German conductor tells Serb orchestra to sod off

German conductor tells Serb orchestra to sod off


norman lebrecht

January 12, 2020

Message from Jun Maerkl, former chief conductor in Leipzig and San Sebastian:


For months I had been looking forward to making my debut in Belgrade from 13 – to 17 Jan 2020.

Unfortunately there were disagreements over contractual issues which could not be resolved. Over more than 7 weeks now I have tried to reach a consensus and I have made numerous offers to find a compromise. None of them got a response even partially positiv.
Now I am feeling the management at the Belgrade Philharmonic is trying to betray me, and there is absolutely no respect for artists and invited guests at this company.

I have therefore cancelled the week and I will never work there in the future. I feel sorry for all friends who wanted to visit the concerts, but my advice is:
don’t go there, don’t work there, you very well might be cheated on or disappointed !

Sorry guys !!!!, and thanks for your kind consideration,

yours Jun

UPDATE: Serbs accuse Maerkl of breach of contract

Maerkl’s next dates are with the Vancouver Symphony and San Diego. His website does not list an agent or a contact address.


  • Mariusz Smolij says:

    I did guest conducted this orchestra twice in the past and had quite positive experience in every regard. Just to be on record „fair and balanced”.

  • John Borstlap says:

    That is not surprising….. I know of a conductor who worked at the Belgrado raio orchestra, who discovered after one third of his contract period that his salary stopped being paid. Some investigation unveiled that someone at the radio office had imitated the conductor’s signature and inned his salary for a couple of months. (I’m not making this up.)

  • Robert Holmén says:

    I’d be curious to know what the specific disagreement was.

  • J Bow says:

    Jun Maerkl is one of the finest conductors I’ve played under. What a loss for Belgrade

  • Musiclover says:

    Not surprised how things are run in Belgrade…

  • fflambeau says:

    Perhaps an over reaction?

    “Now I am feeling the management at the Belgrade Philharmonic is trying to betray me, and there is absolutely no respect for artists and invited guests at this company.”

    All of this based on one experience?

  • We privatize your value says:

    There is no love lost between the Germans and the Serbs, who fought each other in WWI and WWII. The Croats, on the other hand, have been on Germany’s side during the whole of the 20th century, and vice-versa. This is for historical context –

    • Nik says:

      That’s not context. That’s an epic digression.

    • Igi says:

      Actually, Belgrade philhamonic chief conductor is german,Gabriel Feltz.Orchestra loves working with him.

    • Andreas B. says:

      Well, the chief conductor of the Belgrade Philharmonic is Gabriel Feltz.

      It seems they might have moved on slightly since WWII …

    • Alviano says:

      That’s right. Whenever something bad happens to a German, he deserves it because of what now-dead Germans did 33-45.

      • We privatize your value says:

        Look no further back than to the year 2019 and to the beating Herr Handke (Austrian) got in the German press to see that the conflict is still very much alive (Handke did not handle that story very well, either).

  • Esther Cavett says:

    Are we sure this info should be in the public domain ? Was it maybe private correspondence ? I can only see links to it via SD

  • Bgf violinist says:

    Quite unprofessional to cancell, just a few days before the start of a project.
    And what for is that propaganda??
    If there is despute with the production, do what you have to do, quiet and in time!
    However, I didn’t practise Mendelssons ‘Italian’ in vain… We found another conducter 🙂

  • Rory Arnese says:

    Is this an Andras Schiff type ‘air your grievances with the general public’ mindset ?

  • Nurhan Arman says:

    I am surprised and sorry to see such an open letter. Having conducted the Belgrade Philharmonic in couple of concerts, all I can say is that I was very impressed from its management. All aspects of my collaboration with this fine ensemble were handled with total professionalism.

  • Musician says:

    How does this Jun person knows anything about orchestra he never went before and cancelled just 70 hours before first rehearsal?
    His behavior in regard to Belgrade philhamonic is shameful and unprofessional.
    He had serious issues to solve with himself.

  • Emma says:

    Having worked with this conductor personally, I found him very kind and unassuming….IMO it would take a lot to make him have this reaction.

