Major piano series is declared unsustainable

Major piano series is declared unsustainable


norman lebrecht

September 01, 2020

The Concertgebouw’s Masterpianists series, which has run for 33 years, has been called off by the organisers for a simple reason:

‘A maximum of 350 visitors, in a Large Room designed for 2,000 creates a problem we cannot overcome,’ says organiser Marco Riaskoff.

This is the 33-year roll of honour:
Behzod Abduraimov, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Piotr Anderszewski, Leif Ove Andsnes, Martha Argerich & Stephen Kovacevich, Martha Argerich & Alexander Rabinovich, Martha Argerich & Lilya Zilberstein, Kit Armstrong, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Emanuel Ax, Daniel Barenboim, Boris Berezovsky, Lazar Berman , Jonathan Biss, Rafał Blechacz, Jorge Bolet, Ronald Brautigam, Alfred Brendel, Yefim Bronfman, Gianluca Cascioli, Shura Cherkasky, Seong-Jin Cho, Aldo Ciccolini, Roberto Cominati, Bella Davidovich, Severin von Eckardstein, Till Fellner, David Fray, Nelson Freire, Alexander Gavrylyuk, Bruno Leonardo Gelber, Jonathan Gilad, Boris Giltburg, Nelson Goerner, Richard Goode, Hélène Grimaud, Horacio Gutiérrez, Marc-André Hamelin, Michael Kieran Harvey, Stephen Hough, Lucas & Arthur Jussen, Cyprien Katsaris, Evgeny Kissin, Zoltán Kocsis, Evgeny Koroliov, Denis Kozhukhin, Anna Kravtchenko, Anton Kuerti Katia & Marielle Labèque, Marc Laforet, Lang, Alicia de Larrocha, Igor Levit, Paul Lewis, Yundi Li, Louis Lortie, Andrea Lucchesini, Nikolai Lugansky, Radu Lupu, Denis Matsuev, Hannes Minnaar, Joseph Moog, Ivan Moravec, Olli Mustonen, Enrico Pace, Enrico Pace & Igor Roma, Murray Perahia, Maria João Pires, Maria João Pires & Ricardo Castro, Mikhail Pletnev, Ivo Pogorelich, Maurizio Pollini, Jean-Bernard Pommier, Jorge Luis Prats, Beatrice Rana, Dezsö Ránki, Igor Roma, Alexander Romanovsky, György Sándor, Sir András Schiff, Grigory Sokolov, Yevgeny Sudbin, Alexandre Tharaud, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Maria Tipo, Alexander Toradze, Daniil Trifonov, Simon Trpceski , Nobuyuki Tsujii, Mitsuko Uchida, Anatol Ugorski, Elisso Virsaladze, Alexei Volodin, Arcadi Volodos, Yuja Wang, Earl Wild, Christian Zacharias, Lilya Zilberstein, Krystian Zimerman.



  • John says:

    Very sad. Hopefully renewal can take place when things return to normal.

  • Paul says:

    and they can’t just continue the series in a somewhat smaller hall? Surely there are professional arts managers who can find a way to make it possible. Although not ideal, I just performed a chamber music concert (with Covid restrictions) featuring 7 musicians for an audience of 150 people.

    • Kelvin says:

      I read that a minimum of 1600 seats are required to cover the costs. The ‘stars’ need to realise that lower fees are the only way forward. Then we will se what is more important, the money or the music.

      • Robert King says:

        Perhaps the greater issue here may be the fee to rent the Concertgebouw (a SD reader who knows the latest figures may be able to remind us how steeply into 5 figures is the rental fee for the main hall, as well as the percentage additionally charged by the box office on each ticket sale, plus the amount of tax paid to the government in VAT on each ticket purchased) plus all the (not inconsiderable) marketing costs to ensure there is that minimum 1600 audience for each concert. And then, yes, there is a fee to the pianist (usually negotiable, even for big stars – this is probably considerably less than the costs of renting the hall).

        It’s a frightening financial model nowadays to be a concert promoter if you rely entirely on ticket sales and have no subsidy. Marco Riaskoff surely won’t have cancelled this series lightly.

        • MacroV says:

          Very good explanation. The artist fee is just a small part of the cost of holding the event at this venue. You can’t do a concert cost-effectively there – probably even if the performer is appearing for free – if you can only sell 300 seats. And in a smaller, cheaper venue, you can sell even fewer seats.

        • geoff says:

          And the ‘free’ drinks at intermission.

      • A M says:

        Kelvin, I don’t mean to single you out particularly as this sentiment is one that regularly appears in these comments sections. Where does one get the idea that there must be a choice between music (or art) and money? A musician can care deeply about their art form and simultaneously care about their earnings. Why should one, simply for being an artist, step into the role of “struggling artist who puts his art first before all things”? Because that’s the romantic notion that one has historically about “real” artists and how they should be? A star artist receives top fees because they are in demand either by the public (as reflected in ticket sales) or by the presenters who may not break even on ticket sales but may still pay top fee in order to have the prestige of that artist’s name on their series. There are so many factors involved in the negotiations of fees and there are rarely any victims – no one is forced into anything. We regularly accept paying premium prices on luxury items or branded items from cereal to cars to fashion – why should this be any different? The endless accusations of money hungry agents and greedy artists is exhausting and not the case for the majority of the people in the industry. It is a competitive industry and yes, artists, presenters, record labels, managers, PR agents and all involved work towards having financial gains, like every single for profit company in the world. However, to say that this means the money is more important than the music is incorrect. There is a deep love and passion for the music that keeps everyone involved in the industry going even in the toughest of times, like these now. It is unfair to make judgements like this and again, Kelvin, I’m sorry to have used your post to comment on as this is certainly not only aimed towards you but it saddens me to continue reading comments like this when every day, all day as we work tirelessly to get through this mess, there is only proof of the deep love and commitment to this art form. As the result of this crisis, we may see fantastic new innovations and creative initiatives that allow the music to be even more accessible. We may also develop better and more transparent ways of working as an industry. Everyone across the board is working hard to figure out a better way forward – for the music – and yes, so that the industry can afford to keep going. It is not a question of what’s more important and please consider this before writing comments such as this.

  • Bruce says:

    Too bad they couldn’t just cut back the series (fewer concerts) and/or ask for reduced fees from the artists — or just have less-famous artists who aren’t as expensive. There must be dozens, if not hundreds, of excellent pianists within easy/safe travelling distance who could give a great recital, if you aren’t fixated on a person’s fame. And some of the famous ones, too, might be willing (& able to afford) to give a recital for a reduced fee.

    It may not be a sustainable model, but it might be sustainable (i.e. not lose a lot of money) for one season.

    Oh well. I’m sure they thought of all those options…

    • Y2K says:

      I agree completely. I don’t want to mention specific names but there are “top” pianists who just are not top and who got there for reasons other than their piano chops. If people want to hear top piano playing, then there are dozens and dozens who could fill the void at much lower appearance fees. But the problem with this and other series/festivals runs much deeper–we have done a dreadful job growing our fan base.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    Wow, what a lineup! It would have been easier to list the great pianists of the period who did NOT perform there!
    I sincerely hope that after the virus is conquered this series will resume.