Dresden loses out in Thielemann’s Salzburg war

Dresden loses out in Thielemann’s Salzburg war


norman lebrecht

August 29, 2019

The falling out between Christian Thielemann and the Salzburg Easter Festival chief Nikolaus Bachler is likely to cost his Dresden Staatskapelle its valuable slot.

The orchestra has issued a statement declaring its loyalty to the Salzburg Easter Festival, with a contract that runs to 2022. ‘As a reliable partner of the Salzburg Easter Festival, we look with great confidence and joy to the coming festival years,’ it said.

The festival rather dustily replied that its contract runs out next year and is anyway linked to Thielemann’s:

The declaration of the Staatskapelle Dresden GbR published today is factually inaccurate.

The orchestra master agreement ends after the present contract situation in 2020. To extend it, an extension of the framework agreement expiring in 2020 between the Free State of Saxony and the Salzburg Easter Festival is required. This in turn is linked to the chief conductor contract of Christian Thielemann. So there can be no question of an independent effectiveness of the orchestral contract.




  • thomas says:

    Great loss to Easter festival if Thielemann leaves. He stepped in to save the festival when the Berlin abruptly left and has done a great job of programming and musical excellence. Although a bit difficult to deal with by administration types he remains one of the greatest conductors in the world today. I go every year to this festival and would hate to see the Dresden leave.


  • erich says:

    This is not an accurate interpretation of the facts. Dresden is subtly stating between the lines that contractually they can stay until 2022 with or without Thielemann. How matters will resolve depends on the Board meeting on September 17. It is highly unlikely that a rapprochement between Thielemann and Bachler can be achieved. The whole mess is entirely due to the stupidity and incompetence of the local politicians.

    • Tristan says:

      you don’t seem to be well informed, no wonder at the nonsense the Austrian press is writing, nothing more than fake news all over! I have also attended a few festivals there and even witnessed a few of the Association’s general meetings where the Board has been presenting the huge decline of members since Ruzicka is in poor charge! His, and CT’s artistic leadership are responsible for the poor status of the Festival! I urge you to go and see those masses of empty seats in the concerts even when CT is conducting! The patrons complained about it too and found it even intimidating to see so many emty seats; they pay a lot for those, definitely much more than in London, Paris or Rome!
      There were mediocre performances of Arabella, Otello, Tosca etc. The 2017 jubilee season was excellent but still planned by Peter Alward, the predecessor who had to leave as Thielemann favoured the totally overrated Peter Ruzicka who is mostly responsible for the poor artistic situation. Just have a look at next year when they offer a new Don Carlos with a much less attractive cast then p.e. London, Paris, Salzburg Summer Festival and Munich! Isn’t Thielemann’s specialty Wagner? These are the facts and nothing else and besides CT is apparently totally overpaid for those performances at a Festival he claims to be the only one responsible? It’s a fact that they like him in Bayreuth or Vienna (Wagner and Strauss!) but internationally he is not highly appreciated. One remembers the PROMS last year when but rather disliked Thielemann.
      Let us congratulate the shareholders to start a new chapter with a professional Manager like Mr.Bachler. He has proven it in Munich! PLUS there are so many attractive alternatives if CT would leave Salzburg the way he left Berlin and Munich! I think this man is not someone ‘to do business with’ but why not asking Serge Dorny for some advice or Andris Nelsons….

  • Gustavo says:

    Does the Staatskapelle Dresden really need Salzburg-promotion and/or a CT-contract?

    They should be treated as a stand-alone institution of the free State of Saxony.

    “Fort in die Freiheit!
    Da hin gehör’ ich,
    da, wo ich Meister im Haus!”

  • Olassus says:

    If anyone thinks Thielemann’s repertory is limited, they don’t know much yet about Petrenko’s!

    No grasp of Italianate music (think Mozart, Schubert). Fair Beethoven. Insecure Brahms. No Bruckner. Horrible Donizetti and Verdi (deracinated “Otello”). Poor Puccini. No Rossini.

    Wonderful of course in Strauss, Berg, Wagner. Also in Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Janáček and Scriabin. Good Elgar, Zimmermann.

    Berlin will be waking up to all this, once the honeymoon is over. Salzburg politicians will have to deal with the limitations too.

    • Tamino says:

      The times of the musical generalists in the conducting profession are over anyway, because the ‚historically informed’ stylistic variance and refinement has evolved greatly over the last 50 years.
      Karajan‘s Mozart sounded like his Brahms. Would be perceived as substandard today.

      • Olassus says:

        All true, Tamino, and I am grateful for Petrenko. I find it hard nonetheless to envision (for long) the Berlin Phil with a chief who has little grip on Brahms and avoids Bruckner.

        • Hermann Lederer says:

          Who told you he avoids Brahms? He conducted Brahms a lot in Munich. He conducted a sensational Brahms 4 with WP in Vienna last December. He is conducting this season Brahms with IPO. Nonsense. And he conducted Bruckner in his early days and I am sure he will come back to it… I think his repertoire is widely underrated. When you look the variety of repertoire in the few concerts he conducted in Berlin since he was elected and the results he achieved I think there is not much reason to be anxious for Berlin

          • Olassus says:

            Remember that he is still in Munich (as GMD). Past tense does not apply.

            He has not “conducted Brahms a lot” in Bavaria. The Double Concerto and the Second Symphony come to mind, and neither one was secure interpretively, to put it gently. In Vienna the Fourth may have been “carried” by the players, or perhaps it is a work Petrenko has mastered to some degree. But I can tell you that in the Second Symphony he was alarmingly uneasy, visibly irresolute.

