Dresden musicians ‘shocked’ at Thielemann’s removal

Dresden musicians ‘shocked’ at Thielemann’s removal


norman lebrecht

May 20, 2021

Members of the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden says the state’s decision to terminate chief conductor Christian Thielemann in 2024 ‘hit us unexpectedly.’

They say they appreciate the need to adjust to longterm changes in the music market and will apply themselves in the near future to identifying the next chef conductor.

They added: ‘We are extremely grateful to Christian Thielemann for countless musically unique concert and opera projects as well as tours in the past nine years since he has been our chief conductor.’

All of which confirms that politicians have taken control of a turbulent situation at the Semper Oper.

What Thielemann does next is another matter. He is also out of contract as music director of the Bayreuth Festival.


  • John Borstlap says:

    My fly on the wall tells me that he is quite melancholic and listening the whole day to the music which he hopes will lift his mood:


  • Concertgebouw79 says:

    Many of the musicians of that prestigious orchestra are part of the Bayreuth orchestra i think. many changes in a short time for them.

  • Gustavo says:

    There must be a hidden agenda to all this.

  • dresden fan says:

    These musicians are really great actors: they have already chosen their new music director.
    But they left the “bad job” of removing (or better: not renewing) Thielemann to politicians.
    Tolle Leistung, Leute!

  • W. Higglesworth says:

    Christian Thielemann has sadly brought all of this upon himself. I don’t think that many people would question his musical abilities, even if they don’t agree with his interpretations every time.
    Christian Thielemann is a decent musician but an extremely arrogant and unpleasant person, still wanting the world of 2021 to be like Germany in 1940. I have read many controversial interviews with Thielemann and once had the unfortunate experience to have been seated at the same table as he was at a dinner in London almost 30 years ago. I was appalled by his loud-mouthed Germanic arrogance, rudeness and his seeing nothing wrong in openly praising over dinner the achievements of the Third Reich in the cultural, social, automotive and defence sectors! He went on and on about the genius of Hans Pfitzner the man and his music, when it was common knowledge that Pfitzner was an ardent and open Nazi supporter. The others at the table, mostly Brits, were horrified, yet nobody said anything to shut him up or at least confront his outrageous comments, myself included. I regret my British reserve to this day and find it hard to imagine having a similar cowardly reaction today.
    German’s should not be proud of Mr. Thielemann as a human being, even if they appreciate his musical skills.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      This was, as you say, 30 years ago. People change.

    • John Borstlap says:

      The problem for a certain kind of German artists is, that they don´t understand that cultural achievement does NOT somehow include an element of fascism. The nazis appropriated culture to acquire a veneer of respectability, it was rape, so: no inner connection.

      • Burnham says:

        The connection could be even more profound.

        In both the German and Italian traditions, the conductor literally embodies a representation of absolute power which is a perfect fit with nazi and fascist ideologies.

        “The conductor stands erect, alone, he is visible to all, both the orchestra and the audience. All eyes on him, watching every element of his behavior.” One can study the deep dynamics of power by examining the behavior of the conductor.

        I am borrowing loosely from an interesting article “Le ceneri of Abbado” by Cortellessa, who in turn quotes Canetti’s “Masses and power” (“Massa e potere”).

        In the article written shortly after Abbado’s funeral, Abbado was praised as a genuinely democratic conductor.

        • John Borstlap says:

          Wrong. Authority is something different from power.

          A conductor who attempts to wield power but cannot conduct properly, immediately looses all credibility and thus, power. He will be shovelled away and replaced by someone else.

          A conductor who has authority because he knows and understands the score, can afford to be pleasant and amiable even, because the players know that they can rely upon him, since they need him.

          In other words: power as a result of justified authority is benign and the opposite of fascism.

    • Alviano says:

      I’ve heard from multiple sources that Herr T. (Hertie?) is a nasty piece-of-work, but why is it that whenever we don’t like a German he immediately becomes a Nazi?

      • Gustavo says:

        Why is it that whenever we don’t like a German he immediately becomes a Maestro?

      • Herr Doktor says:

        The reason why Christian Thielemann has “become a Nazi” in this context is because his right-wing viewpoints are well known and he does not hide them. You don’t see leftists being called Nazis.

        • Tamino says:

          Yet right wing is not equal to Nazi. National Socialism is a platform for fascism to win elections by getting votes from the gullible useful idiots mostly from the empoverished bottom of society with appeals to xenophobic and tribal instincts.
          There is also national conservativism, which is a different matter.

    • Sotto Voce says:

      Pfitzner of course was exonerated at his denazification tribunal the year before he died and there is evidence of his support for Jewish musicians, as well as his refusal to participate in a number of anti-Semitic projects – including one to replace Mendelssohn’s incidental music for a Midsummer Night’s Dream. I find it odd that Strauss’s connections with the Third Reich – and his music by association – don’t get the same passionate response. Thielemann, for his part, admits in his biography he was naive at this time and misjudged the mood. Interesting story though – not a dinner for the faint hearted debater. “Ahem. So where are you going on holiday this year, Christian ….”

      • Gustavo says:

        I haven’t had my Pfitzner jab yet.

        • John Borstlap says:

          Be careful – the side effects can be harmful: sudden dullness of mental activity, increased bitter world view, glasses, rightwing sympathies, clumsy melodic ideas, rambling structure, and worst of all: fat instrumentation.

