A maestro marriage is over

A maestro marriage is over


norman lebrecht

August 04, 2019

A divorce has been finalised between Sir John Eliot and Lady Isabella Gardiner after 25 years of marriage.

The pair had no children.

The maestro, 76, is reported to have other interests. He is conducting West Side Story this week at the Edinburgh Festival.

Isabella, 59, granddaughter of Victor De Sabata, met him while PR-ing for Deutsche Grammophon.




  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    I have never imagined him to conduct the West Side Story, a score which would benefit from a moratorium, lasting perhaps 30 years.

    • FrauGeigerin says:

      An overrated piece by an overrated composer (and, yes, an overrated conductor too). If he had not been the first US-born musician to hold a major conducting position and received so much PR in the USA for it, we wouldn’t had been hearing so much about him.
      I had such a bad time last season playing all those awful pieces by Bernstein because it was his anniversary.

      • Adam Stern says:

        All very subjective, of course… I don’t think everything Bernstein wrote is of top-drawer quality (some of the late works are, to me, impossibly kitschy and cloying), but I’d personally take what I think are the best works (the first two symphonies, the “Serenade” for violin, “Facsimile”, “Candide”, and, yes, “West Side Story”) over anything written in the last ca. 60 years by the American avant-gardists, serialists, and (especially) minimalists.

      • Mick the Knife says:

        I’m sure you played them beautifully.

      • 8VA says:

        Poor you. How awful to have to play Trouble In Tahiti or Candide, eh?

      • guest says:

        Alfred Wallenstein started with the LA Phil in 1943. So, Bernstein wasn’t the first.

        • AllanC says:

          Even though the orchestra had some excellent musicians who left in Europe before and during the war (including Klemperer, who was MD for 6 years), I would not call the 1943 LA Phil a major orchestra or Wallenstein a major conductor. Yes, Bernstein was the first american conductor to reach the level of importance of european conductors both at home and overseas. I also don’t like his compositions very much, but he was, definitely, a good conductor.

      • Laurence says:

        I had a bad time reading your snide and misguided comment, which is sneakily anti Semitic. But I defer to your obvious talent among the second violins of a provincial orchestra…

        • FrauGeigerin says:

          LOL What do you know about me? I am 99.9% sure I play in a more important orchestra than you do. But think whatever you want, I could not care less.

          Antisemitism? If I criticise a jewish composer I am antisemitic? So, not praising a jewish composer is antisemitism? Nonsense.

        • DennisW says:

          Nothing anti-semitic in what she said. But, resort to ad hominem attacks is the refuge of people who have nothing substantive to say.

          • Laurence says:

            I agree that there was nothing overtly anti Semitic in what she said, just as the resistance to Mahler’s music by a certain Austrian orchestra was always justified on aesthetic grounds. Bernstein himself has pointed out that when he first conducted them, certain players grumbled that Mahler was “scheissmusik”—no one in his right mind would have expected them to openly have called it “judenmusik”. But the extremity of their distaste seemed to go beyond merely aesthetic differences.

        • Martain Smith says:

          Could you please explain the aforementioned anti-semitism for the uninitiated!

      • Moishezmom says:

        Would you like some cheese to go with your whine?

        • FrauGeigerin says:

          Would you like some crackers to go with your petulance?

        • Conductor1990CT says:

          Now, here we have a second class musician – freelance playing cello with some of the worst per-service orchestras – with nothing to say or offer but mockery. Very nice. Very nice indeed.

      • AnneYung says:

        Couldn’t agree more.

      • Nick2 says:

        West Side Story is one of the greatest musicals of all time and will stand the test of time.

      • Una says:

        In your opinion … but I love Bernstein’s music and his conducting, as I like so many other composers.

  • Does this mean that during the marriage Aldo Ceccato was his father in law?

  • Norbert says:

    Gwyneth Wentink – like a lamb to the slaughter…..silly girl.

    What does it say about a man when he is thrice married?

    Some fundamental personality issues going on there….

    • John Borstlap says:

      Although I have not much experience with marriage – have been married only once – it seems a bit premature to draw conclusions about an intimate relationship from such flimsy bit of news. I know of couples who think back to their divorce with sympathy and pleasure because it went so easily.

