Leipzig Bach crisis: A mediator is wheeled in

Leipzig Bach crisis: A mediator is wheeled in


norman lebrecht

April 06, 2021

It appears that the overwhelming majority of singers in the Thomanerchor have now rejected the incoming director, Andreas Reize, who is Swiss and Roman Catholic. The singers have raised questions about his competence for the role.

Reize says he is keen to start work in September.

The city has called in a professional mediator.



  • Rogerio says:

    Protestants believe that you are going to hell unless you work real hard to go to heaven, while Catholics believe that you are going to heaven unless you work real hard to go to hell.
    So… yep … a Catholic director has no place in a protestant choir.
    The singers are right.
    Maybe Leipzig could try a Black Methodist.
    I don’t see and trouble with that.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      “Protestants believe that you are going to hell unless you work real hard to go to heaven, while Catholics believe that you are going to heaven unless you work real hard to go to hell.”
      Absolute bloody nonsense.

    • Saxon says:

      That is very wrong theology.

      Catholics believe that going to heaven depends on “being a good person”.
      Lutherans emphasise that going to heaven depends on having faith.
      Many “Reformed” Protestants (which includes the English-speaking world) believe only a few sincere, believing, Protestants will go to heaven and that the choice has already been made by God. In this framework, “being good” follows from belief, and is evidence of being among the chosen.

  • Alexander Hall says:

    This is sadly par for the course in Germany. Very often orchestras will have conductors foisted upon them by those who control the finances (the individual state or communal governments) and who claim to know what’s best for the musicians. The Berlin Philharmonic is a shining exception. Ask around and you will come across many examples of decisions made by bureaucrats and administrators (who might often argue they carried out due consultations – where have we heard that before?) without properly understanding that all musicians and choristers work best with individuals they respect and are inspired by.

    • La plus belle voix says:

      The selection committee voted unanimously for Reize, and is made up of representatives of the City of Leipzig including the Cultural Affairs Division of the City, other decision-makers from the Gewandhaus zu Leipzig, the St Thomas’s Boys Choir, St Thomas’s School, the Anna-Magdalena-Bach and Forum Thomanum primary schools, the Protestant Lutheran Regional Church and St Thomas’s Church, as well as the Bach Archive Leipzig. This 17-member committee makes recommendations on the details of the procedure and on the selection of candidates, and advises the Lord Mayor of Leipzig throughout the process up to the final decision for the successor of a Thomaskantor. But that is not the point. The choristers are allegedly unhappy with his model pedagogic approach and the alleged fact that he did not notice wrong notes in a recent rehearsal, nor that the choir had apparently dropped a whole tone during the run through of a complete work.

      • Alexander Hall says:

        I hear what you are saying about selection committees. But the point remains that those most directly affected by such a choice did not make the decision. It is no different in the academic world. You have a Findungsausschuss that makes a number of recommendations in the case of a professorship. There might be two or three names, including the personal favourite of most of the academic community, but the Kultusminister or Kultusministerin can completely ignore the favourite and appoint somebody else. And don’t get me started on the scandal of Proporz when it comes to the choice of Intendant of a radio and television station. If you have the right Parteibuch then everything is fine. If you don’t, you can be the best qualified person to submit an application but you will not be chosen. I’m reminded of the famous Hamlet quote: Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

        • La plus belle voix says:

          Point taken. And I think the choir should have had more say in the matter. All the singers should have had the opportunity to debate and discuss the successor issue, in order to arrive at some kind of consensus at least. And one senior singer (or two) should be on the selection committee. Although boys will be boys, and some younger members might opt for the most “comfortable” rehearsal (there were four candidates), never underestimate young people of this calibre. The point is that the chemistry is wrong, and the relationship will be hard to mend.

  • Jamie Webb says:

    Provided the reporting of the reasons for the musicians’ concerns, a mediator can’t bring these people together. The musical leader must have the full respect of the group, and not a tense wariness as the terms of the mediation play out. Glossing over a few wrong notes to make the most of rehearsal time is one thing (competent musicians generally recognize their mistakes and make notations to avoid them in future.) Losing an entire pitch over the course of a rehearsal is serious. Losing an entire pitch over the course of a rehearsal and not recognizing it is a clear indication that this person is not up to the challenge.The well is poisoned. A new candidate must be chosen.

    • La plus belle voix says:

      I agree that the atmosphere must be extremely tense, but Reize has been legally appointed. The selection process was, moreover, as transparent as possible, inasmuch as positive press statements were made about all four candidates interviewed and given the fact that these sessions were of course confidential. So there is no real way to challenge the decision and hence no basis to appoint someone different. The new Kantor will stand or fall in his first season. I guess all concerned just have to live with that pro tem.

  • Den, just Den says:

    Norman, why do you think his nationality and his religion are relevant?