The latest iconoclastic investigation by VAN magazine contains much that is discussed openly among musicians but has never before found its way into print.
In musical circles, Barenboim’s temper is legendary. He has thrown fits because a violist rolled his eyes, because a singer bowed in the wrong place, because a favored principal player was on vacation. He once berated a musician who lacked concentration because someone in their immediate family had died. He has insulted a doctor who said that a performer with a stomach flu was too sick to play. On at least two occasions, he has allegedly grabbed and shaken members of his staff in anger.
“I always say it’s a climate of fear,” said a current employee at the Staatsoper. Barenboim was raised at a time when being authoritarian was practically in the job description for a conductor. At the beginning of his tenure, the concentration of power in his hands was productive, allowing him to effectively reshape the large institution. Now, Barenboim is always on the minds of his staff, whether he’s actually in the house or not. “You can always feel when he’s here, because everyone is tense all of a sudden,” said a player in the Staatskapelle orchestra academy. When he’s away, the orchestra is less on edge, “as if it needed to take a few deep breaths and relax.” As several sources told VAN independently, Barenboim expects staff to visit his green room and praise him after performances. Those who don’t risk falling out of favor.
In at least one instance, current artistic director Matthias Schulz met with Barenboim and an employee to discuss an instance of physical aggression, and declined to take concrete action, a source claimed. (The source was able to describe the situation in detail.)
The article is by Jeffrey Arlo Brown and Hartmut Welscher.
Read the full article here.