    • Jim Beam says:

      But you haven’t worked with BgPho, haven’t you? So taking sides is matter of a bad taste, dont you think so?

  • Bojan Drndić says:

    If the Belgrade Philharmonic is good enough for Gabriel Feltz, who has been its chief conductor for the past three years, and Maestro Zubin Mehta, who has conducted it on numerous occasions, then it should be good enough for the likes of Jun Maerkl!

    • John Smith says:

      Obviously something was wrong, or this would not happen.
      And I imagine that for those few times ever, when Belgrade orchestra played with Mehta, the organizers were doing their best.

      • Lea says:

        For your info: Mr. Mehta has been returning to Belgrade Phil. for decades and said many times that he has special feelings for this paticular orchestra. Now you call him and ask him “why”- he would confirm you.

        • John Smith says:

          Be objective: if you would know how many times Mehta conducted in his life, definitely Belgrade performances were absolutely irrelevant.Also, it is only professional to say good words about any orchestra you worked with, and got paid for.You don’t imagine that Mehta really didn’t experience much better orchestras in his life, and that he prefers to work with Belgrade?

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Oh well, there’s always that other play – Novak Djokovic.

  • von Karam Jan says:

    I would love to see Mr Maerkl post his dissatisfaction with, i.e. the Berliner Philharmonic or any other renowned world orchestra over his professional engagement. The fact that you cancel your obligations within the signed contract 60 hours prior to your tasks with an evolving
    orchestra house from a small country, does not give you the right to disparage and humiliate them. And the orchestra we talk about has its 100 year long tradition.
    This escapade entirely proves something different – your narcissism comes before something much larger which is an orchestra/institution.
    Since the dawn of time, it was easier to pick on the weaker or smaller ones. And how have you misjudged this online outburst of yours.
    What happens to an artist who allows himself an online escapade to blame and shame somebody without any proof, but based on his “feeling”? To us, fans of classical music, it will always be interesting to learn – when do you decide as an artist to believe that you are above the law, the contract, and the Earth? God knows we’ve read dozens of biographies of amazing musicians who have prevented themselves from their artistic progress, just because they’ve taught they know better, and instead of serving their talent, they decided on their own to have a God given right to look down on anyone who doesn’t succumb to their wishes.
    So so sad.

    • John Smith says:

      I cannot understand what”tradition”means, if there are problems in connection with organization of artist’s visit.
      So, maybe 100 years ago, now-deceased manager of Belgrade ph. were doing their job better?
      Maerkl didn’t say anything about the musicians or their level of playing,but organizers.

    • Samuel Kohn says:

      Excelently put. A very unprofessional gesture by Mr. Maerkl. Sometimes even the greatest people show their petty side. Mr. Maerkl is definitely not the greatest, but petty and narcissistic he surely is!

    • John Smith says:

      Why would he be dissatisfied with Berlin orchestra?
      It was not Berlin orchestra that insulted him in any way, but Belgrade philharmonic.

  • Edith Herzog says:

    A conductor behaving like a spoiled ignorant rock star.. Hitting the bottom with head so up in clouds is inevitable.

  • Marco says:

    Maestro, your own experience cannot be classed as representative, since many of your colleagues have enjoyed Serbian hospitality and had memorable experiences in Belgrade in the past – Mehta, Rostropovich, Boehm, Copland, to name but a few. If you could not resolve contractual dispute of any kind (including air travel) for several months, then perhaps you should review the relationship with your manager. Stepping out of your commitment this late in the day is letting your faithful audience down not concert organisers. Good luck in your future career.

    • John Smith says:

      What do you want to say?If everything worked well in the past with some other people,I should not react on some insulting behavior to myself?
      There is no logic.Every concert is a new event, and such an experienced conductor as M.Maerkl knows better then you, that it is not good to cancel in the last moment.
      If he did it, he had good reason for it.

  • Lea says:

    After this affair, this unprofessional, relatively unknown “maestro” will never be recomended in any orchestra neither by myself or anyone of my colleagues working in different orchestras all over Europe. Luckily, Belgrade Phil. is having back their beloved Maestro Uros Lajovic in stead!

