A winter music festival keeps it all uneasily in the family

A winter music festival keeps it all uneasily in the family


norman lebrecht

February 18, 2018

Rumbles of discontent have reached us from Festival Next Generation in Bad Ragaz, Switzerland.

The festival is run by Drazen Domjanic of Liechtenstein, who is also founder of its resident orchestra, the Ensemble Esperanza.

So far, so music biz.

But the players were unhappy to discover that the artist in residence is none other than Sara Domjanic, the founder’s daughter. She gets to play the Mendelssohn violin concerto, the Piazzolla Four Seasons and Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy, as well as leading the Mendelssohn Octet and other chamber works.

The festival, to its credit, introduces other young artists as well, but none gets the prominence of Ms Domjanic.

One ensemble player tells Slipped Disc: ‘Many of us young musicians in the orchestra feel betrayed, as the idea of the orchestra is not to accompany exclusively the daughter of our director.’



  • Anna says:

    Dear Norman
    Many of us young musicians in the orchestra are proud of Sara, because she is a high level musican, and she is artist in residence NOT because she is the daughter of our director. What you wrote is bullshit. Sorry.
    Anna (Ensemble Esperanza)

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Clearly, your orchestra is divided on the matter or players would not have complained to me. In any event, it is very bad practice for a manager of a public-funded festival to appoint his child to a position of influence. NL

      • Marcel Louis says:

        Have you read what Pizzicato’s Remy Franck writes about your piece? I share his opinion.

        • norman lebrecht says:

          Why should I? He’s a hack on a free lunch.

          • Marcel Louis says:

            He has the background which you don’t know about.

          • Don the Jackson says:

            Oh please! Remy Franck advertises half of his website with Domjanic. Who pays for his stay in Bad Ragaz at the moment? At least be a bit less conspicuous.
            Remy Franck is known for his corrupted approach. As long you pay enough, he will write anything you want about you! Next time please provide a better source…

          • Helga Plank says:

            Why are you so bitter? No offers of free lunches?
            Perhaps the person who complained to you will invite you for writing destructive comments and the discrimination of successful musicians.

            And I didn’t get any benefits for writing this. I paid for my tickets to have the privilege of listening to an outstanding Ms Domjanic.

    • Anonymous friend says:

      Dear Anna,

      Not being a member of the ensemble yet being a friend of some of the members of the ensemble, I have reason to believe that you are not actually a player, but one fo the ensemble secretaries and festival organisers. Therefore, ‘many of us young musicians’ does not actually include you?

  • Objectivity says:

    Yes Helga, and Sarah’s name used to be Sarah Plank (to hide the domjanic connection) so it’s clear the nepotism continues! Knowing Drazen Domjanic personally, I’m not afraid to say that his business methods are questionable in the extreme and ethics and fairness don’t exist in his branch.

    • Nathan says:

      OMG, you are so right – her name was indeed Sarah Plank before. Just google Sarah Plank violin..
      So Helga, are you the mother of Sarah? If so, your comment “I paid for my tickets to have the privilege of listening to an outstanding Ms Domjanic” is hilarious!!!

      • Helga says:

        To Objectivity and Nathan: Obviously you use a pseudonym for your posts. I prefer to use my proper name, as I have nothing to hide.
        I am NOT Sara Domjanic’s mother, and you can believe it or not, I paid for my ticket. Hilarious, not so?

  • Heinrich Koch says:

    Dear Mr. Lebrecht,

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being such a beacon of righteousness in the crumbling world of classical music. I didn’t expect less from such a bright mind like yours.

    Being intrigued by so much investigational flamboyance I decided to look into the burning furnace of the scandal.

    And then (what a blinding surprise!), I quickly see that overwhelming false informations are fighting hard for space in your paper.

    It takes two minutes of research (I know, I know, “Why should you?”) to find out that:

    – ONE SINGLE unverifiable anonymus giving you some unverifiable claims doesn’t qualifiy for “Rumbles of discontent”.

    – No, the “players” didn’t discover that Mrs Domjanic would be Artist in Residence on the spot as you suggest. Mrs Domjanic has been apparently a member of the Ensemble Esperanza for years (last row of the violins on the videos, what a favoured treatment indeed!) and it has been decided last year already that she would solo this year.
    (By the way, nice use of the plural “players” to give the impression that some general unease exist in the Ensemble, which doesn’t seem to be the case as far as one can see).

    – No, she didn’t get to play the Mendelssohn concerto. She played Mendelssohn’s double concerto for piano and violin. It might be all the same to you but it’s probably not the same for Mrs Domjanic who visibly spent her first residency concert sharing the stage 50 % with the other Artist in Residence.

    – No, it isn’t true that “none gets the prominence of Mrs Domjanic”. Actually she is the Artist in Residence with the LEAST exposure during the festival. She will give one recital less than Aaron Pilsan, her solo playing time is incomparably shorter than that of Robert Neumann, and she is given a shorter interview than the same Mr Neumann. Is the difference between “none gets the prominence of Mrs Domjanic” and “all of them get MORE prominence than Mrs Domjanic” clear to you?

