Vienna Phil picks a young banger from Graz

Vienna Phil picks a young banger from Graz


norman lebrecht

May 14, 2018

Leonhard Waltersdorfer from Graz Opera has won an audition for a vacancy in the percussion section at the State Opera.

In three years’ time, if he bangs his drums right, he might be made a full member of the Vienna Philharmonic.




  • drummerman says:

    I strongly protest the use of the word “banger!!!”

  • Dr. Ronald C. Carlson says:

    The use of the word “banging” with to respect to percussion instruments demonstrates a deplorable insensitivity and complete lack of understanding of how musical sounds are elicited from these instruments.

    • a colleague says:

      oh, come on. next thing you’ll say is that “tooting” is insensitive to wind instruments… or “sawing away” is insensitive to stringed instruments…

      • Dr. Ronald C. Carlson says:

        “Banging” suggests mindlessly smashing a stick on a drum head, triangle, xylophone,….To me it is a much cruder and disrespectful term than sawing or tooting because in my experience too many listeners believe that “banging” is exactly what percussionists do.

        • Barry Guerrero says:

          I play percussion and low brass instruments (C tuba, Eb tuba, bass trombone, F cimbasso, Bb euphonium) and have no problem with anyone calling me a banger. Then again, I’ve been called much worse! Furthermore, it’s been my experience that some folks who can play excellent four-stick xylophone and marimba, sometimes underplay things that need a decent swing from time to time, such as tam-tams and bass drums. If the music says fortissimo, then we need to own up and be bangers.

          The percussion in the Vienna Phil. is quite interesting. They still play snare drum, bass drum and tam-tam while seated. Then tend to use a smaller, tighter sounding bass drum than usual (with a generally smaller mallet). They sometimes play the suspected cymbal one-handed, holding up the cymbal with their other hand. They just have their own ways of doing things.

  • Phillippa Ballard says:

    Would be like calling Norman a ‘scribbler’

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    Well yes, but there’s just timpani there. I do like the sound of the particular drums (timpani) they use in Vienna. I’m a fan of single stroke rolls too. I don’t think it would hurt to add triangle rolls in the coda – towards the end, where all the brass are going full-tilt boogie. Nobody would ever do that though.

    The VPO uses indigenous drums designed by Anton Mittermayer. They really hold their tone quality at loud volumes. I don’t think they would be ideal for Debussy or Ravel, but are great for everything from Haydn to Webern and beyond.

    • Barry Guerrero says:

      I like the 4 bar roll-off they do every year at the start of “Radetzky March” (New Year’s Concert). You get a good shot here of the snare drummer playing while seated. George Pretre is conducting.

      • Barry Guerrero says:

        Sorry to keep posting here, but this is just for folks who have an interest in this sort of thing. I have to correct myself: the timpani they use are called Schneller. Here’s a video of the very fine timpanist from the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra, Marinus Komst, visiting the Schneller showroom in Vienna. Some of you may very well recognize him: tall, thing and blonde. He’s says they use them in the Concertgebouw as well, but I don’t think exclusively so.

  • Ein Philharmoniker says:

    Mr Lebrecht,

    this fact is not correct. We were having a audition yesterday for two positions. Mr Waltesdorfer become the position of percussionist in the Stage Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera. This position is having no connection with acceptance in the Vienna Philharmonic Verein in the future.

    Johannes Schneider become the position of percussionist in the Orchestra of the Vienna State Orchestra. When he should be standing his time of probation in this orchestra, then he can after three years be applying for acceptance in the Verein.

    With respect, I request you to become confirmation of matters with names of persons – it otherwise is being embarrassing for the persons. I am sure, you are understanding!

    Greetings from Vienna

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    Either way, he looks like a nice guy. We wish him the best.