Vienna Philharmonic violist marries Japanese film star

Vienna Philharmonic violist marries Japanese film star


norman lebrecht

December 04, 2018

We are delighted to learn that Thilo Fechner, a member of the Vienna Philharmonic viola section, has married Miki Nakatani, a Japanese film and television star.

They met two years ago at a Vienna Phil concert in Tokyo.

You see, some good does come out of incessant touring.

If only for the violas.



  • Very nice news. I wonder when the Vienna Phil will get its first fully Asian member. It doesn’t have any, but most major orchestras in Western Europe and the USA have quite a few. The Chicago Symphony, for example, has 18.

    In his memoirs, published in 1970, Otto Strasser, a former chairman of the Vienna Philharmonic describes the problems blind auditions caused:

    “I hold it for incorrect that today the applicants play behind a screen; an arrangement that was brought in after the Second World War in order to assure objective judgments. I continuously fought against it, especially after I became Chairman of the Philharmonic, because I am convinced that to the artist also belongs the person, that one must not only hear, but also see, in order to judge him in his entire personality. […] Even a grotesque situation that played itself out after my retirement, was not able to change the situation. An applicant qualified himself as the best, and as the screen was raised, there stood a Japanese before the stunned jury. He was, however, not engaged, because his face did not fit with the ‘Pizzicato-Polka’ of the New Year’s Concert.”

    • Bviolinistic says:

      What has that got to do with Thilo and Miki?

      • Bill says:

        It involves a member of the Wiener Philharmoniker, so WO feels compelled to bring up his complaints about the orchestra, just in case we haven’t seen them. Who knows, maybe he writes similar letters to the editor of any news outlet that publishes a review of a WSO/WP performance.

        It might be a little more appropriate if Thilo was leading the charge to keep the orchestra filled with nothing but white European men, but that seems unlikely, barring evidence to the contrary.

        • jaypee says:

          Interestingly, he never writes about the under-represation of African-Americans in American orchestras…

          But, you’re right (“WO feels compelled to bring up his complaints about the orchestra, just in case we haven’t seen them”). Basically, he is to gender issues what John Borstlap is to modern music.

          • Mick the Knife says:

            I went to a sold out concert in a predominantly black city. Not one black person out of a couple thousand in the audience. Any concern about that?

          • To Mick the Knife. Yes, I and many others have deep concerns about the lack of diversity in American orchestras and their public. This is a very serious problem and fortunately there is a lot of work being done on it, even if progress must by necessity be slow. It is an entirely different matter, and far more egregious morally, when an orchestra like the VPO has a long history of intentionally excluding Asians out of the belief that it would harm the orchestra’s image of Austrian authenticity. American orchestras are working to alleviate a legacy of racism, while the VPO appears to be practicing an on-going racism. To deny these obvious facts is a rationalization of racism, and thus racist in itself.

          • To belabor the obvious, the difference is that the VPO has a history of intentionally excluding qualified Asians, while American orchestras suffer from a lack of qualified black applicants. When available, they are happy to have them.

            Can anyone provide evidence similar to the statement of Otto Strasser above of an American orchestra purposely excluding blacks? Of course not.

            Nevertheless, these self-evident facts will mean nothing among a large part of the readers here. The comments section of SD has become known as the Breitbart of classical music. It’s a sobering reminder of where much of the classical music public really stands and how much work is still to be done.

          • It is interesting to consider that if SD began requiring commentators to use their real names, the countless sexist and racist comments would immediately cease. One of the problems the Internet faces is that anonymous commentary has given a huge forum to hatred under the protection of anonymity. In a metaphorical sense, the Web has become something like the cone shaped hoods worn by the Ku-Klux-Klan.

          • Saxon Broken says:

            The “cone shaped hoods” are called a cowl. They have been worn for over 800 years. Only in the US are they associated with the KKK. Cowls are worn by many lay religious fraternities (societies) to ensure that all members, not matter their status outside the organisation, are held to be equal within the organisation.

          • Mick the Knife says:

            Isn’t the use of the word “suffering” as you have racist? To assert that an orchestra suffers because a black person isn’t playing trombone, or whatever is a wrong.

          • Michael Endres says:

            “The comments section of SD has become known as the Breitbart of classical music.”

            Maybe you should learn to accept other opinions without hyperventilating and hijacking unrelated articles for your agendas.

            “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. ”
            ( F. Scott Fitzgerald )

          • Indeed. And it’s time for the VPO to open itself to some new ideas about race.

          • MacroV says:

            An idiotic statement, and an apples-to-oranges comparison. There are plenty of highly-qualified Asian musicians in the world – graduates of top conservatories – and most major orchestras have a decent number of them; Chicago, as Mr. Osborne points out, has 18. Even the Berlin Philharmonic has several (including a first concertmaster and a principal viola). There are not remotely as many similarly qualified black musicians in the United States. That’s a problem that needs to be addressed at the grassroots; there is no evidence of their being rejected at the audition stage.

    • Novagerio says:

      And when will we see more afro-american faces in top positions in top US orchestras?
      A good old saying goes “Clean your own doorstep before you attempt to clean someone elses”…

      • DennisW says:

        Perhaps everyone should stop with the racial obsessions and bean-counting, and just focus on hiring the best talent. Period.

        A propos of your question, when are we going to see more white faces in starting positions in the NBA, or on the R&B charts, or in Jazz ensembles?

        • jaypee says:

          A propos of your question, when are we going to see more white faces (…) in Jazz ensembles?

          You’re kidding, right?

      • I’ve lived in the German-speaking world for the last 39 years. it is my doorstep. As for some of the comments here, people reveal their racist impulses when they pit one form of racism against another to rationalize bigotry. The VPO’s exclusion of Asians is beyond the pale. There is no other art form where such behavior would be tolerated.

  • Jonathan Dunsby says:

    He’s more than a viola player. Bit of a Clive Gillinson :

    “Since 2005 he has been responsible for the planning and execution of the tours of the Vienna Philharmonic, as well as project manager of the largest classical open air concert in the world, the “Summer Night Concert” in Schönbrunn.

  • Peter says:

    Why not just say “How nice. Congratulations to the couple” ?

  • Vaquero357 says:

    Congratulations to the newlyweds.

    To everybody else: the Vienna Phil can run itself any way they want. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to go to their concerts, buy their records, watch them on TV, etc.