Pianist banned from Bayreuth is found dead

Pianist banned from Bayreuth is found dead


norman lebrecht

February 21, 2021

The pianist and Wagner expert Stefan Mickisch, who used to give introductory lectures before the operas at Bayreuth, has been found dead in his home town of Schwandorf. He was 58 years old; no cause of death has been given.

Mikisch is survived by his wife, Carla Hernandez, whom he married two years ago.

He was banished from Bayreuth two months ago after referring to ‘Corona fascism’ and comparing Covid sceptics to anti-Hitler resistants.

UPDATE: He was about to take up a remote professorship at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, with a brief to popularise Wagner in Finland.


  • Herbie G says:

    Seems he was bonkers. Sad that his life should have ended suddenly, possibly by his own hand, but in the panoply of eminent musicians who have tragically lost their lives in this dreadful pandemic, he is a mere footnote.

  • urania says:

    This is very painful for his family. I have seen him around for long, long time. Wagner expert, well not really. He had a kind of hearty humor about Wagner’s operas which did please his local environment, about his piano playing I wont say anything. He was not officially at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus during times of Wolfgang Wagner. But he was pushed by some local Wagner fans into a greater public, who did like his hearty style interpretation during times when Wagner was allowed to be nothing else.

  • Stefan, great artist and human being ! says:

    a great pianist, Wagner connaisseur and very nice person. He was never ‘banned’ from Bayreuth (the Festival did non say this bullshit), one intrigant person (who is not working for the festival) was trying to damage his career because of a personal revenge and out of base motives. Maybe a sensitive (and great) musician sometimes can not deal with this. These are our times: you can blame and ruin a person via Internet.

    • Sharon says:

      I am trying to help a student expelled from a college because untrue internet criticism went viral.
      “The pen is mightier than the sword”. Well, the internet is mightier than the mightiest pen.
      If what Stefan says is true, that he was the victim of untrue statements on the internet this death was really a murder.

      May his family find peace.

  • RW2013 says:

    To be headlined here merely as the pianist banned from Bayreuth couldn’t be further from the truth.
    For those who experienced his Bayreuth talks (some of which were better than the actual performances that followed), he WAS Bayreuth.
    These inspired introductions accompanied by his own brilliant playing were often followed by a still sweaty “Bad in der Menge” in the foyer in which he generously continued to give of his seemingly endless knowledge to all who remained.
    Much more than a Wagner expert, he enthused eloquently about many styles of great music, and the last of the few times that we met was after a performance of Heliane (whose composer he also adored) in Berlin, where he had a book about Telemann in his pocket.
    To put a love and understanding of so much music into words and extraordinary pianism was a rare gift which had to be experienced to be appreciated.
    A life well lived, aber Du bist viel zu früh von uns gegangen!

    • urania says:

      I do understand your pain, but he was not Bayreuth. Bayreuth stands for a great vision and hard work of Richard and Cosima Wagner which did go down since long. Certainly he did grasp the greatness.

  • hanshopf says:

    Yes, Stefan Mickisch became weird in certain ways and lost a good deal of his former brilliance over time – but he once was a great personality with a unique appeal. See this 2012 documentary on Deutsche Grammophon (360minutes!) about Wagner‘s „Ring“ with him in a major role:

  • urania says:

    I just found this video and it does show him like he was!
    He should not have stayed with Wagner exclusively later. But it gave him fame and his somehow local spirit of Franconia helped him against the often very dry intellectual lectures. But he did stay on a surface which pleased many people who did not want to go deeper. Anyhow it is tragic if a person does not have hope anymore, may his soul RIP!

  • JussiB says:

    Apparently that’s what too much Wagner’s music does to you…makes you looney like the Mad King of Bavaria.

  • michael endres says:

    A unique talent and a fabulous communicator, very knowledgeable, with a great sense of humour.
    And a very fine pianist.
    He spoke fearlessly his mind (a strategy not without risk), it caused consternation and backlash at times.
    He was one of a kind and will be sorely missed by the many who appreciated his inspiring lecture concerts.


  • Gustavo says:

    Very sad – he was an institution!


  • MJGolden says:

    The headline of this post is worded in a manner that could not possibly avoid being read as suggesting that something sinister has occurred.

    Sure enough, the very first comment posted adds the possibility of suicide to the thread.

    Important to note, that no one has offered a SINGLE word of evidence that either suggestion has ANY basis in fact. Nothing has been presented to suggest that this was anything but the sad but natural passing.

    But the story builds …

    This perverse “echo chamber” on the internet that permits any one (no matter how ignorant of the facts they might be) to say anything out of pure speculation, and have it gain currency and credibility. As others in this thread have already noted, people get hurt and lives destroyed when that happens.

  • Bruce Bisenz says:

    I knew him well. A wonderful unique artist. A massive talent extending beyond music A gentle person too with a disarming sense of humor!

    A profound tragedy that the one who carried the torch for the musicdrama when it was sullied by EuroTrash productions year after is gone.

    He had the light such as I have only seen in a human once before. I wish I could have helped-somehow.