No Beethoven next year at the Berlin Philharmonic

No Beethoven next year at the Berlin Philharmonic


norman lebrecht

June 14, 2021

Kirill Petrenko presented the Berlin Phil’s new season this morning.

He will conduct no Beethoven and only one Brahms symphony. Others will take up the standard stuff.

Kirill’s batch incudes the wonderful Karl Amadeus Hartmann and Erich Wolfgang Korngold violin concertos as well as works by Bernd Alois Zimmermann, Erwin Schulhoff, Leone Sinigaglia, Alexander Zemlinsky, Paul Hindemith and Witold Lutosławski. He’s … different.

There will also be concert performances of three Tchaikovsky operas, Mazeppa, Iolanthe and Pique Dame.


  • John Borstlap says:

    There will surely be people suggesting that the reason is that he is no ‘real German’. But more likely it is because those composers have been performed too many times, resulting in mental fatigue. Even the best meals suffer from over-repetition. Like with the Sleeping Beauty, some rest until the awakening kiss can do a lot of good.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      There’s much truth to that. But in terms of traditional repertoire, only recently I heard his 2016 or 2017 recording of Tchaikovsky’s 6th and it was the best I’d ever heard – by far. Glowing in the dark, literally. They breathed life into that 19th century corpse. What playing!!!!!

  • simon says:

    Without seeing the season details yet, I can only presume that he feels he has more to say in other repertoire and that’s where he wants to put his efforts. If so, then I don’t see much wrong with that. After all, if all he did was turn out yet another LvB cycle, there are many that might be tempted to criticise him for that, no matter the quality of the performances.

  • Max says:

    Btw, not a single female conductor in their entire season and no conductor of the “young generation”.

    • Forza says:

      Gustave Gimeno wouldn’t count as the new génération?

    • Lila says:

      Oksana Lyniv will make her debut.

      During the press conference they said that they would have liked more female conductors but that many are hesitant to make their debut yet, but that they have several already scheduled for the coming seasons.

    • Gerry Feinsteen says:

      Also no mediocre conductors!?!?
      Unbelievable—completely baffled. How can the Berlin Phil of all orchestras turn down young conductors struggling to make it, and at the same time give so much more work and opportunity to old conductors who only have experience and name recognition? It is absolutely ridiculous; to gain experience one must wait his or her turn?!? How are all of these young conductors going to get anywhere? Surely Petrenko was conducting BPO at age 25, same for Rattle, right?

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      The cream always rises to the top, no matter how much the milk is engineered to behave differently.

  • Concertgebouw79 says:

    This is not a big scandal. We had a lot of Beethoveen during the last 3 years here and everywhere. Concerning the next season I have a ticket for a concert of the BPO with Schubert 9th; I think it’s intelligent to play the symphonies of him fot the BPO. The BPO is maybe the orchestra of reference for him like Mahler for the RCO or Mozart for the VPO. I remember the superb cycle with the regreted Nikolos.

    • Alexander More says:

      I’m sure Beethoven will be back with a vengeance for the anniversary in 2027, if not long before.

      • Concertgebouw79 says:

        There are so many great composers to discover or rediscover for the great orchestras who are not played enough frequently : Villa Lobos, Khatchatourian or Borodin, Respighi for exemple outside of one music famous work they could have done. And when we play Dvorzak it could be interisting to start before the 7th or to take the risk to do a Mozart symphony even if it could be frightening.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        And if I know anything about Beethoven (a lot, as it happens) he would have been pleased to hear contemporary composers on a concert program. What battles he fought in Vienna to compete with Rossini and his flamboyant operas!! He was in despair about the Viennese music scene for years before he died.

  • Ken says:

    Wrong : he will conduct Beethoven 5. Twice actually. Once in Baden Baden and once in the Philharmonie.

  • HugoPreuss says:

    There will be plenty of Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Brahms, Bruckner. AND Beethoven, just not conducted by Petrenko. No need for alarm.

    Besides, since when is Mazeppa spelled P-i-q-u-e-D-a-m-e? That’s the way it is spelled on the home page of the Berlin Philharmonic. There was an Iolanthe, but I could not find Mazeppa…

  • Lila says:

    Didn’t Petrenko say in the beginning, that he thinks it’s important considering the current climate of a general divide in society, especially racism and rising antisemitism in Germany, to bring back forgotten composers who once were played by the Philharmoniker but then pushed out because of their religion, race, etc.? I think he’ll conduct three composers murdered by the Nazis alone; seems a much more recommendable thing to me than the 1234th Beethoven symphony of the BPO.

  • Patrick says:

    Not a single woman conductor was available or willing to guest conduct? That’s odd.

  • Anon says:

    Perfect time to do this. Audiences will be starved for any kind of live music performances at all.
    Such “interesting” programming will earn praise from critics and a few of the commenters on SD, and the entire season will sell out because people just want to hear the Berlin Phil go back to concerts anything please give us music (and we can then infer that the audience ‘wants’ to hear such interesting programs)

    • Ken says:

      And let’s hope that Petrenko will continue to conduct off the beaten track repertoire…

    • Ken says:

      You probably don’t live in Berlin. In normal times, you can hear Beethoven, Brahms and co literally every week with Konzerthaus, RSO, DSO ans SK. It is so good to have a conductor like Petrenko who is keen on exploring a less played (but by far no less good) repertoire.

  • Jan Kaznowski says:

    Another clickbait title. It’s not really that serious.
    Also, some time ago SD pointed out that BP referred to the institution and not just the orchestra – which makes the heading yet more misleading (once you’ve read the schedule).

    But more broadly – yes – it’s good to see such broad programming

  • Barry says:

    I find it more notable that Petrenko is only conducting one or two programs for most of the subscription series with most of the concerts being led by guest conductors.

    • John Kelly says:

      Not what I saw when I read the whole schedule………..

      • Barry says:

        I looked by subscription series, and of the five or six series I looked at, I think three had him for only one concert, a couple series had him for two concerts and there was one series that included three concerts led by Petrenko.

    • nyma says:

      I recall the same in the Rattle era. You always get 1-2 concerts by the chief conductor and than 4-5 by guest conductors per subscription series, usually 1-2 lesser known ones among them. That’s how they try to get people to come to the concerts of the lesser known conductors.

      • Barry says:

        Interesting. I’m used to more like a 50-50 ratio between concerts led by the Music Director and guest conductors (in Philadelphia).

  • pvl says:

    All those Bs are so passé! :):):)


  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Good for him. Does he have anything to do with programming, or is that a committee decision?

  • Eric Anderson says:

    Your headline is remarkably misleading. The text never says there will be no Beethoven at the Berlin Philharmonic in the coming season, and a quick perusal of their website confirms that there WILL be Beethoven. It just won’t be conducted by Petrenko.

  • Nicholas Gunning says:

    He has to include the Tchaikovsky so there’s some decent attraction instead of the wholesale dross. This seems to be main trend: sit through music from the ‘two farts and a raspberry’ school in order to get to the more exciting music. No doubt we’ll have scripted noise from the likes of penderecki etc with some musical suet pudding by Elgar.

  • Dave T says:

    Good. After the over-saturation of Beethoven in ’20-21, we all could use a break.