Masks discarded at Vienna Philharmonic Muti rehearsal

Masks discarded at Vienna Philharmonic Muti rehearsal


norman lebrecht

December 29, 2020

They’re not bothered, apparently.



  • sam says:

    It’s Muti, at 79 the oldest person in the room and at the highest risk, who ought to be bothered.

    Has he learned nothing as an … Italian?

    Does he think that all those opened and packed ski resorts in Austria will keep Vienna in a bubble, unless the Vienna Philharmonic is living in quarantine at the Musikverein?

    • Maestro Muti is living in Ravenna. I saw a documentary in his house few months ago. I thnik he knows very well the situation. Maybe he thinks that if everybody was tested lately it would be good. Or maybe he took ofh his face mask few minutes the moment of the photo…

    • Chicagorat says:

      Muti is intensely narcissistic, a fanatic of his appearance and looks. At his venerable age, he still likes to think of himself as a ladies man and the most handsome guy in the room.

      He has been conducting throughout the year, to my knowledge he never wore a mask even when his Cherubini musicians were wearing it during concerts in Italy. I do not believe he wore a mask when he conducted for the Italian President (though he wore one for TV interviews, because he had to), with the utmost disrespect for COVID-19 victims.

      Muti does not “see himself” wearing a mask, just like Trump. For Muti, the mask if for suckers.

    • Manfred Hörzinger says:

      The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is tested on a regular basis, Riccardo needn’t worry

      • Larry Sanders says:

        Hey smart Manfred, what about the OTHERS worrying about HIM? Is the rest of the world just collateral damage?

      • Mario Borghetti says:

        Every freaking industry is adopting masks, every recognizable leader is using masks. The whole world is saying “wear the damn mask”. The classical music industry is whining about the crisis and asking for support, but they can’t take the step to wear masks even if only for appearance’s sake? The blame everybody and everything, but can’t wear masks out of pure vanity? Why did people ask Trump and other republican leaders to wear masks if not to send the right leadership message? Shame on Muti as a leader, and on the VPO as a world-renown orchestra.

        • V. Lind says:

          Seems to have taken his cues from Trump.

        • Occamsrazor says:

          Either humanity will discard the masks or the masks will finish discarding humanity.

        • Melanie Mann says:

          Where is the proof that masks work? Everyone in California and New York are locked down & wearing masks (and dealing with “mask cough”, acne and lip sores) yet the numbers are soaring. If you’re going to cite Dr. Fauci, his success rate on getting anything relating to Covid correct is at 63% (that’s failing), and today it was found that he lied to the American public by “manipulating” Covid stats; so don’t waste your time!

          • Karl says:

            They had masks in 1918 and that didn’t stop the flu from killing 50 million. If masks really worked that well you would think people would have figured that out 100 years ago. It’s not complicated technology.

          • Chas says:

            Lab testing has proven that masks work to reduce Covid virus transmission. You are evidently one of the anti-science illiterates, like climate change deniers, who are pioneering the way for the end of civilization and perhaps the human race. But it is all right, the scores of the great composers will survive on paper or disc somewhere for aliens to someday untangle and be enthralled by.

          • Hayne says:

            Proof please:)

          • Hayne says:


        • Another orchestral musician says:

          Couldn’t agree more.

    • Henry says:

      The VPO and Muti need to sell DVDs. Masks don’t look good on DVD and on TV. They don’t give a **** about COVID and those impacted. Period.

    • William says:

      He should have his baton taken away.

  • Last desk viola says:

    Orchestral musicians don’t wear masks when they are in place and rehearsing. The photo is tantalisingly cropped, but my guess is that they adhere to local distancing rules, also that there is a testing routine in place.

  • Sly says:

    You know they’re tested every day, right ?

    • Petros Linardos says:

      So are supposedly the people at the White House.

      • Max Grimm says:

        Well let’s just say that the decisive difference between the Wiener Philharmoniker and the White House is how people conduct themselves in between those tests.

        • Chicagorat says:

          There are many similarities when Muti is boss. Replace “America” with “Italy” and you get MIGA-style conversations, sprinkled with vulgar sexual jokes, tolerated because of the “God complex” and probably toned down, just a tad, in Vienna (we are in the cradle of music, after all).

          Remarkably similar vignettes.

        • Petros Linardos says:

          Your sound argument underlines the fact that it boils down to people’s behavior. It doesn’t take that many offenders to make a difference.

    • careful reader says:

      That’s correct. Nobody is allowed to get into the Musikverein building without having been tested with negative result the same day, including the whole orchestra, all technical and administrative staff and the conductor. I would expect a journalist like Lebrecht to research for that before publishing such a post.

    • Brian says:

      Testing doesn’t negate the need for distancing and masks. False negatives are still possible, especially with rapid, non-PCR tests. Eleven months into the pandemic, we should all get this by now.

      This seems to align with the general sense of hubris around the VPO.

      • Jenni Li says:

        It’s amazing, after 10 months, how ignorant some people still are of how it all works. Take a deep breath and repeat after me, children: Testing does not negate the need for masking.

      • Occamsrazor says:

        “False negatives are still possible, especially with rapid, non-PCR tests.“. Any desire to discuss the statistics of the false positives?

    • Ashu says:

      Ah, as if the preachers and prudes are going to let them off the hook that easily.

  • Alexander says:

    Masks bother , apparently 😉 I do agree with Muti ….

