More hype for the cult of Currentzis

More hype for the cult of Currentzis


norman lebrecht

November 18, 2019

The Lucerne Festival is promoting its next saviour with a video that is causing bewilderment and dyspepsia across the classical world.

Not to be outdone, the Dutch have awarded their Edison Klassik to Teodor Currentzis for a Sony recording of Mahler 6.

Any more hype and hot air and he’ll become Icarus.


  • Rob says:

    He’s a great musician!! His conducting of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto is one of my favourite recordings of that work.

  • FrauGeigerin says:

    A disgrace for the Lucerne Festival. There was a time when managers, artistic directors, and critics had criteria and understood what artistry and skill was and who had it. Nowadays, except some honorable exceptions, these persons must have grown up watching pop video clips on MTV and studied marketing, because they don’t seem to have knowledge of real music and musicians. The presence on the podium of people like Currentzis, de la Parra, and Schiff with major festivals and orchestras is proof.

  • Lohengrinloh says:

    As one Austrian journalist wrote: you can grade him with 10 or 0. Nothing in between.

    I would definitely go for 10. Each concert with him stays as a revelation.

  • John Borstlap says:

    My impression is that he is a good conductor – but it is as with weddings: the more ostentatious, the more likely the marriage won’t last.

  • May says:

    Teddy is the ultimate conductor for our narcissistic age:

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Don’t talk about you; talk about meeeeeeeee.
      Now that we’ve talked about me, let’s talk about meeeeee.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    Mr. Lebrecht, you have already made abundantly clear you don’t like Currentzis. We would be interested to read why. Have you reviewed Currentzis’ recording of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony? If so, can you please provide us a link?

    • Rob says:

      I have heard this recording. It’s very good -excellent sonics! (the first movement interpretation is similar to Bernstein’s VPO recording). My favourite Mahler 6 is Tilson Thomas’s performance with the WDR Symphony as seen on youtube:

      • Tamino says:

        The sonics of the Mahler 6 recording are actually very bad. Throughout the first movement there are several strange shifts of the sound stage. Like grave mixing or editing errors. And it sounds very brittle too. Unnatural sound.

  • Cubs Fan says:

    I have never heard him conduct a live concert, my only knowledge is from recordings and video – what comes across plainly is the man loves to make music and brings real joy an emotion to whatever he’s conducting. You can see it in his face. He seems to have exactly what Panula was talking about on another thread: charisma. All you who vote Thumbs Down, what makes you happy? Some glib empty-headed youngster with nothing to say? An old sourpuss with a dour expression? Here’s a guy (he’s not a kid) who has something special. He may be unconventional, but then some of our greatest conductors of the past were unconventional – Stokowski comes to mind. He, too, was accused of being a charlatan. Classical music is dying and we need more performers who clearly enjoy and love what they are doing. If you haven’t heard TC’s Mahler 6th, you should.

  • The hype here is real. Classical music listeners are allergic to conductors who have attained celebrity status, hence their disapproval for the likes of Barenboim, Lisitsa, Yuja Wang, Buniatishvili, etc… Fact is, it is the artistic result that matters and you can’t fault all these critics and juries who have awarded Currentzis for his Mahler 6 and his Mozart (he has also won the most prestigious Japanese award for the above releases, both 1st and 2nd place). Yes, he is famous, maybe eccentric, but what really matters is the conducting. Wasn’t Karajan and Bernstein treated like that by the media? We should get over it. For anyone who cares, here’s my review of his Mahler 6 (for me the best since Barbirolli and Bernstein):

    • Tamino says:

      The recording is faulty at best and badly produced.
      After 1 minute 4 seconds the stereo image shifts heavily to the left and it sounds like something went wrong. Trombones have moved from somewhat right to all left on stage? Somewhere around 4 min. it shifts back.
      And critics praise the recording. And the Dutch and Japanese give prices. You couldn’t make this up. What does it say about the critics? And about Sony’s quality control?

