More German regression: Eschenbach gets new job

More German regression: Eschenbach gets new job


norman lebrecht

October 24, 2017

It is reported that Christoph Eschenbach, 77, will replace the inspirational Ivan Fischer next year as head of Berlin’s Konzerthausorchester. UPDATE: It’s now confirmed.

Yesterday, Marek Janowski, 78, was named as next head of the Dresden Philharmonic.

The acerbic commentator Manuel Brug suggests that ex-East German orchestras are looking fixedly backwards.




  • Jon H says:

    Reiner was 60 when he took on CSO; Toscanini was 70 when he took on NBC Symphony. It’s an opinion, but I think those conductors have the most to offer the orchestras, because they’ve put in the time with the orchestras and the music. Younger conductors may have talent and promise, but they can’t have the same perspective – because this is an environment where you really learn by doing.

    • Jon H says:

      It may come down to details of a performance, but if every second you know what not to do from experience – you’re going to be better.

    • Jon H says:

      And if you’re British, Elgar and RVW are in your blood and part of your patriotism – and I think the same applies to German conductors (and orchestras) for Beethoven and Brahms. A lot of others have gotten good at it, but as in America we discovered when the Szells, Reiners, Walters, etc. passed away – the next generation just didn’t have the same affinity with Mozart, etc. And the orchestras/public got used to a foreign conductor showing us how it’s really done – because that’s where much of the music has come from – and where the standards were high – in Berlin, Vienna, etc.
      The circumstances were unfortunate, but if we were to remove that part of musical history in America, and just had who was here to learn from, there’s no way things would’ve been as good.

  • harold braun says:

    Manuel Brug is the biggest gasbag in Germany h

  • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

    I never understand why people here hate Eschenbach so much. He is a very fine conductor and pianist. Also a real German.

    • Michael Evans says:

      He is a MUSICIAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Dennis Ferry says:

        When someone is on the podium, we don’t want merely a fine musician. We want a competent conductor. Eschenbach is NOT a competent conductor

    • NYMike says:

      Eschenbach’s appointment as MD of the Philadelphia Orchestra was DISASTROUS!

      • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

        Even more disastrous than becoming “the first major U.S. orchestra having filed for bankruptcy”? That was on April 16, 2011, several years after his leave.

        • ben LEGEBEKE says:

          Eschenbach is a very mediocre conductor, but a very fine pianist on the contrary. He made a great recording of Beethoven’s fifth concerto with Ozawa. Unbelievable he got an orchestra like the Philadelphia! This has nothing to do with his quality as a conductor more with politics. Nowadays not one leading orchestra is waiting for him.

        • Ben says:

          The Chapter 11 was just a sly stunt by Alison to push the musicians around. The biggest disaster of Philadelphia is Alison, IMHO, with Eschenbach a close second.

        • NYMike says:

          Comparing board financial malfeasance with terrible conducting is the same as comparing the proverbial apples and oranges. One has nothing to do with the other. The PO’s chapter 11 faux bankruptcy was a successful attempt to rid itself of its defined benefit pension plan – nothing more. Perhaps if you lived here, you might have an inkling of what you think you’re talking about. So many bloviators here with so little knowledge……

      • Richard says:

        I saw Eschenbach’s debut with the NY Phil, a disaster. Years later he took over a demoralied Houston Symphony and made it do great things. I’ve also heard a few good recordings with European orchestras. He’s had missteps, the “Tzimon Barto” episode among them, but he is still a fine musician.

    • Gwy says:

      No he is an awful conductor.
      Just think about what he did with orchestre de Paris.

      • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

        If what you were referring to was French repertoire, then I don’t want to have any comment. French people are always extremely proud of their own culture heritage. Sometimes at the edge of chauvinism.

        Judging from what I have seen and heard, his Mahler cycle with Orchestre de Paris was very nice. It was for sure one of the best filmed concerts. Normally I find it stupid to watch concerts as video. But not this one. Kudo to the video director and his team. Furthermore, it was certainly not badly played.

        • Gwy says:

          Apparently, you didn’t hear his Ring at Theatre du Chatelet.

          • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

            No, to be honest, I didn’t. Do you have a link to that Ring? In fact, I am not aware of he being an overly active Wagner conductor.