    • John Smith says:

      “Unknown” for yourself maybe, but a major musical figure conducting all over the world for last several decades,and having many important posts.
      A pianist,violinist,composer and conductor educated in best world’s musical academies….

  • Zana says:

    I can see lot of Serbs here, on a first defence line, bravo. I respect your patriotism. I just thought – U should know more about the “minor things” that hurt Märkel’s feelings. What could made him so angry that he forgot about a professionalism? Think about it. Don’f belive in everything what they told you.

  • Kat the oboist says:

    Mr. (conveniently named) John Smith – reading your comments (and defensive replies under every judgy comment toward this conductor’s bad professional mannerism) I can only conclude that maybe John is actually Jun and Smith sounds a lot like Maerkl 😀

    Joke aside, can’t imagine anyone such strongly defending obvious unprofessionalism than the person who’s actually behind this behavior.


    • John Smith says:

      It seems that most people commenting here are so biased that they don’t even think using their brains.
      If a person has successful carrier as a conductor for many decades,he cannot be”capricious unprofessional” as people from Serbia try to imply.
      It would be better to find out what made this famously peaceful and kind person get so angry, investigate and take action to save the reputation of Belgrade orchestra rather then attacking world renowned musician.

      • Kat the oboist says:

        Unfortunately or fortunately, I’ve never had a chance to closely collaborate or even familiarize with work of this conductor, but very objectively speaking – action like this is something that “world-renowned musician” would never commit.

        Aside from what caused this “misunderstanding” and whoever is the guilty part – we can all agree that trash-talking on social media is below any well-reputated musician.

        My opinion would be the same, no matter who the actors are – Belgrade/Berlin/LSO/CSO/Portsmouth or Mehta/Karajan/Rattle, this behavior should not be tolerated and let alone vindicated.

        Can you even imagine Mehta trash-talking any orchestra on Facebook? No.

        Hope this shows that no matter what the problem is – this is definitively not a solution. The cancellation itself is scandalous in that short time frame (except if it’s well justified by illness, etc.) but it wouldn’t be that bad if he didn’t slander the opposite party. Who does that nowadays?

        And if the rumors are true and the whole rant is because of the airplane tickets – then Mr. Maerkl is nothing more than a drama queen.

        Dear John, regarding your “Serbian ppl” comment, I can only say – you are showing as much gallantry and bias as Mr. Maerkl 🙂

        • John Smith says:

          If Mr.Maerkl would be, as you put it “a drama queen”, he would never achieve great career as a conductor, becoming director of many different famous orchestras all over the world, wouldn’t he?
          Even worse for Belgrade Philharmonic, they have no idea of a thing called”crisis communications”.
          Instead of playing this scandal down, they decided to attack a conductor, known for his kindness and modesty all over the world, which is incredibly stupid.
          Thus, anyone who knows Maerkl can be sure that it must be Belgrad`s fault…
          It is a job of people who organize concerts that cancelation do not happen…

          • Kat the oboist says:

            According to several media reports, the reason for this dispute and Mr. Maerkl’s cancellation is an airplane ticket. BGP as an orchestra funded by state budget is obligated to operate according to the state’s law, meaning all expenses have to be made through public auctions and have a paper trail. Mr. Maerkl’s team refused to use ticket bought by BGP team, then bought their own and demanded compensation “in cash” – which is not possible, again because of the operating system of BGP (no cash, only official contracts with for example airline that provided the best deal on public auction, etc.).

            If that really is the reason – then yes, he is a drama queen that refuses to respect the contract because he didn’t like an airplane ticket.

            That much about “known for his kindness and modesty” (FB status wasn’t kind nor he is modest).

            “It is a job of people who organize concerts that cancelation do not happen…” – agree but not to the point that every whim and guest’s tantrum should be tolerated.

            Either way, the concert already passed and I heard it was great, so it doesn’t really matter anymore 🙂

            p.s. realizing now that concert’s name (or better said the whole cycle) is #BeethovenDramaQueen 😀