    – No, your source cannot claim that “many of us young musicians feel betrayed” when this source doesn’t speek for anyone else but him/herself. It is called usurpation of representation. By the way, it seems that so far the Ensemble stands strongly united, to your great disapointment I imagine.

    – No, the orchestra doesn’t “accompany exclusively the daughter of [the] director”. Actually, guess what, (do you see it coming?!), Mrs Domjanic will be accompanied by the Ensemble just as much as fellow Artist in Residence Robert Neumann, but more than that, Mrs Domjanic has been dutifuly playing in the orchestra for the previous 7 editions of the festival, accompanying dozens of soloist, and by the next edition she will be back to the accompagnying duty for the years to come. That’s “exclusively” for you, Sir.

    – And no, Mr Domjanic didn’t “appoint his child to a position of influence”. Soloing for three concerts with an orchestra which you’re part of for 5 years isn’t a “position of influence”. I’d like to know on what Mrs Domjanic is supposed to have influence with her two and a half solo appearances with the Ensemble Esperanza.

    Do you want to know what a position of influence in a public-funded institution is:
    Well imagine someone with a show on BBC 3 who use his public-funded fame to spread false informations and unverifiable dubious claims to get his advertising-funded blog running. Does that sound familiar? As you would say “So far, so music biz”.

    I know you won’t answer my comment. “Why would you?” You might very well delete it.
    You will probably not even take the time to read it.

    And that’s fine with me: you’d be better off taking this time to watch the video of Mrs Domjanic playing the Mendelssohn double concerto with Esperanza, where she let the violin do the talking. Something that, I don’t need to remind you, both you and I would be very incapable of.

    Sincerly yours

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Your real name is not Heinrich Koch. Your information is either partial or compromised.

      • Heinrich Koch says:

        Dear Mr Lebrecht,

        Thank you very much for your answer. I’m sincerly grateful that you took the time to read me and google my name.

        Indeed this is not my real name. I’m just following the custom here, where nobody dares to write to you in their own name (one really wonders why!).

        Therefore I have to ask myself: how did you verify the identity of your source to make sure that he/she is indeed a member of the ensemble and not an envious competitor?

        Let me just invite all your readers to do the same as I did: take a look at the facts and tell me where my “information is partial or compromised”.

        I look at it from the outside and I’m sure you mean well. I simply wonder why you invest so much bile into this affair which, obviously, isn’t one.

        Sincerly yours


    • Nathan says:

      What the hell is wrong with you people… Norman published a legitimate article about how a director of a Next Generation Festival positions his daughter in most of the concerts as a soloist and furthermore names her Artist in Residence! It doesnt matter when this was decided and for how long she is member of the orchestra. Have you people completely lost any sense for reality?
      The orchestra performs 3 concerts at this festival and in all three concerts she is a soloist. This is a festival publicly funded and it is is absolutely unacceptable to promote the own daughter. Anyone who does that should be ashamed.
      If his daughter is so OUTSTANDING, she should be artist in residence at other festivals… but she’s not… 🙂

      • Heinrich Koch says:

        Dear Mr Nathan,

        Thank you for your lively and colourful input.

        I don’t know exactly “what is wrong with me people”, but it is very fine indeed when Mr Lebrecht or yourself want to express a disaproval of the fact that someone would hire a relative to play in their festival.

        In that case the article should be called something like: “I personally find it unfitting that Mrs Domjanic is Artist in Residence in her father’s festival, eventhough she has all the credentials needed”, but of course it doesn’t sell that well. Nonetheless it would be an honest personal opinion that engages only its writer. And it would be worthy of debate.

        But that is by no mean the topic of this article. What it actuay states is that: Mrs Donjanic, because of her father’s intervention, gets a preferential treatment compared to other Artists in Residence and it brings the ensemble she is part of, to a frustrated discontentment.
        As it happens, none of these claims can be backed by factual evidence.

        I guess the use of a smiling face at the end of your comment means that you find it pleasant that Mrs Domjanic doesn’t have more than her father’s concerts to chew upon.
        Indeed she isn’t asked to play anywhere else, except in: Münich, Dubrovnik, Moscow, Berlin, Vienna, Zagreb, Cologne, Amsterdam, Zürich, Hong Kong, Dubai, Leipzig, Vaduz, Hamburg, Paris, Singapur, Washington, Oman, St Petersburg, Gstaad, Novosibirsk, Marseille…

        By the way, the fact that she will play a solo in every concert of this edition of the festival, that, my dear friend, is actualy the definition of being Artist in Residence. That’s what does the other Artist in Residence Robert Neumann, too. This is why it is called “in residence”.

        Sincerly yours

        • Lucas says:

          Well, if you knew the situation more exactly, you would know that most all of Sarah’s performances are from her father, who is also her agent. Nothing wrong with that but most of the cities you listed are partner cooperations with her father’s festival and masterclass. It’s easy to have artist exchanges with such an organization, you see.