Bayreuth names Valery Gergiev replacement

Bayreuth names Valery Gergiev replacement


norman lebrecht

July 30, 2019

The Putin conductor got booed and bad reviews for his disengaged reading of the new Tannhäuser, having spent the previous weeks conducting here, there and everywhere.

Bayreuth has leaked that he won’t be reinvited next year.

They have released the name of the 2020 conductor: Axel Kober of Düsseldorf, a dedicated Wagnerian who made his first Bayreuth appearance five years ago and can be guaranteed to stay on site through the rehearsal period.





  • erich says:

    Gergiev’s Tannhäuser conducting was stultifyingly boring and lackadaisical. Now Salzburg has to put up with his phoned-in Boccanegra as well.What is behind his engagement simultaneously at both Festivals? Could it be that there is Oligarch money being brandished and the Festivals need the cash?

    • V.Lind says:

      Interesting: I have been beginning to wonder about Gergiev’s continuing full diary. What else other than serious dosh would persuade major orchestras to take him on his conditions? With little or no rehearsal, let alone a slight getting to know you with the musicians, who can hardly be happy working under these circumstances…I can see a minor orchestra taking him for name value, but Salzbyrg and Bayreuth and wherever else he currently deigns to appear?

      He can’t personally need the money, but perhaps he likes the big stages and the nasty money sweetens the deal. Good on Bayreuth though for giving him the bum’s rush.

      • Silversled says:

        Since Maestro Gergiev’s rehearsal methods are very well known, might I make so bold as to ask who thought his engagement at Bayreuth was a good idea in the first place?

    • miketherookie says:

      Right on, man!! If you find Verbier boss interview on Russia you‘ll see what I mean

    • Edgar says:

      It gets worse: there is also “Frau ohne Schatten” in Verbier.

      Go figure…

      • Robert Groen says:

        Gergiev’s Mariinsky “Frau” was a triumph. He might surprise his detractors. Not that they would ever admit it, of course.

    • Tristan says:

      Salzburg has a bad IDOMENEO and well reviewed in the FAZ – May some people finally wake up? Sellars is immensely overrated and Salzburg generally has problems but so far a favorable press! The new management isn’t great at all and Gergiev for Simon Boccanegra a a total miscast – it’s probably the money of some oligarchs and Salzburg is mostly money – the audience the worst also

  • Olassus says:

    I doubt that Gergiev was ever contracted to do more than one Bayreuth summer, which is already an extraordinarily long commitment by his standards.

    • Gustavo says:

      So let it be Valery’s Soltiesque one-night-stand at Bayreuth.

      They are all posers.

      Even in the presence of the pope.

      And here is a lesson on how to run proper rehearsals.

      • Wimsey says:

        I think this is a bit unfair to Solti. His problem was not a lack of rehearsal (his Ring is available and sounds great), but he couldn’t stand the conditions in the pit, specially the temperature.

      • Jack says:


      • Luca Postorini says:

        Solti was present from the start at all rehearsals and collaborated closely with the production team. He found three “Rings” too much and, on his doctor’s advice, offered to take rehearsals and conducts one cycle the following year (remember both his mother and sister died prematurely from heart disease) but Wolfgang Wagner refused this compromise and claimed Solti “let him down”.

      • BrianB says:

        All of today’s conductors play the Pilgrim’ Hymn much too fast. Sounds glib and perfunctory. Toscanini though he liked fastish tempi, but not generally in Wagner, knew how it should go (much slower).

        • BrianB says:

          And I should have mentioned Furtwängler and Beecham as well. Mengelberg also (1932). They all “got” it.

          • Robert Groen says:

            Furtwaengler? Mengelberg? The well-known Nazi sympathizers? Such thoroughly objectionable characters can’t possibly have been great conductors!

    • Peter Schünemann says:

      I agree with Olassus. For the time between 23rd and 26thy of July, 2020 Gergiev will conduct four opera and concert performances at Baden-Baden Festival.
      BTW – Gergiev rehearsed this year in Bayreuth on 1./2.7., 10./11.7., 15./16.7., 19./20.7. (two rehearsals per day) plus the dress rehearsal on 23.7.). By his own standards pretty much rehearsal time – by Bayreuth standards not much or not enough.
      In the 90s Gergiev was invited by Wolfgang Wagner to conduct Parsifal in Bayreuth, but when Wolfgang requested to be present from May to August ……

  • John S Orel says:

    “Putin conductor”

  • Martinu says:

    Some years ago Gergiev was scheduled to conduct Mahler 6 with Israel PO. He arrived at the same evening of the 1st performance. Suppose almost no rehearsal for this colossal piece. The players looked utterly terrified. Many mistakes and accidents during performance.
    Some years later, he was scheduled to do Shostakovich 4. Another “tiny” piece, not done for dozens of years. At the day of the performance, at noon he was still stated as conducting, cancelling the same afternoon, few hours before the first concert in Jerusalem. Luckily, the concert was excellently rehearsed in advance by Yaron Gotfried, who saved the evening and conducted a very fine performance.
    Hope he will not be invited again for Israel Philharmonic!

  • Peter van Laarhoven says:

    As usual, your reporting on anything connected with Gergiev is full of false innuendo, but by now anything else would be a total surprise.
    1) Kober was already “leaked” before the Tannhäuser premiere by Markus Thiel, see Thiel’s twitter account. Gergiev is therefore not “replaced” but was never supposed to return in 2020 anyhow.
    2) You conveniently ignore the positive reviews in for example Frankfurter Allgemeine (“Hier hört man wirklich einen „Tannhäuser“ in der frühen Dresdner Fassung von 1845: leicht, biegsam, mit sprungbereiter Angriffslust, beweglicher Schwelldynamik, die gezielt in die Akzente schießt. Das ist achtsam gemacht, und das hat Glut”.), Deutsche Welle (“It was, in fact, a strong cast overall, and the chorus and orchestra performed impeccably under the Russian maestro Valery Gergiev”), Daily Telegraph (“a fine Bayreuth debut”)
    3) Gergiev spent 9 days of rehearsals in Bayreuth (July 1 and 2, 10 and 11, 15 and 16, 19 and 20, 23 (dress rehearsal), at least two full rehearsals per day).