            From the few concerts I have experienced so far, which mainly consisted of German romantic repertoire like Schubert, Brahms, Mahler and Bruckner, Eschenbach was certainly not doing a bad job. I have to admit that his interpretation will never get liked by everyone, but at least it was never boring. And he can always pull out a unique sound out of the orchestra, which is quite precious nowadays.

        • NYMike says:

          Eschenbach’s Mahler 3rd with Philadelphia @ Carnegie during his (thankfully) last year as MD nearly fell apart from lack of pulse. My PO orchestra friends were ecstatic to see him leave.

  • PaulD says:

    This would be the second time that Eschenbach has followed Fischer, though Fischer did not have the title of MD with the National Symphony Orchestra in DC.

  • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

    Regression or not, is not the right question to ask.
    We only want to know, do progressive orchestras, like those with young, female or Jewish GMDs, sound better than the regressive ones?

    • Anon says:

      YES! Berlin Kozerthaus Orchester is pretty lame.

    • Anton Bruckner says:

      What do you mean by Jewish GMD? Are there differences between Jewish and Christian GMDs? Or you are just languishing the present situation that race, gender and religion are no longer relevant? Your next step would be to call orchestras with Jewish plsyers as progressive. Quite a shameful comment.

    • Jon H says:

      We want young musicians to continue to do the best they can – so that one day they will be older, experienced – and show us where the gold is in all this music. If they do that, things will be moving forward.
      There are just some things out there that might make money but aren’t really seeing that goal.

  • Sue says:

    What do you mean by “more German regression”?

  • Dennis Ferry says:

    Bullshit. Hiring an older conductor is not looking backwards. If he or she is great conductor, age has nothing to do with anything. If you were in the administration of an orchestra or any organization, you would be sued for comments like this. Norman, if you can’t “get it up” anymore at your age (69), that doesn’t mean others at your age or older have the same problem.

    • John Borstlap says:

      The point is, whether orchestral staff who hire an ‘old’ conductor, remember what the future will bring.

      ‘It is a poor sort of memory that only works backwards.’

  • RW2013 says:

    He elicited (despite his bizarre “technique”, which probably earned him the nickname of “Fuchtelfinger”) some very good results from the Berlin DSO last season.
    The DSO would certainly rather have had him as their new chief than what they’ve been burdened with.

    • Anon says:

      but he looks so cute, that new DSO chief conductor. Looks matter most in the music business. We all know that.

    • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

      I agree 100% with you both concerning Robin Ticciati! After hearing him live in a few occasions conducting absolutely first-rate orchestras, I can confirm that he is nothing but just another big big flop. He can’t even probably become the next Daniel Harding.

  • Disappointed says:

    It saddens me to read about the appointments of Janowski and Eschenbach. These are both Music Director figures who are completley uninterested in doing anything that might make classical music more accessible to a wider audience. They are completely uninterested in community engagement, only marignally interested in educational initiatives and unimaginative when it comes to having a vision for running an orchestra in this day and age.

    Being a Music Director is more than simply making music and I’m afraid these two maestros are not going to want to do much more than conduct their Bruckner symphonies, go directly from stage to dressing room to hired car to hotel. How is this going to help the orchestras that they are leading?

    These German orchestras are terrific but I fear that they will become irrelevant and dusty under the leadership of these two men who seem to believe that classical music is only meant for the elite.

    Very disappointing choices by the management of both orchestras, who no doubt wanted “as big a name” as they could manage without truly thinking about what this means in the long-term.

    • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

      The only single sensible way to reach out for newer and younger audience is making great classical music. As I was a kid and started to get in touch with classical music, I was not attracted by some water-down “peripheral programs” geared towards kids or young people. Instead, I was just fascinated by the shear quality of REAL & UNCOMPROMISED classical concerts and recordings.

      • Ungeheuer says:


      • Anon says:


      • Disappointed says:

        Analeck, I’m afraid my comment was misinterpreted to mean that watered-down programs are necessary to draw in new audiences. You are definitely correct that the quality of the music-making should be enough. However, a Music Director for any orchestra in this day and age has a responsibility that extends beyond the podium. Being engaged with the community does not mean one has to water down programs. Being interested in reaching younger audiences and being inclusive also does not mean watering down programs.

        I would be very interested to know if there are any orchestras who are managing to reach new audiences and keep their halls full without engaging with the community and without having new initiatives to be more inclusive. Perhaps you know?

  • Anon says:

    It’s strange how it’s never an age related regression for Norman Lebrecht, if Menahem Pressler is entering the stage.