Just in: Three conductors cancel BBC Proms

Just in: Three conductors cancel BBC Proms


norman lebrecht

September 02, 2020

In a truncated season of two weeks, the drop-out rate has never been higher.

Tonight, Omer Meir Wellber has called in sick. John Storgårds replaces him with the BBC Philharmonic and tenor Allan Clayton at Salford Quays in Salford.

On Saturday, Thomas Dausgaard ‘is no longer able to appear with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra due to travel difficulties. Alpesh Chauhan takes over with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra at City Halls in Glasgow.

Next Wednesday, Esa-Pekka Salonen won’t be coming ‘due to the recent extension of COVID-19 quarantine restrictions in Finland.’ His replacement with the Philharmonia Orchestra is Paavo Järvi, who was last seen conducting in Zurich. If Paavo flies in from Switzerland, he will be slapped with a 14-day quarantine notice.

Could it be that maestros won’t go the extra mile to appear in an empty hall?


  • anonymous says:

    ‘Could it be that maestros won’t go the extra mile to appear in an empty hall?’

    These are all to do with travel restrictions or illness. I don’t think it would have made a difference if there was an audience or not.

    Illness: having done a very small amount of orchestral work now, you really have to be healthy to consider going to work. The slight inclination of a cold, cough, soar throat or fever and you should stay at home. Same for conductors. I’m sure that managements and players alike feel that this is the best option. Before Covid, the incentive as a freelancer was to turn up to a gig, no matter what, or risk being struck off the list. Gladly, this is no longer the case.

    Travel restrictions: it would be reckless if conductors did not follow the official travel advice of whichever Government.

    It does beg the question as to why ensembles are still engaging artists who need to fly to get to the gig.

    • Thomas Dawkins says:

      I can’t tell you how many personnel changes have had to be made, often at short notice, since 9/11 and the charade of tightening security getting into the US. Two US/UK examples: I was supposed to see the Britten Serenade played by a British hornist who was replaced by James Sommerville from the Boston Symphony because the original player’s visa was revoked for an unknown and unexplained reason. He was quite good but it was obvious that the piece wasn’t 100% in his body the way he’d have wanted it to be. Brindley Sherratt, he bass soloist for Messiah was supposed to arrive on Sunday but when he got to Heathrow he was told “don’t get on the plane because you won’t be able to get off” and this problem wasn’t resolved until Wednesday evening; he flew to Boston on Thanksgiving and the chorus and orchestra warm-up before the concert was changed so that he could mark through his arias to check tempi. Now we have much more legitimate reason for people to be unavailable and all we can do is complain about it.

  • Damian Penfold says:

    And yet, if they kicked a football around they would all be exempt from the restrictions.

  • Mimsy says:

    It’s in everyone’s interest to keep it local, right now.

  • Le Křenek du jour says:


    Upon reading the headline, I thought: If only!
    If three conductors were all it took.
    That would achieve a new, absurd low for the “cancel culture”.
    But no, it’s back to “Waive, Britannia! Britannia waive the rules…”

  • Ralph Bateman says:

    ==It does beg the question as to why ensembles are still engaging artists who need to fly to get to the gig.

    It’s like the Beecham quip: “I may not be the best conductor in England, but I’m better than any damned foreigner”
    {yes, yes : click below for Thumbs Down}

  • Jonatan says:

    I think that the Proms should have been cancelled all together this year. I heard the Eroica on Friday and the performance lacked cohesion, in my view. Maybe a consequence of them sitting so far apart? Who knows? Anyway, the audience is missing. Somehow chamber music works better without an audience, perhaps because it is more intimate. Well, as in Germany, GB will have to allow audiences to come to concerts asap. If this won’t happen, I think that the cultural sector will die out like an endangered species. Sad, but true.

  • Tired of lemmings! says:

    Everybody should just stay home for the rest of their lives, be endlessly “offended” about everything and watch all these halls get shuddered permanently rendering everyone involved insolvent.

  • Tim says:

    Paavo is already in the UK. He was conducting the Philharmonia last week.

  • Allen says:

    The BBC should hand Gary Lineker a baton and tell him to get on with it. At £1.75m per year, I am assuming he can do anything.

  • There are so many reasons why some musicians are not able to fulfill commitments but clearly the two that stand out have to do with travel restrictions and personal safety. Many of us are not allowed to leave the States, and we cannot go into quarantine as we are not allowed into the EU because we are not considered “essential”. Those who can come but are quarantined must consider what is occuring at least two weeks before a scheduled date as well as two weeks after it concludes. Perhaps conductors could not get back to their own orchestras in time to open the season. That would outweigh a guest appearance in my opinion.

    All of us are hoping that we can perform something as scheduled but it is looking less and less likely. For those of us based in the States with only an American passport, it is not a matter of choice. We cannot travel. There is also a huge economic toll as most presenting organizations will not cover the costs of two weeks when we are not working but sitting in a hotel ordering room service. I truly wish all this were not true but, family health and safety is what must come first.

  • M2N2K says:

    The answer to the post’s concluding question is – yes, it could be, not for all maestros of course but certainly for some of them, mostly for those who have been successful for decades and are therefore not starving currently.

  • Jonathan says:

    There does seem to be a small lack of due diligence by the Proms programmers if they have included performers who would need to quarantine for 2 weeks first, though in some cases that will be due to recent changes. But better to find a way of running a reduced Proms somehow than simply giving in to Philistinism.

    It does seem that in the UK the government is being almost vindictive to music. There is scant evidence that an audience sitting quietly are at significant Covid infection risk, certainly if sensible precautions were taken (e.g. masks) or that instrumental performances are a problem (I recognise legitimate doubt about vocal performances, though emerging evidence is encouraging). Yet the advice is entirely negative – unlike socialising in pubs which is encouraged. It is difficult to imagine there isn’t a prejudice against “culture”.

    (PS This is a different Jonathan from the “Jonatan” posting above).

  • Maria says:

    They are not playing to no one but those of us living 250 miles away at home. It is as if this site and contributors are willing the Proms and wanting their efforts to fail. The BBC can’t do anything right for some of you, particularly Norman! Travel. restrictions due to Covid is problematic for everyone unless you live in London. You can’t even travel from Glasgow or parts of Manchester to London. And no one, not even conductors or the armchair experts, are indispensable.

  • Tom says:

    It was a curious Prom from Salford. With Wellber indisposed, Storgårds proved himself to be the conductor that should have been Chief – though I felt the orchestra rather let him down. A few lovely moments but instances of poor tuning and bland playing made it all run of the mill.