I’ve written a lead piece for the Spectator under the sub-head: ‘The traditions of the Salzburg, Lucerne and Verbier festivals were built on fear, vanity and Nazi gold. Why would anyone miss them?’

You can read the full article here if you are a subscriber.

If not, here’s a teaser:

Between the mid-1950s and 1980s, the Salzburg summer festival – along with two extra events that Karajan added at Easter and Whitsun – was a Roman Colosseum where fresh talent was thrown to the lions and record bosses came bearing gifts. At the Karajan festivals I attended the air stank of sycophancy, cheap Sekt and fear; even taxis were festooned with his corporate advertising.

Lucerne, meanwhile, waxed fat on Nazi gold and the highest ticket prices on the classical planet. It built an exquisite concert hall that seemed to float on the lake and took pride in contracting the socialist Claudio Abbado to entertain its preponderance of plutocrats, many of them on the wrong side of 80…

Now’s the time to rethink our future summers.



The Concertgebouw has rescheduled its Mahler Festival to May 18 to 23 next year.

The Leipzig Gewandhaus has its Mahler Festival pushed back to May 13 to 24.

Did they even think of talking to each other?

And what are the odds that any Mahler symphony will be small enough for a distanced performance at that time?

The venerable hall has posted this message:

We have fantastic news! 🥳🤩 🥳🤩 🥳🤩 🥳🤩
Since last Friday there is a glimmer of hope that it will be possible to play live music for a maximum of 100 concert visitors in June. We are currently working out the program for June and with a customized edition of our Musikvereinsfestivals to make the house ring out with music to the end of the season. 🎶🎵