  • LohengrinLoh says:

    Gergiev’s conducting is architectonic. None of living conductors today can electrify the orchestra and audience to the extent Gergiev does. He is a giant and one of the best Wagner conductors today. No doubt.

    I saw him conducting Parsifal in Vienna twice this year. Unforgettable. Read the critiques. His Khovanschina at La Scala was unbeatable. Not talking about his concerts with Mariinsky and Munich.

    I recall reading about his replacement by Axel Kober even before the premiere.

    Before writing mediocre comments about Maestro Gergiev, have a look around and find a conductor to surpass him. I do not see any.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    Gergiev always looks like he just got out of bed after a bad night (it’s tough to sleep on jetliners) and his conducting style (I certainly wouldn’t call it a “technique”) is moronic.
    He is too great (in his own mind) to actually rehearse the music he is to perform. He flies in at the absolute last minute, waves his little toothpick, grabs the cash, and flies out to the next gig.
    He is not a true musician. He is only in it for the money.
    He is loathsome.

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    Don’t forget he is with CAMI who have worked him hard for years and must have made a considerable amount.

  • Wimsey says:

    This will be the third production where Kober replaces another conductor. He’s Bayreuth’s new Peter Schneider.

  • Aga says:

    They doubt the skills of Gergiev but hail Klaus Florian Vogt and book him since years…I wonder if they might have a bad taste…

  • Novagerio says:

    This is a total and complete witch hunt and a level of
    hypocrisy that reaches the highest unimaginable peaks.
    He had the same difficulties as any Bayreuth-debutant, but still, some passages were far more illuminating than what otherwise is the “standard” norm of ordinary “dutiful” Kapellmesterei in today’s Bayreuth (excluding Thielemann).
    It could of course only have turned worse with Domingo as Tannhäuser-conductor, who, by the way, might have a few oligarch-friends himself, not necessarily making this a misdemeanor that belittles individual artistry (!!)

  • MacroV says:

    I don’t like Gergiev’s politics, but over the past 15 years I’ve seen him conduct a number of orchestras around the world, and I’ve never heard a disappointing performance. He has an amazing work rate.

    Years ago I recall reading an article where he talked about how hard he worked the Maryinsky Orchestra. When they complained, he made the point to them that if they’re going to go play on tour, it has to be of the highest quality. It’s a pity if he’s starting to phone it in; he can’t maintain that work rate forever.

    • miles away says:

      I watched Gergiev arrive late in PERM.
      We recorded his totally shambolic mess from start to finish.
      It’s almost hilarious if it were not so sad and an exercise in Mega-PR characteristic of RT and all the elite-power vertical-ers…

      If you have never seen a Gergiev “rehearsal” you have missed something, the fake star conducting on occasions an ensemble of fakers.

      I know some members of the orchestra.
      Some are good, some are mediocre, and I have personally watched the washout which was predictable from the moment Gergiev walsed in the door, and pretended to be a musician. The overhyped new mariinski concert hall is no better, a faker’s crap-shoot.
      Other Ilya Musin “stars” are no better, but best not name names eh?

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    Gergiev could have benefited from the insights of Christian Thielemann in conducting in that very unique auditorium. I doubt though that Thielemann gives any further advice after he burnt his fingers in trying to help Andris Nelsons.

  • Alan says:

    I think this was highly predictable. Shame on Bayreuth for even considering him.

  • Martin Snell says:

    Axel Kober acutally debuted at Bayreuth in 2013. He then conducted the even more problematic, ugly and hugely-unsuccessful Sebastian Baumgarten-staging of Tannhäuser, which concluded ahead of schedule in 2014, also with Axel Kober at the helm. He is an ideal singer’s conductor: consistent, gentle, attentive, expressive, musical, unassuming, patient, self-deprecating, unpretentious and a thoroughly charming person. Originally from Kronach in Oberfranken, Axel Kober is now Generalmusikdirektor at Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf, where he is greatly-valued and enjoys considerable success.

  • Silversled says:

    May I point out to all those who think they ‘see’ conductor conduct a work?

    We don’t see anyone conduct anything, just someone standing there waving their arms about.

    We hear a conductor’s interpretation.

    Whenever someone tells me “I saw so-and-so conduct such and such..” I tend not to take such tiresome dilettantism seriously because I believe they are there for the event, and not present for the experience. I think of it as musical tourism.

  • Jost Miehlbradt says:

    Gergiev conducts Putin? Seriously, such a reduction is even below Sun or Bild level.

  • Save the MET says:

    Having heard his god awful Mariinsky Ring Cycle when it came to New York City a decade, or so ago, it stands to reason his Tannhauser would not be worthwhile. He really doesn’t get Wagner, nor for that matter does he get most Western European composers and if he’s not with an orchestra that can operate on auto-pilot he gives some pretty lackluster performances.

    • DRB says:

      I saw that Mariinsky Ring as well. And one of his Parsifals at the Met around the same time. Unmitigated messes they were. Slipshod, uninspired conductor’s fancies.

  • Graeme Withers says:

    The boos in the last few minutes was for the production team, not Gergiev:

    • Gustavo says:

      Musically, I liked the final chord with timpani “thumper” very much. The first major boo was disgraceful! That can only have come from someone who wasn’t listening to the music or was on a political or social mission to Bayreuth.