I analysed this cellist’s tweets for a whole month and…

I analysed this cellist’s tweets for a whole month and…


norman lebrecht

December 18, 2020

Covid has left many people with tume on their hands. The Berlin cellist Will Roseliep has devoted the past month to studying the daily Twitter habit of our friend Steven Isserlis.

What did he find? Enough for a PhD thesis:

I was interested primarily in what drives Steven Isserlis to his computer to tweet. To that end, I collated Isserlis’ initial posts while mostly ignoring follow-ups or replies he sent to others. Often Isserlis wades into comments to clarify something in his original post, or to respond to a question or a joke from a follower. While interesting, I suspected these replies weren’t his reason for tweeting in the first place. Also, Isserlis appears to be a prolific user of the Like button. Collating and analyzing these would be a fun future project, but it is beyond the scope of this study….

Read on here.



  • We privatize your value says:

    So that’s what the Stasi does nowadays? The height of ridiculousness. And then, Roseliep closes with what he thinks is a zinger: an homage to Woody Allen gasp, shock! Roseliep is team Mia Farrow, no doubt, but did he ever bother to read what Moses Farrow (Ronan’s brother) said about the matter? Roseliep starts with a “bad” Jew (Barenboim) and ends with a “bad” Jew (Allen) – German task fulfilled! An Roselieps Wesen soll die Kunstwelt genesen.

    • I’m just happy you read to the end.

    • Marfisa says:

      Roseliep is actually from Dubuque, Iowa. If that makes any difference.

      • RW2013 says:

        And there is a West Berlin and an East Berlin in Nova Scotia.

        • Marfisa says:

          Never knew that! But seriously “Will Roseliep is a cellist who originally hails from Dubuque, Iowa, and now lives in Berlin.” https://classicaldarkarts.com/about/
          He seems to be something of a righteous iconoclast, but not without a redeeming touch of wit and irony.
          However his deconstruction of Isserlis’s tweets was, I thought, rather offensive.

    • Byrwec Ellison says:

      1. Funny, the word “Jew” doesn’t appear anywhere in the guy’s blog post, only in your comment; the ‘badness’ seems to be about their alleged abusive acts. He must have some kind of ethical North Star or something.
      2. He declares admiration for his “cello hero” (his words) throughout his “sordid platform” (his words); can admire Isserlis and be self-deprecating at the same time.
      3. Isserlis’ admiration for Harpo Marx comes off as charming, not as a “Stasi” fixation (a truly mean and assholish label).
      4. I’m sure there are many followers of this blog who could count off NL’s loves and peeves in as much or more detail as the Classical Dark Arts blogger did about Isserlis.
      5. Roseliep has the integrity of blogging under his own name rather than anonymously.

    • V. Lind says:

      He does not say what Isserlis posted about Woody Allen. And, whatever it was, he knows no more about the truth of that situation than anyone else. His post to Barenboim had nothing to do with DB’s Jewishness — it was a birthday greeting to a professional associate who may for all I know be a friend. And he may have been commenting on Allen’s latest movie.

      I don’t know anything abut Roseliep except he could be making better use of his time, but I think you are reaching by going for anti-Semitism, unless you know something I don’t.

      • Marfisa says:

        V.Lind is probably right, that anti-semitism is not involved here. However, Barenboim is a politically sensitive figure. Hunting through the web for information about the accusations against him in 2018, I found a WSWS (not a site I’ve visited before) article, well worth reading, which noted that he is also the target of attack by Zionists, because of his outspoken views on the State of Israel. It concludes.

        “His views, which are informed by democratic and humanist principles, have provoked bitter hostility within sections of the German cultural and political elite and the Zionist establishment, as well as the anti-Semitic far right in Germany. **There is little doubt that the current attacks on him are welcomed if not actively encouraged by such forces.**

        The campaign against Barenboim is aimed not just at the destruction of his character and career. More broadly, it is designed to intimidate and silence all those who dare speak out against both anti-Semitism and the far right in Germany and the right-wing policies of Zionism. **It [the campaign against Barenboim] must be opposed by all serious intellectuals, artists, workers and youth.**”

        Italics and emboldening do not work on this website, so I asterisk the sentences that seem to be most relevant.

