No relief for Christoph von Dohnanyi

No relief for Christoph von Dohnanyi


norman lebrecht

October 07, 2017

The conductor, still recovering from a fall earlier this year, has cancelled the Boston Symphony in November. Andris Nelsons will take over his concerts.


  • Sue says:

    I wish this wonderful maestro all the very best for a return to strength and good health.

  • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

    I wish him a speedy recovery and strong comeback to the stage. Nowadays we are in desperate need of such old-school, bodenständigen maestro/Kapellmeister like him, maybe more than ever! People are gradually sick and tired of all those “rising stars”, who all seem to be coming out of nowhere but TV casting shows. We have been longing to someone with an aristocratic root, like Christoph von Dohnanyi, who not only has a grandfather of music historical importance, but also a heroic Nazi fighter father and a top politician brother. The family of his mother side was highly respected as well.

    His tenure in the NDR Sinfonieorchester might be relatively low-key in terms of media coverage. But I still remember many of his wonderful concerts there, especially those with Bruckner, Brahms and Schnittke.

    He also opened my eyes to the music of Joseph Haydn. There is a great documentary film about his rehearsal of Hob.I:88 with the Philharmonia Orchestra.

    • Andrew Fischer says:

      All that you mention about CVD’s family is true but you quickly glossed over his mother’s side which is indeed impressive and no less historic. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, his mother’s brother is one of the greatest contributors to the preservation and promulgation of Biblical Christianity in the last two centuries. Instrumental in the German resistance movement and martyred, remaining faithful till the end.

  • Acastos says:

    I wish he would quit booking himself for concerts he inevitably cancels. He’s now cancelled at the Chicago Symphony 3 years running, and is still listed on the CSO website to conduct in the second week of November. What’s the betting he’ll cancel this appearance as well?

    • MacroV says:

      That’s just a function of the music business booking soloists and conductors years out.

    • Sasha says:

      Unfortunately that’s how music business works these days. Take Pierre Boulez for example – his name kept showing up in the seasons of major orchestras for five years prior to his death and each and every one of those concerts was canceled. Anyone who met him after 2010 could have said that this man is not going to conduct one concert more – but managers and orchestras knew that his name would nevertheless sell a lot of tickets. I love Dohnanyi and hope he is really going to bounce back – or announce his retirement like Kurt Sanderling famously did in 2002. But most conductors are unable to retire – they prefer dying with their boots on…

      • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

        Yeh, the name of Sir Colin Davis appeared on the program even AFTER his death … I booked that concert in the hope of seeing his reincarnation. But in the end, it turned out to be a memorial concert. Well, what should I say?

      • Acastos says:

        Interesting – and a possibility in my naivete I failed to consider. Orchestras will simply program renowned but ageing conductors with a history of chronic illness to attract low-information concert-goers, and then upon the entirely predictable cancellation, simply invite a lesser name (at a much lesser than budgeted fee) who will then “graciously” agree to step in. The “no refund” policy will then kick in to trap ticket-holders.

        Notice that this doesn’t seem to be a viable strategy with soloists…..

        • Nancy Neal says:

          Dohnanyi recently canceled on the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra for the second year running. I sent the PSO an email requesting that they not schedule him in future seasons, due to his advanced age, multiple health problems and repeated cancellations, not only of PSO performances, but many, many other performances in the U.S. and Europe. I stated, as a retired trial lawyer/law profesesor, that ” IF the PSO had a contract with him, that his actions and admitted health issues and advanced age combined to form grounds to claim breach of contract. If he insists on continuing to conduct until he dies “with his boots on” and baton in hand, please do not let it be in Heinz Hall (our PSO venue). ” Our Sunday afternoon concerts are played to an audience that is at least 50 percent white-haired/senior citizens – many with walkers, canes, even wheelchairs. The shock of seeing him collapse on stage could trigger some heart attacks/strokes among them – resulting in a batch of lawsuits against the PSO because it KNEW of Dohnanyi’s fragile health. Not the kind of PR any symphony desires. The man’s ego and denial of his own mortality may be driving him, but the symphonies don’t have to enable him. (And being 76 myself, I am not an age-ist, just being pragmatic.)

  • Steven says:

    Will he ever be back on stage? After almost one year? In his age? 88….