Composer to artists: Stop whining about Corona

Composer to artists: Stop whining about Corona


norman lebrecht

November 13, 2020

The ever-reliable Moritz Eggert, president of the German Composers’ Association, has criticised ‘hysterical screams’ from performing artists, along with demands for increased financial support during the pandemic.

‘I am getting by to a certain extent and find it disagreeable to beg for money now when others need it more urgently,’ he said.

Helmets on.


  • I’m not sure Moritz’s portrayal of the situation is accurate, and in any case it needs to be more differentiated. The musicians with permanent positions in orchestras, opera houses, and conservatories have not been demanding more money since they are almost all still receiving their full salaries. Only a small number have had salary reductions, and those have been relatively small.

    The free-lance artists, however, have seen their work almost completely dry up, and the assistance from the government, though better than in most countries, has not come close to compensating for their losses.

    There is thus an irony in Moritz saying that musicians should stop howling while he is collecting his full salary as a professor while many free-lancers have almost no income left at all.

    • John Borstlap says:


      Mr Eggert’s critique is entirely unfounded, and the subject is apparently one of the many things he find difficult to understand.

    • I received a note from Moritz that clarified some issues raised in Norman’s blog entry, and which I corroborated by looking at Moritz’s actual comments about these issues. The Bayerischer Rundfunk misunderstood what Moritz has been saying. His concern hasn’t been about payments to artists, but about people in orchestras and opera houses who have complained that they aren’t allowed to perform (even though they continue to be paid.) That has been Moritz’s main objection.

      I’ve seen quite a few complaints about this myself on Facebook. A vociferous group of orchestra musicians wonder why airlines are packed with people, and why restaurants and bars have been open, but that they can’t perform. They haven’t understood that there are some good reasons, that the situations aren’t fully comparable. Moritz has argued that these musicians need to be better informed and stop complaining that only discredits the arts community.

      Readers should also note that Moritz is one of the people who initiated the investigations into sexual abuse at the University of Music in Munich, and he has been one of the principle advocates for ending those abuses. Siegfried Mauser has a wide circle of powerful supporters, so Moritz has faced difficulties due to his advocacy, including ostracism, denunciations, and threats of violence. My wife and I certainly know about that.

      • William Safford says:

        First, a question: do you mean that the musicians are frustrated because they are not able to play in the ensembles that are paying them? Or do you mean that the ensembles are prohibiting them from doing any playing whatsoever? (I am listening to a Groupmuse live online concert as I type this. There are possible outlets for people to perform, even in this age of pandemic.)

        Assuming the former, I understand their frustration, but the big picture issue isn’t that they aren’t able to play together as an ensemble. The fact that people are eating in restaurants, drinking in bars, and flying on airplanes, all packed together, is a huge societal problem. The musicians are doing their part; the others are not.

        At least here in the U.S., the pandemic is on the upswing, just as the experts predicted. Something like 180,000 new infections were reported just yesterday.

        I just read an article about medical workers, who listen to the words of regret of people who are dying of COVID-19. Many of these patients thought that the disease was a fraud, or propaganda by “libs” or “leftists,” or exaggerated, until they were sickened and killed by it.

        Re the last paragraph: that’s important context.

        • They are complaining that their orchestras and opera companies can’t perform. As private persons, they can perform solo or chamber music under conditions that do no break the lock down laws.

          The interesting part for me is that the musicians want their orchestras and houses to perform and that it is not merely a matter of being paid. (They are being paid even though they can’t work.) It is their desire to make art, to bring art to the people that is the driving force of their complaints.

          • William Safford says:

            Thanks for the clarification.

            I totally understand their desire to play, to perform.

            But is it worth the risk? I don’t know the numbers concerning infection rates, illnesses, and deaths of orchestra members, whether in Europe or elsewhere, but we do know that at least two members of the Met Orchestra died of COVID-19. They shut down a long time ago.

            I lost all my booked gigs for the year from March on. One chamber ensemble I’m in was able to book a modest truncated season, with a combination of virtual and live socially-distanced outdoor concerts, facilitated by outdoor and socially-distanced rehearsals. That ensemble is now on hiatus, due to a combination of cold weather and an uptick in infection rates.

  • George says:

    If he depended on tickets sales of people that want to pay to hear his music, like many composers before him, his view would be different.

  • May says:

    Such wisdom from the genius who created “Dr. Booger.”

  • William Safford says:

    Re the new forum software: the comment section is missing from a number of blog posts, both from today and from previous days.

  • Norman, I know that you like to stir up things, but I haven’t said that at all, it is a misleading presentation of my article. What I have said in fact was that whining about closed theaters and concert halls and the current “soft” lockdown in Germany doesn’t help a lot at the moment, as many other Germans not in the arts are suffering from these measures as well, and everything becomes just a cacophony of complaints. So for tactical reasons it is not the best moment to complain, when intensive care units in all of Europe are approaching their limits. I have also said that the most important agenda at the moment should be to distribute the financial aid for artists (which the German government provides in many different ways in our various states) as just as possible, and that this is the discussion we should lead at the moment. I also said that the really difficult situation for the arts will start in one or two years when the state debts that occur at the moment could result in massive cuts in arts funding and that then our voice should be definitely heard. I have also stated that because I get by at the moment I haven’t personally applied for financial aid from the state because I think that my colleagues need it more urgently. Still – like practically everybody else in the arts – I’m losing money every day because of the situation. My article has not at all created a shitstorm, instead it was cited in many other articles (just two days ago in the FAZ) and I have gotten messages from many colleagues who share my view of the situation. See here, perhaps a better translation will help? :

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Moritz, as one stirrer to another, I don’t see great distortion here. This post conflates what you wrote on your blog with the report abour it on BR. If you think it’s an inaccurate presentation, however, let me know and I’ll take it down.

    • Goodie two shoes "Leroy" says:

      Moritz: “My article has not at all created a shitstorm”

      Oh Moritz, dont’ be disappointed: not everything that Norman posts is shitstorm material.
      You seem to think that your boring corona comments are not eligible for SlippedDisc, because it “has not at all created a shitstrom”.

      PS: Please… write about Guy Deutscher some more. Come on, be a good bad boy, will ‘ya?!

      • violinaccordion says:

        It seems from your carping flippancy that you have nothing to do with any aspect of professional music as your income .

        Neither concern over anyone’s survival at such a period in time.

        Even in WW2 similarly with no known outcome there was much more opportunity for professional music making.

        Too many musicians alone, especially freelancers are already past the point of no return, with a lifetimes investment ending up in basic wage employment, Finding themselves at the end of queues of hundreds of people for warehouse and delivery jobs

        • Today's dose says:

          Those boring braindead interpretations, by people that you overgeneralizingly call “musicians” (better would be finger-movers)…
          have brought about a crisis which was already brooding long before corona (particularly in the “classical” genre).

          The fact of the matter is: reality has a nice way of sorting things out. Nobody needs those interpretations.
          It’s not corona’s fault, and will continue once corona is over.

          Oh and by the way: music should not be something only “professional”.
          Which is another way of showing that music is dead. Because there is simply not a large enough interesting today in culture and music from a “necessity” perspective. People prefer to drown themselves in shallowness before the television.