Maestro to musicians: You make me want to kill myself

Maestro to musicians: You make me want to kill myself


norman lebrecht

January 05, 2020

Just in case you haven’t seen this iconic video of Carlos Kleiber in action.

There has never been a conductor like him.



  • Jean says:

    Kurt Moll singing, correct ?

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    The woman sitting behind him is smiling because of the off-the-cuff remarks to the orchestra leader!!

  • Player says:

    The way he bitches to the players about the singers during the performance! Priorities in order… Tee tee…!

  • Bone says:

    I’m pretty sure I’ve never laughed out loud at a conductor before this video. How precious! Kleiber was definitely one of a kind.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Great moment. But also great how he gets through it and picks-up the momentum.

  • John Rook says:

    Kurt Moll was Ochs, I think. Nice story of when he met Gabriel Bacquier. The great German bass introduces himself, ‘Kurt Moll’. Bacquier replies ‘Long et dur’.

  • deborath says:

    That was in the late 70’s and now…*grab a dagger in kills herself.

  • Carlos Kleiber and his myth… Big subject! Few month ago I saw the documentary ‘Carlos Kleiber – I am lost to the world ‘ :fascinating and intriguing. Fortunatly he gave us his two Beethoven performances at Amsterdam and his two new year concerts. It’s on Youtube. Funny for a man who did so few concerts….

  • Brian viner says:

    Did he ever conduct in the uk

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Yes, I saw him conduct Otello at Covent Garden. There was also a celebrated disaster with the LSO.

      • He cancelled many concerts or opera at the last moment or few days before the performance but he played in the most prestigious places in the world.

      • John Rook says:

        I was at the ROH for that. Domingo, Ricciarelli, Diaz, Kleiber. Pretty good, it has to be said. I think he also conducted Bohème there, too.

        • During all his career Kleiber did a very small number of operas and classical concerts. There’s a community of fans in Germany who made a list of it. There’s some countries like France where he never came cancelling concerts. The actual minister of Economy of France Bruno Le Maire wrote a book about him

      • Brian viner says:

        Thanks Norman
        I never knew about the disaster with the LSO.

      • Parpignol says:

        Also a Boheme revival at the ROH. He had an unprecedented 3 hour stage rehearsal with orchestra for each Act – and you could really notice the difference it made!

      • operacentric says:

        I saw both too as well as his Bayreuth Tristan in 1976 (I didn’t realise at the time who I was hearing!). I stood through the Otello having queued for a ticket on my way to college that morning! The LSO concert was far from a disaster – the Schubert 3 was simply wonderful, despite one controversial review, as a result of which, Kleiber forbade the broadcast, had the tapes destroyed and never gave another concert in the UK. Oh, for a live stream back then!

    • ASteven says:

      At Covent Garden historic performances of Der Rosencavalier (1974); Elektra (with Birgit Nilsson 1977); La Boheme (1979); Otello (Domingo/ Price 1980) and new production of Otello 1987 with Doingo and Ricciarelli)

      • Mercurius Londiniensis says:

        Yes. To which one should add four more performances of the new (E. Moshinsky) production of Otello in January 1990, three of them with Domingo, the last with Jeffrey Lawton.

  • Esther Cavett says:

    I’ve watched countless times and never tire. He really was the most graceful conductor with those long sinuous arms. Just imagine, say, Andrew Davis thrashing around – all elbows and goofball faces. He gets not bad results but is horrible to watch. But CK I could watch all day

  • John says:


  • Alexander Tarak says:

    He was one of a kind.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    ‘Never been a conductor like him”: antics and personality aside, musically there are unmistakable similarities between Carlos Kleiber and his father Erich.

    • John Rook says:

      Unsurprising when one considers he conducted Wozzeck from his father’s score.

    • Calvin says:

      Easy to say but, when you compare performances, Carlos often leaves his father in the dust. One good ready-made example is a CD titled Kleiber & Kleiber Conduct Borodin Symphony No. 2.

  • fflambeau says:

    Looks like something out of Harry Potter.

  • fflambeau says:

    I know and admire Kleiber a lot but perhaps this explains why he was mostly a guest conductor. I’m not sure if this kind of performance by him encouraged any of the musicians to perform better. Perfectionism is good but has its limits.

