Orchestra boss quits within weeks

Orchestra boss quits within weeks


norman lebrecht

November 23, 2020

Less than two months after his arrival at Switzerland’s Argovia Philharmonic, the Spanish manager Xoan Castineira is gone.

Nobody’s saying exactly why but the word is he took a close look at the finances and saw nothing but a big black hole.

His hastily named successor is a violinist, Simon Müller, 35.

Xoan Castineira, 37, is a former marketing flak at Deutsche Grammophon.

The chief conductor ar Argovia is a Norwegian,  Rune Bergmann.




  • drummerman says:

    As an orchestra manager myself, I find it hard to believe that anyone would take such a job without taking a “close look” at the finances before ultimately accepting the job.

    • Rita Chestnut says:

      It’s also possible, and even likely, that he wasn’t given the right information when trying to do due dilligence in advance.

    • Anders says:

      I understand your comment and it would make sense in most places. Having worked for many years with and for Swiss people, I learned very quickly that they have an obsession for secrecy and not always revealing “problems” completely and openly. They have a fixation that mistakes and problems in business are intolerable and they are very reluctant to admit these things and speak honestly and candidly about their own Swiss shortcomings, but God help the foreigner working there who makes a mistake, as they will be blamed for their own mistake and any others that have been concealed, the Swiss usually having no qualms at scapegoating anyone and anybody other than one of their own.
      While I admired their calm and very careful demeanour in the work environment, I don’t think that I have ever encountered a more boring, passionless and xenophobic society in my entire working life.
      What I find most surprising in all of this, is how in the world could a guy from Spain want to put himself into the Swiss human and emotional freezer! Few cultures could be so diametrically opposite, one full of passion and the other like living in a permanent very low emotional state.

  • Peter San Diego says:

    Never having heard of the Argovia Philharmonic, I looked it up. It’s based in the town of Aarau. So I looked up Aarau and found that its population is some 21,000. It’s the capital of the canton of Aargau (population 686,000). It’s 43 minutes by car from Zurich, and 52 minutes from Basel.

    The thought of a town in the U.S. of that size, located that close to major musical centers, having its own orchestra boggles the mind. On the other hand, it’s easy to imagine its finances being precarious.

    I wonder: did Claudio Arrau ever play in Aarau?

    • BruceB says:

      In the US at least, lots of suburbs surrounding large cities have their own smaller orchestras. Often they are very good — they can contain top freelancers and students/ graduates of the local music schools.

      (I wonder if Pyatigorsky ever played in Pyatigorsk?)

    • Brian says:

      Off the top of my head, Westfield, New Jersey (29 miles from New York City) has The New Jersey Festival Orchestra (formerly the Westfield Symphony).

    • Karl says:

      They’ve even made recordings for the Coviello Classics label. The Brit conductor Douglas Bostock leads them. He has made some interesting recordings of music by composers like Lange-Muller and Novak. I see this on his website:
      “The performances of the Argovia Philharmonic under the leadership of conductor Douglas Bostock are committed and convincing, and serve the music well”

      (Fanfare Magazine May/June 2014)​

    • drummerman says:

      Check out how many orchestras are in the Dallas/Fort Worth “metroplex” area besides the Dallas Symphony and the Fort Worth Symphony. Then your mind would truly be boggled.

    • MWnyc says:

      There won’t be many regions like this in the U.S., but there are certainly a number of professional orchestras within an 90-minute radius of New York and Philadelphia (which are two hours from each other) that draw from the two cities’ pool of freelancers. And the New Jersey Symphony, though not a 52-week orchestra, is full-time during its season. (For those not familiar, New Jersey is what’s between New York City and Philadelphia, the poor dear. Benjamin Franklin is said to have called New Jersey “a barrel tapped at both ends.”)

      And “the Freeway Philharmonic” is the catch-all term for the many freelance orchestras around the San Francisco Bay area.

    • Peter San Diego says:

      I am happily corrected. 🙂

  • John Marks says:

    At least in the US, a vernacular term for “publicist” is “flack.” As in, “flackery.”

    AFAIK, “flak” is a misuse of the WWII Wehrmacht abbreviation FLaK, for “Defense-Against-Airplanes Cannon.” (FliegerabwehrKanone)

    (At least, “flackery” rhymes with “pedantry.”)



  • Herve Bronnimann says:

    I wonder who the picture is from? Is this the Spanish manager Xoan Castineira, or the conductor Rune Bergmann? Or the new violinist Simon Muller? Putting a picture like this without a caption is pointless…

  • There was a typo. It wasn’t finances, it was furniture. “Nobody’s saying exactly why but the word is he took a close look at the furniture and saw nothing but a big black hole.” It really bothered him.