Barenboim blasts young musician at Salzburg

Barenboim blasts young musician at Salzburg


norman lebrecht

August 13, 2021

The Salzburger Nachrichten reports Daniel Barenboim losing his temper with a horn player in the West-Eastern Diwan orchestra who stood up unbidden to take his applause.

The newspaper calls it ‘an unworthy spectacle’.

Daniel Barenboim turns his error white-hot. With a grand gesture, he indicates to the man to sit down. When the latter does not comply with the request, the conductor makes his way through the orchestra and gives a diatribe – in front of some 2000 spectators in the Great Festival Hall. Later he defiantly stays at the podium for what feels like an eternity until the audience rises to a standing ovation. An unworthy spectacle.



  • Gustavo says:

    Any body-cam footage available?

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    DB is right. Unfortunately, his actions are out of date.

  • Ghost of Karajans Past says:

    Not at all what happened. Barenboim first pointed at the harp player, who was behind the horns. She did not seem to see his gesture, for it was the first horn who stood up. Barenboim let it go and the hornist recieved his applause. Afterwards, he pointed in that direction again, and the first horn thought (I assume) it was meant for the rest of his colleagues to stand up. They all timidly stood up. Barenboim then did make his way in their direction, made them sit down and made the harpist stand and take her applause.

  • christopher storey says:

    Not an edifying spectacle if this is accurately reported : the time for retirement is now overdue

  • will says:

    Were there lots of horn solos in the work that was played? Surely the player in question would not have stood up unless D.B. invited him to. Was it Ben Goldscheider, by the way?

  • Alexander says:

    I think there are some rules of the etiquette for the musicians who play in the orchestra. Only conductor has the right to rise and down any musician when it comes to bows after the performance. Apparently, there are some other rules , I am not an expert in this field ….

  • Jan Kaznowski says:

    This is juicy stuff. More details please. I’d have thought after the bullying complaints about DB this sort of thing wouldn’t happen.

    OMG, can you imagine the good guys, like Tennstedt, Guilini or Blomstedt ever behaving in this disgusting way ?

    • Karl says:

      What about old time tyrants like Szell or Reiner? Would there be a public beheading?

    • Le Křenek du jour says:

      No orchestra member under Giulini or Blomstedt would have misread a cue from the conductor. Nor would either Giulini or Blomstedt have given cause for confusion. (Tennstedt I have never met.)
      Nor can I imagine either man being anything but most considerate towards his players.
      In my experience, Giulini would manifest his discontent as an even more formal, more restrained level of his hallmark politeness. On those who knew him, the effect was sufficient — and chilling.

      Mishaps do occur; but maybe this says something about Barenboim’s current gestural precision, or want thereof?

  • Charles Clark-Maxwell says:

    If the conductor had been, say, Ashkenazy – he would surely have joined in the applause for the horn player. Would be great if we could find out what the nasty Barenboim was saying to the player.

  • Tamino says:

    Unworthy is the whole spectacle of conductors’ self-aggrandization of pointing at musicians and raising (and lowering) them like Roman Emperors.
    Orchestras should refuse this unworthy procedure and only raise together or not at all.
    Certainly, the exceptional solo here and there deserves a special mention, but overall orchestras are what they are because they are a collective of musicians that is more than the individualism of their single members.
    I always feel ashamed for my human brethren on stage, when this silly narcissistic ritual starts.
    We should do away with it.

    • Brian says:

      Good points. The whole drawn-out applause ritual in concerts needs some reigning in too. 1-2 minutes of applause after a piece seems about right. Much beyond that gets into the category of ego gratification for the performers.

      • Tamino says:

        Now that’s getting too far. It’s all important the audience can pour their emotions to the performers, why should that be limited? Surely it is about gratification for the performers too, and rightfully so They worked hard for it.
        My point is about the conductor grabbing the power to appoint who is applauded when and how much. That’s a nasty narcissistic ritual.
        No orchestra should accept that. They all deserve to be applauded. Last viola stand or first horn, doesn’t matter.

      • Wannaplayguitar says:

        “reining in” is an equine term for jockeys, trainers and riders. “Reigning in” is for despotic Kings, Queens and Emperors but maybe that is what you meant anyway?

      • V. Lind says:

        “Reining.” Think about it.

