Just in: Berlin maestros beat up Chancellor Merkel over reopening

Just in: Berlin maestros beat up Chancellor Merkel over reopening


norman lebrecht

February 26, 2021

The music directors of Berlin’s main institutions have just sent this letter to the Chancellor:

Dear Federal Chancellor Dr. Merkel,

Dear Governing Mayor Müller,

Dear Senator Pop,

Dear Senator Dr. Lederer,

We turn to you in advance of our renewed meeting on March 3rd with the following appeal:

Please give culture the space that the studies on the infection process legitimize for spectators in theaters and concert halls and that the basic right to artistic freedom makes urgently necessary. We demand that the institutions we manage be opened as soon as possible, and in any case in harmony with the retail sector.

Make it possible for our audience, the schoolchildren of Berlin and the citizens of Berlin to visit our cultural and educational facilities with a minimum of risk, regulated and controlled by safe hygiene. Corresponding studies by the TU Berlin, the Fraunhofer Institute and the Federal Environment Agency have confirmed that the hygiene concepts of the cultural institutions guarantee the lowest risk of infection in public spaces.

Our cultural institutions had to close in November and December of last year with a “lockdown light” (and) with no noticeable effect on the infection. At the end of March, we will have gone five months without an audience. With the guidelines for the return of culture and sport published this Monday a well-founded concept developed by 20 experts has been presented.

As general music directors and artistic directors, taking into account the current infection situation and in continuous exchange with experts, we fight for

– the survival of public reception of art,

– the continuation of an artistic debate in society and

– a revival of Berlin as a metropolis of art and music.

With hopeful greetings

Daniel Barenboim – Staatskapelle Berlin

Christoph Eschenbach – Konzerthausorchester Berlin

Vladimir Jurowski – Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin

Kirill Petrenko – Berliner Philharmoniker

Ainars Rubikis – Orchester der Komischen Oper Berlin

Sir Donald Runnicles – Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin

Robin Ticciati – Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin

(plus the intendants of these institutions)



  • Hayne says:

    Dear Maestros,
    Ms Merkel does what she’s told to do and it’s
    NOT by you:)

    • Gustavo says:

      Yes, that’s the problem.

      She has too many car-industry, wind-turbine, football and pharma lobbyists sitting on her lap every day while our maestros don’t have such influence outside the concert hall.

      Free Merkel!

      And stand together for the arts!

      • Rogerio says:

        The four “industries” you mention have mostly been working during the pandemic, maintaining jobs and paying salaries and taxes. Some with government and EU aid, some without.
        “High Art” is different. When governments re-open operas and symphony orchestras, they must also open summer music festivals and the like.
        As a regular here on Slipped Disk I will have you know that I prefer Metallica to Barenboim. But I can do without both as long as I feel that resuming the activity (High and Low art) will end up filling my country’s intensive care units again.

        • Gustavo says:

          Der Mensch lebt nicht von Brot allein.

        • Hoooog says:

          Rogerio, you must be dumb as f.

        • Greg Bottini says:

          Thank you for your comment, Rogerio.
          Except for the Metallica thing, I agree with you completely!

        • SVM says:

          What about all the people who end up in seriously unwell, dead, or in intensive care because they adopt unhealthy behaviours as a result of lockdown (too much screen time, insomnia, alcohol/drug abuse, other forms of addiction, unhealthy diet, insufficient exercise, being stuck at home with an abusive partner)? If Rogerio’s priority is to avoid a spike in intensive-care admissions, he should be considering *all* causes that lead to it, not just one particular infectious respiratory disease.

        • Tamino says:

          It doesn’t fill up the intensive care units. Concert halls etc. are some of the safest places people can gather in regard to an infection risk.
          As long as the actual risk group – the old and some with particular conditions – take extra care, and are also soon vaccinated, there is no reasonable argument to keep it all locked.
          Except for the problem of taking responsibility politically.
          Because when you are the government and can justify driving the country into the abyss, because you had *reasons*, a somewhat dangerous virus. But being courageous and intelligent, administering intelligent concepts and taking a balancing the numerous risks the best way, that’s not so attractive for a politician, because you also loose control.
          The politicians will instinctively not do what is best for a country. No, they will, among the available options, do what gives them the biggest level of (perceived) control.
          And that is the blind and undifferentiated lockdown, the tough measures…
          And when they then need a haircut, then they will open the hairdressers, and nothing else. Easy…

      • Barry Guerrero says:

        . . . nor should they.

  • M says:

    Amen to this letter. And can someone in the know please tell me while we all here have to limit our household contacts to one, that the berlin phil can mix 150 people both on and backstage to do weekly digital concert hall concerts? (i will just add, literally no one is limiting their household contacts…. and the Phil is leading the way with the hypocrisy of all these restrictions)

    • M says:

      i’m replying to myself. i do not like getting down-voted on here. look, as a berlin resident we are back to the GDR. restaurants, gyms, hair-cutters, you name it are all moving to upper floors and if you are in the know you have the password and are let in. people are sick of this control. yes, i get it, there is a pandemic… but the very people you want in the population- the healthy and athletic- are stuck at home becoming chronic drinkers and lonely. so just wait for this to end and the intake in hospitals for heart disease and all kinds of other problems. the only way to cxut this off is to ban whatsapp and grindr and other apps that connect people. and well, that would cause a revolution.

    • Sheila Novitz says:

      Am confused: How can you know that “literally” no-one is limiting their household contacts? Do you have intimate knowledge of every household in your city?

    • Martin Snell says:

      A strict hygiene regime is maintained at all times with regular testing of all players as well as administrative and backstage staff. That is the only means possible for continuing with music-making.

      It is a similar situation at the Bayerische Staatsoper in München where mask-wearing and social distancing are compulsory as is the maintenance of a daily contact diary. As a result, there have been no instances of infection amongst the music theatre personnel. Regrettably, in two separate cases late last year, members of the Bayerisches Staatsballett were affected which resulted in the cancellation of two choreographies; one immediately before its premiere.

  • Birchley Poundbottom says:

    Irresponsible, deadly pandemic, derp derp durp etc.

  • caranome says:

    Daniel Barenboim, Christoph Eschenbach, Vladimir Jurowski, Kirill Petrenko, Sir Donald Runnicles
    Thyssen -Krupp, VW, Mercedes Benz, Siemens, Deutsche Bank?
    Fat chance.

  • HugoPreuss says:

    Either the letter has lost a lot of spice in its translation or your understanding of what “beat up” means is radically different from mine. This is a respectful letter by a special interest group asking politicians to do something on their behalf. Nothing more, nothing less. Happens every day in a democracy. BTW, it would be kinda unwise to “beat up” someone and then ask that same person to do you a favor.

    • Tamino says:

      Nevertheless the language is strong. “wir fordern”. we demand.
      And rightfully so. These are leaders of leading cultural institutions, trusted with promoting cultural and thus overall well being of the society.
      Nobody is asking favours.
      We are not living in totalitarian systems, are we?

      • HugoPreuss says:

        Exactly, we are *not* living in a totalitarian system. And that is precisely why I *don’t* think that the language is particularly strong. It is normal for interest groups in a democracy to “demand” something, and not ask the political leaders submissively for a favor. But the language is respectful, as well it should be. To demand something is not “beating up” on someone, not by a long stretch…

  • Oresta Cybriwsky says:

    Anybody have this in the original German?

  • Ripmobile says:

    Was the first sentence some auto-translate from German? Wow.