      • Norbert says:

        May I say, with respect, that is a somewhat naive comment…..as anyone familiar with his temperament and demeanour will amusingly attest!

        • John Borstlap says:

          In theory it is possible that Gardiner’s intensity, fast tempi and rough dealings with players and singers was caused by the much too harmonious atmosphere at home where the sweetness of happiness pre-empty any primitive fit of anger. So he took it out on the players. Now that she is gone, he may suddenly become extremely gentle in rehearsel but his performances may suffer.

          • Randy says:

            I attended a couple of concerts (Haydn, Schumann) in Munich two months ago, with JEG conducting the BRSO. By then the wedding ring had already been gone from his hand. But that was a terrific experience, he was the same sharp, precise, concentrated music driving power as ever. So hopefully there isn’t any connection here

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Yes, got to agree with that. Significant red flags flying.

  • Esther Cavett says:

    Maybe JEG will copy John Cleese and do an ‘Alimony Tour’ to raise money for his growing list of ex-wives

  • allen says:

    Schadenfreude 😉
    never before have I witnessed so much negative energy spread so intensely by one person in this business, and I speak from the experience of working closely hand in hand with him for the greater part of a year.

  • Mario says:

    Let me guess…59 years old is now “too old” for Mr 76yr old. Therefore, he has found a younger one, so that he can go on deceiving himself (not us) that he in his thirties.


  • John Kelly says:

    DeSabata. Now HE was a conductor…….

    • 18mebrumaire says:

      He’s been dead for over 50 years ffs!

      • Martain Smith says:

        The fact of his demise doesn’t make him any less great – as recordings well testify (likely to the chagrin of some of today’s “interpreters)! Many current “names” could learn a great deal in discovering the essence of his – and a number of his contemporaries’ – prevailing success!

  • Chris says:

    So much negativity regarding both the man (both as a man and as a musician) and his ex-wife.

    One can only hope that each comment is based on PERSONAL knowledge of them both.

    I never worked with him, but I have great admiration for someone who put so much energy into his professional work, as well as spending hours and hours in studying the work of the truly GREAT composers – then applying th fruits of his studies to realising the pieces in performances and in recordings.

    • Norbert says:

      The comments here Chris, are only the printable ones…..

      Think of the worst story you ever heard about him, then double-it, and add some sprinkles on top…and that’ll be a good beginning.

      The only thing he will leave of any value to humanity is an excellent book on Bach, and some superb recordings. The man himself is “unreliable” in the human sense.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Maybe he put all his best characteristics in one single box and there was nothing left to share with the world in a more direct way. A case of depletion and prioritizing. I am also a noble gentleman cultivating the hightest standards of humanism and civility, but cannot restain from treating staff in the most abject manner, it’s stronger than me.

  • Adam Stern says:

    “Never write what you dare not sign. An anonymous letter-writer is a sort of assassin, who wears a mask, and stabs in the dark. Such a man is a fiend with a pen. If discovered, the wretch will be steeped in the blackest infamy.”
    — Charles Spurgeon

  • Esther Cavett says:

    The reviews are out of JEG’s West Side Story and it seems to have been great success ? JEG even plays Officer Krupke

  • Edgar Self says:

    Anyone else like Gardiner’s Debussy CD with the with the VPO?

    Good catch “guest” for Alfred Wallenstein and the LAPO, also AllenC for Klemperer, who was preceded by Willem van Hoogstraten.

    By Wallenstein’s last concert in 1956 the LAPO weren’t bad: Brahms second and Sibelius with Heifetz.– OrsonWelles, Albert Basserman, and Rachmaninoff’s friend soprano Nina Koshetz in the audience. They called it Wallenstein’s Camp after Schiller’s play. She entered through a luckily open double door,

    Wallenstein was NBC’s solo cellist under Toscanini. another cellist. His first cellist at LAPO was Kurt Reher, who went on to the NYPO. Reher said the best cellist in L.A. was George Neikrug who played with a studio orchestra.

    I’m not side-tracking this thread; it was side-tracked alfready.