    • anon says:

      Many audience members cannot actually see the whole orchestra from where they are seated. These solo/sectional bows may be the ONLY chance some people get to see a particular part of the orchestra, and it is quite right and proper that such an opportunity should be afforded, especially if an individual or section has a prominent role in the piece. It also allows connoisseurs and attentive listeners to signal special appreciation for a particular individual or section whom they judge to have been exceptional. It allows the amateur (or even fellow professional) in the audience (or on the podium?) to show special support for his/her instrument (it was certainly something I liked to do when I was a child). You can talk all you like about the orchestra being a singular corporate entity, but the fact is that there will almost always be some ‘star’ players. And guess what, the players are well aware of all this, and will often admire these ‘stars’ and be keen to add their own claps or stamps to the applause (notwithstanding admonitions in some guides on player etiquette that a player should not applaud colleagues while on stage). Why take away that opportunity?

      But here is where it gets interesting: sometimes, a ‘star’ player may not be obvious to people who do not play in the orchestra or who do not know how the particular piece of music well. And this leads to some very interesting discussions between players, connoisseurs, and the general public.

      The real narcissism is this mad political correctness about “everyone being an equal (and equally anonymous) member of a team”. It is almost as mad as parents lying to their children that they love them all equally (guess what, the kids are pretty good at working out who is the favourite).

      • Tamino says:

        May I assume you are from the US or UK? Because I sense a major cultural difference between the ‘winner takes it all’ egocentric culture of the angloamericans and the European culture.

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    On a larger scale, what do people think of orchestra members or entire sections standing to take individual applause?I’ve been to concerts where everyone except the string section gets singled out, which rather defeats the object of an orchestra.

    Doesn’t this practice erode the nature of an orchestra, a musical entity to be listened to in its entirety, or must we always be obsessed about giving everyone their moment in the sun? I’d be interested to read what you thought.

    • Tamino says:

      Exactly. It’s just a sign that we live in times of increasing narcissism. That ritual was not common until only recently. In its core psychology it is a power grab by the conductor. It’s deeply amusical to suggest a ranking of achievements based on who gets to stand up and in which order. What is the beautiful horn solo worth without the expressive middle voice in the viola below? What a narcissistic nonsense and cheap spectacle. Like thumbs up or down in a Roman arena during a gladiator fight . Primitive.

      • Ancient Mariner says:

        I can’t imagine a principal horn player or horn section not getting a bow after, say, Mahler 9–it would be insulting. How could the clarinetist be neglected after Rhapsody in Blue? The principal violinist after Scheherezade? For that matter, should anyone get a bow for anything? The conductor herself should meekly refuse a curtain call, on the grounds that after all, she would be nothing without the group, and therefore IS nothing? It is a depressing notion.

        • Tamino says:

          as I said above, there is a golden middle way. the exceptional solo which you just pointed out should get a mention. But letting every member of the orchestra stand, and by the order the conductor is giving suggesting a ranking, is just too much and the downside of it is the implication that there is an order of importance and achievement, which there is not, except for the said exceptional solos.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Contrary to expectations of the modern egalitarian world view, a symphony orchestra is NOT a group of professionals where every player is equalized. Yes, they work together in a very tight process, but every player has his/her own role in the context of players nearby, and of the score. And the position of every player changes during a concert and even during the performance of one single work. When winds have solo parts, it is normal if they are singled out to receive a chunk of the audience’s appreciation, either as a single player (depending upon the solo) or as a group. In fact, the basic procedure is that every group – woodwinds, brass, strings – get their chunk. On the basis of this tradition, variations are permitted according to the music played. Yes, all of this shows the orchestra is not homogenized but that is because it is playing music that is not homogenized. And there is nothing wrong with it. Hierarchies are a normal part of life.

      ‘Everything of the human body is important, but not all parts are equally important.’ The I Tjing, Book of Changes, ancient Chinese oracle book of wisdom and experience of the human condition through the ages. This idea can also be projected upon groups of people working together. Where everybody is the same and is doing the same, nothing happens.

      • Tamino says:

        It’s NOT a tradition to raise and rank single musicians at the conductor’s will. This is a rather recent phenomenon. Furtwängler or Toscanini would never have done it AFAIK.
        All the really great orchestras in the world have a tradition of understanding themselves as a collective body of musicians. Yes there are hierarchies of function and seniority, but the spirit of an orchestra depends on this understanding, that the whole is more than only the sum of the single individuals.

        • John Borstlap says:

          Of course. But that has nothing to do with groups accepting a bit of the general applause. And it is custom that after group appause reception, the whole orchestra stands-up to ackowledge the audience’s appreciation, to round it off.

          At some places group acknowledgement may be a relatively new tradition, but it is a normal thing and has nothing authoritarian about it. People who think the conductor exercises an authoritarian role and therefore something bad, are under the spell of the egalitarian world view.

  • Denise Brain says:

    Immature, childish spectacle and Barenboim: never take on a horn player, you don’t know what you could be dealing with, LOL! 🙂

    • John Borstlap says:

      Horn players are dangerous indeed. Because of their fear of cracking their notes in performance, they develop an iron nerve system and train on endurance, qualities which are defining the outcome of any physical fight.