  • AllAboutTheMusic says:

    While Currentzis undoubtedly brings passion and excitement to his performances, my issue is with his driving tempi. He drives the music almost to the point of unplayability, giving it no space to breathe, or be shaped.

    E.g. this Mozart:

    One would expect to see this in a young conductor starting out, but with age and experience the level of nuance increases – as does the willingness to engage with the integrity of the music for its own sake. Worryingly this does not seem to be the case with Currentzis, who has found the formula for stirring the audience into a frenzy, with obligatory standing ovations, but at the expense of the music – too high a price imho.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      This Dies Irae is very fast, but thankfully not too loud. It relies a lot on great momentum and interesting crescendos. Phrases flow very naturally. So far so good. I have a hard timem however, relating the musical character Currentzis creates to Dies Irae – the day of reckoning.

    • Tamino says:

      Agreed. Psychologically to me his approach is that of a rapist.
      Musically of course, not literally. He is raping the music, that’s how I feel in his concert. Not my cup of tea, not my kind of exciting.

      • Greg Bottini says:

        “….his approach is that of a rapist.”
        Really? Is that how you really feel about a musician whose style you do not agree with?
        You might consider changing your brand of tea. I myself am very happy with Foojoy Lungching.

  • Dennis says:

    I fail to see how this anodyne, run-of-the-mill promo video could cause anyone to suffer from “bewilderment and dyspepsia.”

    And his Mahler and Tchaikovsky 6ths are deserving of high praise indeed.

  • Larry W says:

    His recording of Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique is extraordinarily good. MusicAeterna sounds amazing.

  • X.Y. says:

    Although Lucerne Festival according to its press release had reduced the number of paying concerts this year to 64 from 78 last year only 20 concerts were sold out, among them the three concerts of Currentzis with MusicAeterna with performances of the three great Mozart operas. Among them I attended the “Marriage of Figaro”. This was a high tension, electrifying experience with an outstanding Figaro and a good crew, and without one boring second. Cecilia Bartoli sat two rows before us and applauded heartily. She sang in the next Currentzis evening to reportedly great acclaim. Whatever ones preferences classical music and classical musicians should appreciate to have still a few representatives among them who are able to raise interest among the general public, even if they do not correspond to yesterdays orthodoxy.

  • a colleague says:

    all of this yammering is blah blah blah. No one is forcing anyone to go to any of his performances or listen to his recordings. This all is becoming boring and tedious.

  • David A, Boxwell says:

    I don’t understand his hair.

  • HugoPreuss says:

    Nobody mentioned his Mozart operas. I happen to think that they are excellent, full of energy and joy. Others might disagree, given the hatred in the comments above.

  • Clem Rob says:

    Whatever my opinion of his work, your constant Currentzis bashing, never based on any decent analysis of his performances, reveals that you’re a mean old man who becomes more irrelevant by the day.

  • Bruce says:

    That is a weird video. The comments are interesting, though: out of all the times Currentzis has been mentioned on this blog, this is the first time I’ve seen any discussion of his musicianship (as opposed to his PR skills, showmanship, and — occasionally — penis).

  • sara says:

    A good test is not to look at him for a bit…I find his Mozart unbelievable..articulation..sound..livliness…poetic..eccentric,yes..but actually he follows the text..

  • Gerald Martin says:

    Didn’t we go through this with Carlos Kleiber and Christian Thielemann?

  • ROWUK says:

    He makes his musicians work! They rehearse more and harder than with most other conductors. Refreshing compared to a lot of other readings. The SWR orchestra in Germany loves him.

    • Tamino says:

      Does he? I heard he is barely there in Stuttgart with SWR. Like five or six weeks a year. Is it true? How could that be called working hard?

      • engineers_unite says:

        For the vast sums he screwed out of Perm Russia, he worked by far and away the least.
        The guy clearly thinks the sun shines out of his Ass.