Thielemann endorses Slipped Disc call to stop orchestral touring

Thielemann endorses Slipped Disc call to stop orchestral touring


norman lebrecht

November 27, 2020

The Bayreuth music director, never afraid to speak out, has said that one lesson we must draw from Covid is to cut unnecessary travel.

Thielemann, 61,says: ‘I believe that this Corona story is a sign. Somebody shows us the raised index finger and says:”If you carry on like this, you will get a bill for your actions.” For me it feels like a kind of general penalty for travelling around forever, wasting energy.’

A year ago, I wrote an essay in The Critic calling for a definitive end to orchestral tours.


  • I understand what he says but it would be sad for a Korean to never see in his country the BPO the VPO or the RCO. In Europe I was very happy the day I have seen the Boston orchestra or the LA Phil with Dudamel for the fisrt time. And I regret to never seen the Chicago orchestra…

  • Peter says:

    Oh my God Norman “carbon neutral trains”… where do you think the trains get much of their electricity from? Hint: It starts with c and ends with oal.

    • John Borstlap says:

      No, trains simply put their plug into the socket after a day’s driving.

    • William Safford says:

      In America, most of the medium- and long-distance trains are diesel-electric. (The vast majority of these are freight, not passenger.) They’re powered directly by diesel fuel.

      For those trains that do operate on the electric grid, the amount of electricity that comes from coal is significant but gradually diminishing. Much comes from natural gas, but other sources include hydroelectric, nuclear, and various forms of green electricity.

      American rail infrastructure, alas, has been permitted to deteriorate to the point that it would be a challenge for an orchestra to travel on tour by train. In fact, it would be a novelty were it to do so, akin to the circus trains of yore.

    • Will says:

      Or nuclear, or wind farms, or hydroelectric. But the point is its way more efficient in terms of carbon emissions to travel by train.

  • AngloGerman says:

    Greatest living conductor, by a large margin.

    • We privatize your value says:

      Wait, Chailly and Metzmacher have died???

    • The greatest Wagnerian or the most influencial Wagnerian now without doubts. I have chance to have seen him direct Tristan at Bayreuth I can confirm. But maybe outside of Germany and Austria we don’t see ebough him and he has to show off his skills with others kind of musics. And to be frank I didn’t like very much his new year day concert.

      • John Borstlap says:

        His approach to Wagner is the oldfashioned one: heavy, thick, downbeat, the fortes extra loud. I don’t think Wagner would have approved of it, since according to contemporaries W preferred quick tempi, clear textures and a lively projection, NOT downbeat etc.

    • Le Křenek du jour says:

      > “Greatest living conductor”

      GröOFaZ — „Größter Orchester-Führer aller Zeiten“:
      not a label you’d want to pin on any conductor, at any time, and if you care for Maestro (or should I say: Meister?) Thielemann at all, you’d be most careful not to pin it on him.
      At all.

  • John Borstlap says:

    He’s right. It would not be necessary to entirely stop touring, but an overall reduction would be benefitting on many accounts. And with the current availability of technology it is very easy to hear orchestras from other countries. Touring stems from times when opportunities to hear international performers were scarse.

    • Meal says:

      “And with the current availability of technology it is very easy to hear orchestras from other countries. ”

      But still it makes a big difference to hear an orchestra live. I am very happy that I had the opportunity to experience at least some of the great orchestras (and conductors) live.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Yes, it’s great to hear great orchestras live. But music is not about the orchestras, but about itself. Touring has also created a homogenous modern orchestral sound which is the same everywhere, like the steinway grands in the concert halls everywhere.

  • Gustavo says:

    So rightish protectionism could go hand-in-hand with leftish environmentalism?

    “Habt acht! Uns dräuen üble Streich’!
    Zerfällt erst deutsches Volk und Reich,
    in falscher welscher Majestät
    kein Fürst bald mehr sein Volk versteht;
    und welschen Dunst mit welschem Tand
    sie pflanzen uns in deutsches Land.
    Was deutsch und echt, wüßt’ keiner mehr,
    lebt’s nicht in deutscher Meister Ehr’.
    Drum sag’ ich Euch:
    ehrt Eure deutschen Meister,
    dann bannt Ihr gute Geister!
    Und gebt Ihr ihrem Wirken Gunst,
    zerging’ in Dunst
    das Heil’ge Röm’sche Reich,
    uns bliebe gleich
    die heil’ge deutsche Kunst!”

  • AC says:

    Can’t wait for him to set an example by never leaving Germany again.

  • sonicsinfonia says:

    UK orchestras in particular, earn a large proportion of their income from touring. Without it, their financial model may no longer work.

    Once upon a time recordings produced a lot of income. I suspect today, earnings on their own labels particularly, are essential.

    In addition, the international profile they derive from touring sells both tickets and recordings, which also attracts top artists, which also sells both tickets and…

  • William Safford says:

    In the time of COVID: I agree 100%. Now is the time to isolate, not tour.

    But what about after COVID?

    A carbon-neutral argument is compelling. But what about the other side of the argument?

    One reason for orchestras to tour, is to bring live orchestral music to locations that are underserved by local orchestras, or even where local orchestras do not exist. (I suspect that this is much more a factor in the U.S. than in Europe.)

    So, what is the alternative? Virtual Zoom orchestral concerts? The Met model of Met live broadcasts? Something else?

    Of course, another solution would be the establishment and support of local orchestras, opera houses, etc, in such classical music deserts….

  • Nick2 says:

    Asian touring is a big money spinner for orchestras. If that were to disappear I am certain a great many concert goers will be extremely disappointed. In my time there I have had the joy of hearing in several Asian countries the Berlin Phil with Abbado, Dresden with Thielemann, Ivan Fischer with his Budapest forces, William Christie with his, hosts of others as well as Abbado with La Scala in Strehler’s Boccanegra, Vienna with Nozze di Figaro, Hamburg with Tannhauser, Munich with Frau Ohne Schatten etc. All were expensive and all sold out.