            Friends in the orchestra have told me he has said he feels little or no affinity for Bruckner, or words to that effect, although he matured in the Vorarlberg along with the Bergkäse. At least he is honest.

          • kundry says:

            A Berlin Phil. Music Director who feels and professes no affinity for Bruckner – now, that is awkward. Maybe he will grow into it , with time….. wait ! I remember ….he is 47 and Berlin is not an orchestra where you learn repertoire. That is usually done somewhere else , we don’t care where, just don’t do it in the house of von Karajan and Furtwangler. Lightweights all around !

          • Saxon Broken says:

            He can find guest conductors for the stuff he doesn’t like. In any case, Rattle was hardly top notch in the core German repertoire, and he had a long career at the Berlin Phil.

    • Tichy says:

      Well, you’re not quite up to date:
      His inauguration in Berlin with Beethoven No. 9 (and No. 7 last year) was truly remarkable. You could feel he takes a lot of risks with his approach, testing new boundaries but still maintain a completely detailed and nuanced Sound. That is, what makes Petrenko exciting and why the BerlinPhil chose him.

      I heard live performances in Munich with Mendelssohn, Elgar, Rachmaninov, Medtner, Mahler, K-A. Hartmann, Wagner and Berlioz, even Sibelius No. 5. All of them were exceptionally well excecuted and performed. Then there was J. Suk and Franz Schmidt, Bernstein and Gershwin with the Berlin Philharmonic, too. Let’s see CT do that.
      Who knows, what Petrenko’s limits are. He still is trying a lot. But again, that is exactly what makes him special.

    • Anon says:

      Are you kidding? His Mozart is the best, along with Harding’s, nowadays.

  • kundry says:

    The Dresden authorities had the good sense of getting rid of Disaster Dorny ( and it was not cheap!) even before he was to start. An equally incompetent ( majority opinion in the business) Bachler, has moved his irrelevance from Munchen to Salzburg. In today’s world of ever lighter weights and robotic conductors, the likes of Thielemann and hard to find. Suggestion to the Salzburg board – get rid of Bachler, you will find a better manager in a matter of days!

    • ricci says:

      indeed, but why in the first place did they actually hired him? A nobody who got jobs because of Mortier’s doing, the mortier acolytes are horrendous

      • Hermann Lederer says:

        No the source of evil was Mortier himself!

        • Has-Been says:

          I think you should make your comments without trash talking the late Gerard Mortier. You may not have always agreed with his ideas [nor did I] but he was a genius who devoted his life to the advancement of opera and made a positive contribution. His ‘acolytes’ as you call them have been running successfully the opera houses in Frankfurt and Toronto.

        • ricci says:

          hmmm not completely, in his initial years in Brussels he brought many succesful productions and wonderful singers (yeah he went over his budget fair enough) and he DID know about opera and singers which his acolytes do not.

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    Dresden Staatskapelle was a good substitute for Berlin Philharmonic and is difficult to replace. Perhaps Leipzig Gewandhaus would be next. There are not so many more orchestras in Europe as superlative as these (the only others I can think of at this level are Vienna Phil & Bavarian Radio).

    • Evah Pirazzi says:

      What about munich phil, Concertgebouw or LSO?

    • Patrick says:

      What about Concertgebouworkest Amsterdam ?

    • erich says:

      Please do not forget the major advantage which the Dresden orchestra (only shared by Vienna and the Staatskapelle Berlin) holds for Salzburg: they are equally at home with symphonic AND operatic repertoire.

      • Gustavo says:

        So are the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and the Philharmonic Staatsorchester Hamburg!

        But why travel all the way to the average Salzburg Festspielhaus to experience their wonderful sounds?

        Leipzig is a great city. Opera and Gewandhaus vis-à-vis.

        So is Hamburg with Elphi and the wonderful Laiszhalle.

  • Tamino says:

    Karma – the Austrian Intrigantenstadl gives the Dresdeners now (kind of) back, what they conspired with Thielemann doing to Fabio Luisi.

  • Petros LInardos says:

    Rightly or wrongly, Thielemann has a history of falling out with administrations. We can’t judge these conflicts without inside information.

    I wonder about how he relates with orchestral musicians. How does he treat them and how do they relate to him, musically and personally?

  • Pedro says:

    I am a big supporter of the SKD and Thielemann and heard several remarkable concerts and opera performances in Dresden, from Mozart’s Requiem to Tosca. Judging from last Easter’s Meistersinger, I don’t think the Staatshapelle compares well with the VPO and the BPO in the Großes Festspielhaus acoustics. Maybe they should be kept in their city and organise there an Easrer Festival with the best available singers and soloists (and faster trains to Berlin and Prague!).

  • Nightowl says:

    In the above photo, how many squares can be counted?

  • thomas says:

    Interesting comments by all. Petrenko’s Beethoven 9 earlier this week in Salzburg was mediocre at best. Too much muscle in parts, uneven tempos, the glory and majesty of the work was missing. In the Tchaikovsky 5 the lush strings were ignored while he worked on the flute and oboe sections, seemed a bit odd. Having heard two concerts unfair to judge his work but was not impressed and certainly not in the league of Thielemann. The BPO is a magnificent orchestra and in my opinion bailed him out.

    • Anon says:

      Thomas, your judgment is not universal and reflects certain qualities that were very praised half a century ago. That gives us a guess about your age, but I digress. Fair enough that you don’t like Petrenko. Everybody has different tastes. That’s why we have so many conductors to choose from. There’s one for everybody!

  • Gustavo says:

    Salzburg managers have now published a press release in favour of Bachler.

    Thielemann had asked for clarification.

    He and Staatskapelle are out with Lohengrin in 2022.