  • RW2013 says:

    In order of pitying:
    1. People who tweet
    2. People who read tweets
    3. People who admit to reading tweets
    4. People who analyse tweets
    5. People who read the analyses of tweets
    und so weiter…

    • V. Lind says:

      Hear utterly hear.

    • Rogerio says:

      You can look at this as a case of tweeters and tweet-readers.
      You can also look at it as a typical classical-music-world case of choosing a “god-figure” and making yourself more relevant by telling the story of how you managed to be “in His/Her presence”. It usually takes the shape of a Teacher/Disciple story. It also makes nepotism seem to be such a blessing that it is perfectly fine to advertise it for all the world to see … “I was born into a musical family…”.

      • Tweetless says:

        Reminds me of the no-name critic to slammed Liszt’s playing, only to receive a letter from Liszt in which the master said he was happy the critic used Liszt’s fame to make a name for himself.

      • Marfisa says:

        Rogerio, I think you (along with Roseliep) are aiming at Isserlis here (although Roseliep’s real target is Barenboim). Are you assuming (with Roseliep) that Isserlis is fawning on Barenboim to further his own career and profile? I don’t read it like that. Isserlis is a great musician, simply wishing Happy Birthday to a fellow great musician. The Schulz anecdote that Roseliep picks on (if that is what you refer to as ‘His/Her presence’) is an innocent and amusing one (and, by the way, Isserlis didn’t say he disliked the Brahms quintet, only that it was not his favorite piece). Being born into a musical family is something that has happened to many, perhaps most, musicians; I don’t think Isserlis needs to boast, or is boasting, about it; and I don’t think that nepotism has anything to do with Isserlis’s success. (Now the Bach family — that may be a different story!)

        Nepotism, favouritism, corruption – all bad things. But they are not always present everywhere.

    • Marfisa says:

      6th order of pitying – people who comment on analyses of tweets. But here goes anyway.

      I read Roseliep’s study, and the VAN article referenced by him.

      It seems that his unpleasantly snarky examination was initially triggered by Mr. Isserlis having the temerity to tweet the ‘fawning’ (Roseliep’s word) message Happy Birthday Daniel Barenboim, accompanied by three quotes from Mr. Barenboim and three pictures. (“Why was Isserlis singing a paean, like this, in a public forum?”) Apparently Mr. Isserlis likes to tweet about people on their birthday, and this is his usual formula. Roseliep returns to Barenboim more than once: “The now-infamous Daniel Barenboim post came with three-pack of glamour shots” (glamour shots!); “the Barenboim thing”; “Why post the Barenboim thing at all? Then the answer is: stubbornness, or more cynically, intellectual flabbiness.”

      Everybody should of course be aware that Daniel Barenboim is no more than an abusive bully, who has forfeited all right to common courtesy, let alone admiration!

      So he allegedly lost his temper, badly, with a female administrator, under who knows what provocation. Certainly he should not have done so. Perhaps he is also rather dictatorial. And that outweighs all his great qualities and achievements?

      ‘The evil that men do lives after them. The good is oft interred with their bones.’ (Shakespeare, Mark Antony’s funeral oration for Caesar)

      Nowadays you do not even have to be dead for the good to be buried.

  • Andy says:

    Steven Isserlis is a wonderful cellist and seems like a lovely person too. Not too much over-analysis required.

    • marcus says:

      No question about his playing-first rate. Not so sure about lovely though-seen a few youtube masterclass clips where he is not that nice.

  • Fred Funk says:

    Studying the Twitter feed of a noted violist would certainly be a colossal waste of bandwidth…..

  • Alexander T says:

    Sounds like someone has too much time on his hands.

  • Jerome Hoberman says:

    Hilarious! I just love the irony-tone-deafness to be found here.

  • Peter says:

    During COVID people have even more spare time on their hands. But I suppose pointlessly detailed analysis like this are still more creative than playing computer games or watching Netflix.