  • MacroV says:

    Chicago. There are still three brand names that stand above all others in the orchestra world: Berlin, Vienna, and the CSO. Only the last is available anytime soon. How better to show up the Dresden/Saxony pols than to be “fired” up?

    • Carl says:

      Plenty of orchestras are better than the CSO … Dresden, Leipzig, Lucerne, list is long

      The proof? The CSO has consistently a very hard time filling its principal positions. No world class principals auditon there anymore. It’s a fact. They have been leaving the orchestra, instead of fighting to get in.

      • Alviano says:

        Maybe they don’t want to live in the U.S.

      • MacroV says:

        Those are all great orchestras (though Lucerne is a summer festival band, not the same thing), but as an international brand, none are in the same league as the CSO.

        The proof? The CSO, VPO, and Berlin are the only orchestras that can sell out virtually any hall in the world without a soloist on hand to boost ticket sales.

        Unless you’re on the CSO’s audition committee and want to elaborate, I call nonsense on your last point.
        What principal positions have the CSO had a hard time filling? Chris Martin for New York, Eugene Izotov for San Francisco. Both for reasons known best to them, both replaced by very capable people. I think they’re still looking for a principal viola, but there aren’t many violists out there qualified to lead that section, and most of them have really good jobs already.

        They often take a long time to fill a principal position because they’re incredibly picky (sometimes absurdly so). So is the Berlin Phil, which still hasn’t replaced Radek Baborak 12 years after he left, yet nobody suggests they are in decline.

        • Matthew says:

          If they keep playing like the last 5 years or so, they won’t sell out for very long.

          Their sound is nor fish nor flesh, “beautiful” And pleasant to the ear, but it has no energy and depth.

          The first oboe and first trumpet replacements can play, but are not nearly at the level of their predecessors, so they are not that picky. they can’t Afford to be..

          The horn auditions have been a disaster, for a couple of years now.

          Yes they have not filled that position, but because the candidates were really awful.They still have a minimum bar, but it’s much lower than 10 years ago.

          • Max Raimi says:

            “The first oboe and first trumpet replacements can play, but are not nearly at the level of their predecessors, so they are not that picky.” You are certainly entitled to your opinion. While I admired the playing of Chris Martin and Eugene Izotov enormously, I have had the pleasure of working with our current principal oboe and trumpet, and couldn’t disagree with you more. All four of these gentlemen are first rate artists, and I have learned a great deal from all of them. I would not presume to rate musicians of this caliber in any sort of order.

          • John Borstlap says:

            Above a certain level, all people are the best.

          • Tom S says:

            Yeah. and that level is very very high.

          • Chicagorat says:

            With all due respect for everyone’s opinions, I hope we all still remember what happened at the oboe audition. The Duce came, and denied the audition committee the candidate they had chosen and voted; which is definitely not how the committee is supposed to work. Just to remind everyone again as to who really wears the pants (when they are up).

            Though I have to say, purely out of intellectual honesty: given the original choice, this was one one instance of il Duce having some marginal utility.

            To verify that the final choice was not VPO-BPO caliber, just check the first two minutes of the Cavalleria intermezzo CD.

        • BigSir says:

          The principal Horn player came from the BPO, also.

          • Beewise says:

            His previous Orchestra was the Dallas Symphony, not the BPO. Was in Berlin befor that

        • Barry Guerrero says:

          At that musical level, all this orchestra comparison stuff is complete nonsense. In plain reality, the best orchestra in the world is the one that played the best LAST NIGHT. End of story.

    • Saxon says:

      Macro writes: “There are still three brand names that stand above all others in the orchestra world: Berlin, Vienna, and the CSO.”

      Very funny. This is like the comedy sketch “there are three great universities: Oxford, Cambridge, and Hull”. Really, the BPO and VPO are in a class of their own when it comes to “brand recognition”; whether that reputation is deserved is another thing.

  • Gustavo says:

    I still think it’s all part of a strategy be freely available for Staatsoper Berlin when Barenboim hits the bag.

    Denial may be on trial – who knows.

  • sabrinensis says:

    No one really cares; life and music go on.

  • Kurwenal says:

    Having almost no awareness of CT’s supposed right-wing politics or purported Nazi sympathies, I can only report that, after attending his Ring and Tristan in Bayreuth, IMHO he’s the greatest Wagner conductor of current times. Petrenko is a close competitor, but Thielemann has a command of the architecture of these giant structures that’s unparalleled.

    • Tristan says:

      so wrong – Petrenko is more exciting but I agree with you that CT i. his repertoire Wagner Bruckner and Strauss is top but he is a nasty person

      • Gustavo says:

        I think Barenboim in the 90ties was rather exciting, too.

        Levine was a little dull with the Ring but just the man for Parsifal.

        Gatti is an underestimated Wagnerite but he’s presumably persona non grata for woke music managers.

      • tiredofitall says:

        If nastiness were a crime, they’d have to lock up many conductors. As it is, only pedophiles and other sexual deviants receive a reprimand.

  • Rob says:

    I’m hoping that Christian Thielemann records one of Pfitzner’s masterpieces, the Violin Concerto.

  • J. Darton says:

    Breaking news!!!
    The musicians have voted yesterday unanimously their new chief conductor.
    In a few hours the official announcement.