday. The song was recorded by the Staatskapelle as a kind of background music for the audience in front of the Semperoper. They sang the song for Herbert Blomstedt when he came outside after a “normal” concert (Bruckner, Beethoven). Get it? ABBA: Swedish group! Blomstedt: Swedish citizen! (To be honest, I do not think he recognized the song, although he was very moved…)

  • Ungeheuer says:

    For shame. The great German orchestra reduced to playing pop fluff. If I were Thielemann I’d halt the practice quick and subject the orchestra to a strict diet of Bruckner symphonies, say, until they get back their bearings. But I have little hope he’ll do so. After all, he and his orchestra previously recorded a vile program of light classical fare distastefully sung by R Fleming and KF Vogt. Big embarrassment. I am sure it sold well since trash begets trash. I wouldn’t expect this debasement from Nelsons.

    • James says:

      Shame? Embarassment for whom? The point is to raise money.
      The Boston Pops has long shown the way. Nelsons says hallo, Musikfreunde.
      Beverly Sills spoke fondly of those ‘take the money and run” concerts.
      Lawrence Olivier appeared in many an inferior film for the
      sake of the handsome fees. Prehaps the one
      thing composers and artists of all eras and styles would agree on is that
      one never earns the money one deserves.
      Tis the way of the world, Zach.

      • John Borstlap says:

        This orchestra is a ‘national orchestra’, i.e. subsidized by the state, to provide the best symphonic music and to serve in the opera house (also subsidized for the same reason: to provide the best opera repertoire), and to make it psosible to acquire tickets that are not too expensive for most (German) people. So, a bit of prostitution forced by money problems should be entirely out of place here.

        Orchestras in Germany, especially the national orchestras, earn enough money to keep floating and the players’ salaries offer normal survival rates. THIS appears to be rather a political gesture, to pay lip service to the egalitarian world view and to show that the orchestra is not ‘elitist’ and ‘exclusive’.

        But…. another possible explanation is, that this concert has been set-up especially for non-German summer tourists.

        • Andreas B. says:

          strictly speaking, there are no ‘national’ orchestras in Germany. culture is being dealt with by the länder and municipalities (regarding orchestras also by the broadcasting companies).
          The staatskapelle gets its funding from the land Saxony.
          The Berlin government does have a culture budget, which is spent to help support various institutions and initiatives of national importance (e.g. Goethe Institute, Bayreuth Festival, etc.)

          Prostitution? political gesture? lip service? why so aggressive?
          it’s just a birthday greeting (Imho performed rather well with a sense of fun)!

          also: why so dismissive about the summer tourists? I believe some of them come to Germany exactly because of the high quality music culture …

          • Max Grimm says:

            There should be no need for justification. If musicians in an orchestra voluntarily choose to play something they wish to play, birthday greeting or not, let them play.
            Personally, I like the Staatskapelle Dresden enough that I’d not be bothered if I had to sit through them playing “Alle meine Entchen”.

          • John Borstlap says:

            Is a German ‘Land’ not a state? I thought Germany is a Bundesrepublik, after all, a ‘united states of German nations’? The Länder all have their own parliament and their own elections. The Länder were formerly independent nations, so I don’t see any real difference whether orchestras are paid by Saxony or Berlin, they both represent ‘German nationhood’.

            It’s just embarrasing to see a high level symphony orchestra do some pop, which other ensembles specially set-up for such occasions would be more suited to do. The world is engulfed in bad popular music, it’s pouring out of any opening of public space and beyond with its smelly excrements, why is it not possible that there remain pockets of true culture? Of course this is ‘hochnasig, sniffy, conservative, elitist’ etc. etc. but for some things in life it better be.

    • John Kelly says:

      No but the BSO makes up a good chunk of the Boston Pops and it hasn’t dragged the BSO’s game down.

      Watch the John Wilson orchestra, half full of concertmasters and string quartet leaders in the strings – though it may come as a surprise to some, orchestral players actually ENJOY playing something light and lively for a change.

      To quote Erich Leinsdorf “not every concert has to be a spiritual event.”

      • Sue says:


      • Gaffney Feskoe says:

        My understanding is that the Boston Pops consists of some members of the BSO but many musicians of the Pops are hired hands. No principal chairs of the BSO play in the Pops.

      • John Borstlap says:

        There is much light and entertaining repertoire in classical music which does not demand spiritual depth, but if it is well-made, it still reveals something like spiritual and spirited entertainment. But then, the entertaining element is part of a context where good taste reigns, one cannot say that of what the video in this post reveals.

  • Jimmy says:

    There are of course a few members of the Dresden Staatskapelle playing at Bayreuth…

  • Robert Garbolinski says:

    Absolutely wonderful! Good for them – music must be accessible for all and this is a very good way to do it. Stop poncing around – get off your high horses and enjoy! Wonderful New Year Concerts from them as well.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Music IS accessible for all nowadays. And then: which music? THIS is not classical music, the genre where the symphony orchestra has been developed for.

