German musicians lag far behind in race to normalisation

German musicians lag far behind in race to normalisation


norman lebrecht

March 01, 2021

Within a few minutes of each other today, the Israel Philhrmonic announced its return to live concerts with audiences, while the Berlin Philharmonic cancelled a tour of Spain as far ahead as May.

Israel has vaccinated more than half its population. Germany has managed just 4 percent. That’s all we need to know.

While Chancellor Merkel has chained the country to the EU’s tortoise pace, Israel has forged ahead. As has Britain. Having already jabbed one fifth of the population, the UK government today promised to inject twice as many more in the coming month.

It will take Germany all year – and longer – to catch up.

Its neighbours Austria and the Czech Republic are trying to buy Russian vaccines behind the EU’s back. The Poles are negotiating with China. The French have changed their tune on the UK-invented Astra-Zenica jab. It’s chaos, and it’s citizens who are suffering.

The consequences for the Berlin Philharmonic and all German musicians are dire. They have been left far behind in the race towards normalisation and they have their Chancellor to blame. The damage will be lasting.



  • Gustavo says:

    But looking back at mortality, the leading Vacci nations have nothing to make up for.

    And your vaccionalism won’t help preventing a Brexitus?

    • Rogerio says:

      The majority of us in the EU feel comforted by the idea that we are facing the pandemic as a community of nations. Germany is one of our corner-stones.
      The UK and Israel are, each in their own way, alone in this world. And because they both have problems to solve that the EU does not, they have to show their people that they can handle vaccination better than others.
      Soon the UK will be back to explaining to their people why Brexit is screwing up their lives.
      And Israel will be back to receiving its billions in annual subsidies/war compensation from… Germany.

  • Hannah says:

    How is Africa doing?

  • Tim Turkey says:

    Vaccination passports will be a godsend for orchestras. Imagine being able to ensure that all audience members, stage hands, and performers had all the latest flu vaccines and variant boosters on an ongoing basis. We need this infrastructure ASAP!

  • Greg Bottini says:

    “Within a few minutes of each other today, the Israel Philharmonic announced its return to live concerts with audiences, while the Berlin Philharmonic cancelled a tour of Spain as far ahead as May.
    “Israel has vaccinated more than half its population. Germany has managed just 4 percent. That’s all we need to know.”
    You hit the nail squarely on the head with these first two paragraphs, Norman.

  • M McAlpine says:

    A wonderful example of the EU’s efficiency of delivering.

    • Gustavo says:

      Including development of a vaccine which is now helping communities which were hit harder by the virus and by political failure (Corona denial – shaking hands….remember?).

  • Michael says:

    Norman – what a sad piece of parochial nonsense!

    I admire your loyalties, but please don’t be blind: there are elections in Israel this month. All this triumphalism has nothing to do with vaccines and everything to do with votes. Israel’s new infection rate for COVID over the last seven days is 297.7 per 100,000. Germany’s number is 65.8. Israel has 1,200 people in hospital being treated for COVID. The country is by no means out of the woods, yet. Half the population is vaccinated, the other half is playing with fire. Let us see how Israel’s “race to normalisation” is looking in five weeks – after the election, and after the Passover family gatherings.

    The UK’s NHS is justly admired. You might just wish to keep your Astra-Zenica breast-beating low-key given its decidedly mixed results vis a vis the coming waves of COVID-variant. After a year, have we still not recognized the futility of petty nationalism in the face of a global Pandemic?

    Meanwhile, of course the EU is miles behind in terms of vaccine roll-out. The reasons are opaque, their consequences, devastating. Yet if this is the proof you needed to justify your Brexit, good luck to you. I’ll put my faith in Angela Merkel over Boris Johnson any day of the week.

    The Berlin Phil, meanwhile, like dozens of other orchestras across Germany, continues to work and to produce concerts week after week – only without audiences in the hall. It is far from ideal, but hardly a death-knell – and has absolutely nothing to do with the Philharmoniker’s touring activities, which you know perfectly well are driven by business. There is no way the local Spanish concert promoters could afford to present one of the world’s most expensive touring orchestras with audience capacities restricted to 300 or 500 tickets. Those limitations are not going away by May – not in Spain, not in Israel, not in the UK.

    Furthermore, a week of travel with 150+ musicians (some of whom may not be able to be vaccinated) in a Pandemic is highly irresponsible, and it is likely the entire orchestra would be required to quarantine upon return from Spain to Germany, which would have an untenable impact on the musicians and their families.

    So once again, Norman, you are not helping…

    • Tristan says:

      You must be blind – Germany is a disaster and the woman too – two terms would have been enough but she brutally removed any talent – her economic success is based on socialist Schroeder’s reforms as she hasn’t achieved anything great except making Europe unpopular which lead to Brexit

  • Gustavo says:

    Sir Simon has chosen the best survival strategy, capitalising on the sinking LSO for the final fling and then switching to the BRSO battle ship, heading towards calm waters.

  • Symphony musician says:

    Things are rather murky at the moment. But does anyone, anywhere, really believe that the professional performing arts in the UK will bounce back better over the next 2-5 years than in Germany? I say this as a British musician myself.

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    …and yet we were wrong to leave the EU, is that it?

  • Tristan says:

    Can’t agree more and Merkel should have gone years ago – she is leaving a disaster and Germany will take time to rejuvenate! ‘Abtreten die Leut’
    She should take hand of her mediocre government plus the lady she pushed into the Bruxelles job! Merkel is the mist overrated politician alive

  • Marj says:

    Glad to be living in Australia where we have had concerts since before Xmas. Last night at the City Recital Hall in Sydney, where they can sell 75% of seating, all patrons masked, a full concert from the Aust Brandenburg Orch incl an interval and chat with friends. And we havent started vaccinating the general public yet. Can only get better. Aust Opera performing to 75% capacity seating also.Sometimes there are advantages to living right out of the mainstream of the rest of the world.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Germany’s tortoise pace is due to thoroughness. Where other nations hurry like madmen to throw the needle in the old, in Germany every step is carefully considered so long untill there is nothing left to be considered, so that nothing will be forgotten. Thereafter, everything is checked again just to be sure. Also the sick in Germany take their time, so in the end all will be well.

  • Tony Sanderson says:

    So, Sir Simon, did you make the right decision leaving the LSO? Apparently the Bavarians aren’t going to build the concert hall either.