Runnicles cancels Berlin Phil

Runnicles cancels Berlin Phil


norman lebrecht

February 12, 2021

No-one’s going anywhere right now.

Press release from the Berlin Phil:

Due to the current pandemic situation and the associated travel restrictions, conductor Sir Donald Runnicles unfortunately has had to cancel his appearance as part of the online festival “The Golden Twenties”.
Standing in for him, Thomas Søndergård will take to the conductor’s desk of the Berliner Philharmoniker for the first time. The orchestra is very grateful that Thomas Søndergård is able to step in at such short notice.


  • RW2013 says:

    A great festival which is, excepting the few streamed offerings, mostly cancelled.

  • Rogerio says:

    Everything a maestro does with his hands conveys important information to the orchestra.
    The beautiful gesture we see above is directed at the brass section.
    It means “press your little valves and blow out the spit from inside your instruments for I am starting to hear a gurgling sound.”
    If that didn’t blow (no pun intended) your mind, then keep reading:
    Should the gesture be modified with a downward pointing of the wand (the baton), the message would be “more gurgling goddammit!!” and the players would have to pump spit into the instrument. This is the brass equivalent of vibrato. The player usually accompanies the spitting into the instrument with swaying side-to-side so the spit sloshes around inside. A true master can do this without skipping a note.
    At the same time, the maestro has to make sure the viola players don’t see any of this.
    This is why maestros have to be paid at least 500% more than you or I.
    Hope this was educational.
    Have a good weekend.

    • Dubiousatnight says:

      This is all very entertaining, Rogerio – the only problem is that Sir Runnicles was clearly not conducting anyone when this picture was taken. Indeed he is one of the very few in the business who holds the baton in the left hand. So either this pic comes from a photo shoot where it didn’t matter (without orchestra, needless to say), which I doubt, or the conductor we see is not really Runnicles, unless someone (surely not the editor of this blog…!!!) inverted the pic. Either way, there is very little chance any brass or viola section ever responded to that specific gesture. The only person who might have been paid an extra 500% was the photographer.

      • Don Pasquale says:

        Well given that the picture is of Thomas Sondergard…

      • Marfisa says:

        A tiny point of order: British knights are correctly addressed with Sir and their first name – Sir Donald. You can write Sir Donald Runnicles, but never, ever, Sir Runnicles!

        • Marfisa says:

          Or just avoid the whole silly problem by leaving out the Sir: Beecham or Thomas Beecham and so on for Gibson, Rattle, Sargent, Eliot Gardiner (a tricky one) … And the same goes for Dames, e.g. Jane Glover, Janet Baker, Gillian Weir, except for some reason they are seldom referred to only by surname. In conversation with them it should be Dame Jane or Sir Thomas, unless you are on first-name terms. Perhaps some other pedant can try to explain why Mr Beecham, but Sir Thomas.

          • Paul Carlile says:

            In the 1930s, the French audiences were charmed and dazzled: “Sir Bichaam… he conduct like the birrd singgs…!” And these days on Radio France Musique: “à l’instant, on entend “Damm”.. (Damn…?) “Janette Bakirre” …(or possibly Damn Felicity Lottt…). Very complicote, these tittles for anyone but the Brits.

            Why did Sir Adrian Boult?
            Because he saw Sir Henry Wood Landon Ronald!
            Sorry about that one; only for trad Brit orch fans.

        • Rogerio says:

          So we must say “Sir Christiano Ronaldo”.
          That sounds BAD ASS.

      • Rogerio says:

        Norman Lebrecht just flipped the photo and now it’s in his right hand!
        This is typical Norman Lebrecht.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    Oh, no…. someone with common sense…. what’s the world coming to?

  • Don Pasquale says:

    The picture is of Thomas Sondergard.