  • Alan K says:

    I assume Lebrecht does not subscribe to Digital Concert Hall. The BPO has been performing almost nonstop for the last 3 months. They play large orchestral works. And just last week Herbert Bloomstedt at 93 conducted the BRSO in a vigorous performance of Schubert’s 9th. No mask, no chair and no open score. Let us see how Norman performs when he is 93. The point being these musicians are regularly tested, prudent in their behavior, and probably scrupulous in their personal hygiene. A good formula for living; not dying locked up at home. Kudos to them!

  • Claude says:

    It began this summer for Salzburg ! Test, test, test! Minimum twice a week ! And sometimes more often.

  • I remember last august the VPO gave at Salzburg a concert for the festival with the Mahler 6 (not a kind of chamber music with the big hammer on stage) there was only one musician on stage with a face mask. In this decembre Vienna is not Milan (remember the FFP2 of Chailly and the musicians the 7th). For the Christmas afternoon last week in Amsterdam Makele didn’t wear one.

  • Karl says:

    Maybe Muti got the vaccine already.

  • had it been there, read the book, seen the video says:

    Virus particles are usually under 5uM.
    Masks are incapable of filtering anything under 25-40uM, confirmed by 20yrs of research on how to control flu propagation. Do your maths.

    This is well known, but sure carry on making believe and watch how the virus literally takes off the moment humidity and temperature permit it.

    Fact is, the more people wear masks, the higher the virus stats peak.
    Not noticed it?

    If you don’t believe me just look at the UK.
    Perfect humidity and temperature for an excellent flu epidemic, yet they still want you to believe it’s your fault.

    That’s what it’s all about pals….”IT’S YOUR FAULT”, so you can carry on with this sanctimonious hyper babble foisted on all by the media cronies and repeated adnauseam called “THE SCIENCE”.
    Sorry to say, there’s no such thing as “THE SCIENCE”.

    And btw, if you think it’s cos I don’t know what I am on about-

    I’ve had it, it wasn’t fun, but no worse than a real bitch of a flu, so stop the babble.

  • G.G. says:

    They were rehearsing “Masked Ball”. If you cannot see the mask on it, you’re are not in with modern interpretation. Sorry…

  • Nephron56 says:

    This is pretty much criminal behavior on Muti’s part and Blomstedt’s part, if no-one has to wear a mask. Muti’s made a lot of noise about Covid-19 restrictions, he’s been a narcissistic idiot about it IMHO. Most of the “daily testing” is antigen testing, which has a significant false negative rate – as the Trump White House eventually discovered. Even with strict quarantine protocols asymptomatic transmission is a huge issue – see for example the Marine’s experience. But hey, don’t listen to me, an MD who’s been treating severe Covid-19 disease for 9 months now.

  • Viennois says:

    The Vienna Philharmonic have their own staff of physicians who perform daily antigen tests for events like this, plus they reduce contacts. I happen to know one of them – he performed 1000 antigen tests on their Japan tour alone recently. The New Year’s concert is too important to risk anything.

  • Greg Bottini says:


  • Player says:

    What are the Covid lockdowners and mask fanatics going to do after the vaccine takes hold? Long years back in Mum’s basement…

    There are many protocols to make sure what they are doing is safe. Or rather, as safe as possible.

    They have even deployed someone to assist Muti in crossing the road.

    • CSOA insider says:

      Muti need not cross any road from his hotel to the Musikverein.

      They might have “deployed” someone for different though fundamental purposes, like on the last tour.

    • Chicagoan says:

      To the CSO players out there: I hope you don’t listen to the advice of self-destructive fools and wear your masks, helping classical music to be back as soon as possible. I also hope that you are thankful to your competent administration, your Board, and your generous donors for the salary your still enjoying throughout 2020. Salary that you are still receiving not thanks to Muti: while Dudamel has forgone his wages entirely, Muti took a notional cut but still managed to suck likely in the ballpark $1.5M out of the CSO in 2020, while continuing his mission to insult, disparage, undermine and humiliate administration, Board and donors (using his mouth pieces in the press – hello chicagotribune) ; and setting up a streaming service that competes directly with CSO TV.

      • David Sanders says:

        Believe me, the members of the CSO are very, very grateful for the incredible support we have received from our management and Board of Directors during this horrible time.

      • CSOA admin insider starBLOW says:

        Read Chicago Tribune. Pronounce Howard Reich. A servile and obsequious music critic who has developed a symbiotic relationship with Muti. Content enough with Muti taking him out to sumptuous dinners and accepting him into the circle of trust, is not even trying to be a journalist anymore. When Muti was on the picket lines in Chicago (outrageous from the Management’s vantage point), the Chicago Tribune had to find someone else to write the only honest piece on this story.

        John van Rhein – the previous Tribune critic – was somewhat biased, but had much more honesty and class, and arguably more understanding of music. The proof? Muti did not like him nearly as much.

    • Miko says:

      Wow, mask fanatics? Lockdowners? Tell that to my 83 yr old father battling covid.. somewhere in his transmission chain was a careless psychopath spouting your tosh.

  • Chiara says:

    I think that Muti was very handsome back in the day & that he still is. I’ve always found him to be very charming and amusing, and am unable to judge whether or not he is extraordinarily narcissistic.

  • JussiB says:

    Check out Muti’s youtube channel “Riccardo Muti Music”. An excellent, fun educator of music and especially Italian opera, he’s far from narcissistic!

  • Person says:

    And guess what? They’ve been doing that since June, and haven’t had a single infection go through the orchestra.. Failing to mention they got tested every single day of rehearsals leading up to the concert. I’m looking forward to the follow-up post about how it ended up not being a problem.