      • Robert says:

        Absolute rot! The London Symphony Orchestra are renowned for their film soundtracks, The Boston for their “Pops” concert and so many others. I have even sung in the chorus for Symphonic Osysseys (video games music) a number of times with the LSO. No problem at all – just snotty people who try to keep these things for an exclusive sort of club whose members are falling by the wayside. Look at the Royal Festival Hall. Brochures from the 1970’s and how many concerts there were then. Look at the R.F.H. now – nowhere near.
        Music of all types is for all people in all places. Get over it

        • Frederick West says:

          Indeed, it is and should be a broad church.

          • Sue says:

            The Melbourne Sydney Orchestra earns pocket money by playing for popular artists here in Australia. I don’t have a problem with that, nor with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra doing the same. I think it’s good for people to hear what excellent orchestras can do outside the art music repertoire and I’m sure the musicians have fun doing it too!! Win win.

          • John Borstlap says:

            The normal symphony repertoire is already an immensily broad church with things for every taste and every preference.

        • John Borstlap says:

          All this is mere embarrassing evidence, not a reassuring encouragement. It is an Anglo-Saxon problem, not an asset; and in the USA pop concerts by symphony orchestras are only justified because of their funding dependence upon donors and sponsors: their existence is not garanteed by the state. Where programming is done professionally, the poppy concerts are correctly separated from the serious series and marketed differently because addressing another audience, and often the orchestra has another composition so that it is not the very same players. To see the wish to protect an art form from diluting with substandard stuff as an instrument of class warfare, is lefty confused and entirely ignorant thinking, an expression of the egalitarian world view which wants to get rid of those ‘difficult’ value standards. Which is not very clever, because nobody obliges lovers of pop stuff to attend a Mahler concert, so it is just hate for something that may be better than one’s own taste, even if one can freely ignore it.

          With some real thinking, one would understand that the highest forms of a cultural tradition are also important for all those people who are not interested in it and prefer some more simple stuff, because what happens up there, will eventually drip down through the layers of society to the ‘common man’, and offers opportunities of cutural development. Why would we want cultural development? Simple: to arrive at better life standards, with more meaning than mere farm animal practices.

  • Andreas B. says:

    calm down everyone, would you?

    this video is the kapelle’s birthday greeting for maestro Blomstedt, as can easily be seen on their Facebook page …


    • Thomasina says:

      Oh, but why do some people think that it’s was to raise money? Did I miss something?

    • John Borstlap says:

      But that makes it even much worse…. it is an offence to a conductor who has dedicated all his life to the glories of classical music. It is, at best, an entirely misconceived joke. I feel very sorry for the maestro.

    • Anonymous says:

      Right you are. This is just a very nice gesture for Maestro Blomstedt for his 90th birthday and nothing else. No need to be arrogant. The Staatskapelle Dresden certainly is in perfect shape!

      Shame on NL that he did not mention this at all. He’s not in the facts business but in the someting completely different and so the discussions are going totally into the wrong direction. That’s what he loves doing.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Even if this were so, he is offering an opportunity for a number of music lovers to reveal their true colours.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    For the sad sacks lamenting that they spent time on this… I’m not hearing a lot of rock solid precision in this performance, they probably ran through it ONCE before recording it.

    It’s a pleasant gesture, not a major project.

  • Sue says:

    It’s a promotion for travelling to Dresden!! A terrific song and the orchestra sounds great; a Rolls Royce to take you on a picnic. Wonderful!

    • John Borstlap says:

      I hope this is irony. Dresden with its history, especially in classical music and opera, would deserve better promotion.

      • Sue says:

        I don’t think there COULD be a better promotion than anything from the Staatskapelle, Dresden, since there is so little remaining at all of its architectural history.

        I’m playing devil’s advocate and suggesting that if the people are paying for an orchestra through their taxation they have some entitlement to access it no matter how base we might consider the cultural result. They have a splendid Sylvester (I think) concert which includes heavy lashings of more popular fare, as shown here from 2015:


        It’s not such a giant leap from Gershwin to ABBA and I actually think “Thank You For The Music” is quite a charming song. Sure, the lyrics barely pass muster but the Staatskapelle isn’t singing either!

  • Branimir says:

    And, as you can all see, it wasn’t done in front of audience it was done without any audience. I can love Bruckner and ABBA at the same, so they can do, too. 🙂

    • John Borstlap says:

      In baroque suites, ABBA was a much-used binary structure, which Domenico Scarolatti developed into pre-sonata forms. In that time, composers did a much better job and it was also something to entertain the listeners, but on another level than the sort of ABBA thrown into the old man’s face.