    Perhaps the old fashhioned ripping and shredding of musicians routinely performed by the likes of Fritz Reiner and George Szell would have been better and more productive. Abbado, meanwhile, would have said nothing but would have had a word with the manager and the offendors would not have performed under him any more. That’s another way of dealing with it.

    • G says:

      “Perfectionism … has its limits.”
      Might wanna read that sentence again!

    • John Rook says:

      It’s worth remembering that CK, even at the height of his fame and powers, was still given a hard time by some musicians who didn’t appreciate his way of working. Not everyone was constantly in awe of him as they seem to be now, post mortem.

    • Tamino says:

      You prefer Abbado’s backstabbing over this? I wouldn’t.

      • John Rook says:

        I’d prefer to just get on with it, speak to the singer afterwards and not go behind his/her back. Abbado’s style seems a bit cowardly and dishonest to me.

      • fflambeau says:

        Well, Tamino, yes, I do. It was not humiliating to the musicians, like this is. And it was more effective. Abbado wa at least Kleiber’s equal.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      “perhaps this explains why he was mostly a guest conductor”

      He was offered many positions (including the Berlin Phil), but never wanted to do them. He was a guest conductor through choice.

  • jk says:

    Is he really complaining here or is he also just commenting on the story and having a bit of fun with ochs and the chorus? He seems to be enjoying himself too. To all the Kleiber experts out there!

  • Gustavo says:

    Suicidal gestures are also known from Gennady Roshdestvensky.

    For example, at 1:59

  • Alasdair Munro says:


  • Robert Roy says:

    Did you ever hear Josef Hassid? He left left a tiny recorded legacy so I’d recommend not basing your opinion on that! Any what’s his being a Jew got to do with anything?

  • David Leibowitz says:

    Excuse me, but did you just imply that one of Hassid’s shortcomings was that he was Jewish?

  • kaa12840 says:

    I went a few days ago to Der Rosenkavalier at the Met; the most mediocre production I have ever seen. Flaccid conducting by Simon Rattle, really bad Octavian (Kozena, of course) Boring and bad Marschallin (Nylund making her debut) and not rescued by the wonderful singing of Groissboeck. The next evening I listened to the Kleiber Youtube from 1994 (I had attended his performances at the Met. Boy, what a difference !

    • Gustavo says:

      The era of the grand Opera is coming to an end.

      René Kollo is right.

    • engineers_unite says:

      I listened live to that performance on Radio 3. It was accompanied by glowing, gushing comments from the commentators, (eg.Mary Jo Heath) as is now the fashion on the BBC.
      You can never get an objective review of any performance good or bad on the BBC, it is always superlatives, and at the end,- standing ovations.

      It’s become “standing ovationism”, now introduced to the dreaded BBC Proms.

      Quite apart from the fairly poor sound engineering (CG is invariably better), I can’t help feeling you may be right, but during one of the interval interviews Rattle DID confess his immense admiration for Carlos Kleiber especially in his “quote” youtube version he knew very well.

      That would have been unavailable to people like you present on that night, but I recorded it all.
      ’nuff said?

    • MacroV says:

      Easiest just to say I disagree on every point on your MET review (except for the wonderful Groissboeck), and Golda Schultz was an exquisite Sophie. But I do love Kleiber.

  • Vienna calling says:

    This is the only POV to sit through this opera in Vienna.

  • The View from America says:

    s/he’s likely a troll … of course we’re up-voting your comment anyway, because it’s worth it to do so.

  • engineers_unite says:

    Are you crazy?? There are still people alive today who remember how Hassid played.

    They said of Hassid, there will be a Heifetz every 100years.. a Joseph Hassid every 200.
    Flesch begged him to come back, after his breakdown.
    Are you aware there are members of Hassid’s closer family alive today.

    Can you imagine what they are thinking when they read such stuff?
    They must think they’ve been carted back to 1933!

  • Joubert Francois says:

    Are you a troll or just simply anti-semitic?

  • hilary says:

    how grateful we must be to the person who broke a rule and filmed this.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      I think it was the pit transmission to the stars in their dressing rooms, so that they new when to appear on-stage.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    You and your comments are disgusting.
    Go away.