Maestro quits: Finn is over Cologne

Maestro quits: Finn is over Cologne


norman lebrecht

December 01, 2017

Jukka-Pekka Saraste has told the WDR Symphony he will leave in 2019.

The Finn, 61, has been in charge since 2010. ‘One should stop when it is most beautiful,’ he says.



  • Qwerty1234 says:

    Any ideas for potential successors? It’s a good orchestra that could benefit from a strong artistic vision.

  • Anton Bruckner says:

    It is indeed a good orchestra which is ideal for an out of the box conductor and serious music making. Not empty PR stardom but musicianship. I would go for Volkov.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Out of the box is for WDR very difficult: they do their regular concerts, which are less than before (competition with the Gürzenich orchestra), and the modern music concerts are even much more less, with less and less audience attendance. In former times, WDR was an explorative radio orchestra dedicated to the aural devastation of postwar modernity, but that has not quite established itself as a viable option today. If they would want to offer an alternative to the Gürzenich, and attract interested, musical audiences, they could think of delving into new tonal music as being practiced in the USA (Daniel Asia, Jonathan Leshnoff, Stephen Albert, Aaron Jay Kernis, Pierre Jalbert, Daniel Gilliam, Jake Heggie, Paul Moravec, to name a few successful new tonalists) or in England (David Matthews, Peter Fribbins, Sally Beamish, James Francis Brown) or France (Nicolas Bacri, Guillaume Connesson, Karol Beffa, Thierry Escaich) – but that would require curiosity and an explorative spirit and the courage to ignore the German moralistic imperative of Nachkriegsschuldbewältigungsideologie which instructs programmers to see indigestable modernism as a sign of being on the moral right side of history.

      • Ungeheuer says:

        Nachkriegsschuldbewältigungsideologie : priceless

      • Meal says:

        I do not see that the WDR orchestra has reduced its schedule in most recent years. However, Jukka-Pekka Saraste does less travelling with his orchestra than Bychkov used to do. Indeed, the concerts of the WDR orchestra attract less audience than the Guerzenich Orchestra although it tended (tends?) to be a bit better than the latter one (my very personal view). The Guerzenich has improved in recent years and has even further improved since Roth has taken the batton. Both orchestras include “modern” pieces in their program, I do not see such a big difference at that point. I believe the main reason is that the Guerzenich Orchestra has stronger connection to local politics and local media. By people in Cologne it is regarded as “their” orchestra where as the WDR orchestra is just the WDR orchestra.

        • John Borstlap says:

          New music at WDR tends to be for small ensembles and not full orchestra, I think they present other type of repertoire, maybe what was in former times called ‘hard edge’. The Gürzenich has to take audience pain resistance into consideration.

  • brian says:

    I have no expertise to speculate on the line of succession; I’m just pausing to enjoy that quote, ‘One should stop when it is most beautiful…’ — imagine if marriages ended that way!

    • John Borstlap says:

      Indeed, that would cause engagements already being broken-off long before the wedding day. Or: leaving partners in perfect bliss after a divorce (‘Finally free!’) after which they want to marry again to be able to divorce again.

    • Meal says:

      I see your point. But: You cannot change/improve your husband or wife; therefore you should stick with what you have. But you can change an orchestra. Don’t get me wrong: Jukka-Pekka Saraste is an excellent musician and a fine man but I think he is right to leave the orchestra. The orchestra might profit form new musical inspiration (as they did when JPS came). They may also profit from someone who gets the orchestra better involved in social life and gets more publicity.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Radio orchestras are for radio broadcasts, so their outlet is both more abstract and more national…. this may create a certain mentality while the typical local orchestra, much more dependent upon audience attendance, usually puts more efforts in the cultivation of the contact with their audience.

        • Meal says:

          Completely agree. The point is: When they sell only half or two thirds of the seats (I have attended some excellent concerts with such little audience) questions arise whether we still need those radio broadcast orchestras. Therefore, I think the WDR has to take care that concerts get better sold (which should not mean that they lower quality!). Luckily, the most recent and future concerts with WDR and JPS are (almost) sold out (Beethoven cycle).