    • John Borstlap says:


      When writing-out a score I always make sure that horn parts are carefully worked-out so that I won’t be confronted again with a player at my door with his instrument ready for attack.

      • Denise Brain says:

        Don’t know about any of us attacking, but once one of our guest conductors opened his hotel door only to find the 3rd horn with a bucket of KFC and a six pack of beer. Conductor was pleased, and we all felt the bribe was worth the effort

        • John Borstlap says:

          There is the well-known but underpublicized story of famous conductor [redacted] who was bribed by the complete horn section of the [redacted] Philharmonic Orchestra with 3 escort girls before the rehearsels of Mahler VIII to be mild for the players, which alas resulted in a terrible performance with flopped horn parts and a conductor who fainted of exhaustion halfway the 2nd movement.

          As the 1st horn player told the press afterwards: ‘It was a case of bad timing, we should have promised it for after the last performance’.
          (Source: Der Stürmische Beobachter, 7th May 1982)

          • Denise Brain says:

            And never forget how Windgassen got the VPO horns to relax enough in the Solti Rheingold recording, LOL! Ah, we are a breed apart that knows how to enjoy life. 🙂

        • Didn’t I read somewhere in one of the obits for Barry Tuckwell that he used to routinely get into (mostly good natured) fisticuffs over musical mishaps?

          • Denise Brain says:

            You read that right, but I found him a wonderful person to talk with, and that “hybred” horn he had for awhile served him well, but I would never play something like that.

  • Kira Levy says:

    I saw DB shouting at concertmaster at Proms once. Only 7,000 people were watching !

  • Maria says:

    How trivial!

  • Gustavo says:

    Barenboim always blows his own horn.

  • Soizbuaga says:

    Another sad thing in that concert was DB’s son’s behaviour. He seemed to be very thoughtless, light-hearted and unbothered by the presence of audience – literally right after orchestra played the last chord of the 1st movt of Franck Symphony, with a childlike joy he had to tell his father (and half of the audience) that there was a fly above him. Obviously, it killed the post-climax silence but later the atmosphere got even weirder with DB being mad at the hornist.

  • Rob says:

    Never look at the brass – it only encourages them

  • Ian ward says:

    He might be the “great” Barenboim but when I sung under his bâton in the 70s and he abused the répétiteur in front of a choir of 180 I lost all respect for him…

    • Anthony Sayer says:

      I’ve never understood how belittling someone in front of an audience can lead to a better performance.

  • True North says:

    Even if the player(s) were somehow in error when it came to their solo bows, Barenboim should have responded with grace and simply let it go. Sounds like this was a most unworthy display of ego.

  • Gustavo says:

    Horn players and conductors alike are in constant need for admiration.

    Sarah Willis is no exception – but she’s easy to admire.

  • Joe says:

    Confirms what clarinetist girlfriend once shared with me: what’s the difference between a bull and an orchestra? On a bull, the horns are in the front and the A-hole in back.

  • BigSir says:

    What the horn player did is mutiny. So there must be more to the story. Something going on between them before this. Bravo to the horn player con cojones.

  • BRUCEB says:

    This is why conductors often use sign language for solo bows: to avoid confusion. Point to the harpist and do an imitation of harp-playing to indicate who you’re acknowledging. If you didn’t think of that and the horn player stands up instead, make a “lowering the lid” gesture (maybe let them take their applause first), and then point to the harpist.

    Especially helpful when the stage is crowded and/or a lot of people had solos worth acknowledging (e.g. Bolero or Scheherazade).

  • Barenboim’s behaviour belongs to the past, when conductors often thought of themselves as more important than the players and even the composers. I thought that sort of behaviour had died out with Karajan. It’s sad that it is being continued by Barenboim. You would never find this happening with Colin Davis, Andrew Davis, Mark Elder, let alone Sir Simon Rattle.

    • MJA says:

      Meirion Bowen – could you give an example of what you call “that sort of behaviour” in Karajan’s case, since you say you thought it “died out with him”? Also, is it just inadvertent, or a coincidence, that all the conductors you cite with approval are British?

  • Barenboim’s slip is showing.

  • microview says:

    When the LSO booked Celibidache, he protracted the final concert applause ad nauseam by signalling to this, that and the other player to stand.

    • John Kelly says:

      Sometimes several times. I remember him asking the trumpets in the LSO to get up for applause 3 times in a row – up, applause, down…….up again, applause, down…………up AGAIN. They had played brilliantly in the Tippett Ritual Dances (you can find it on YT) an astonishing performance. Maurice Murphy was unruffled and unamused by the antics simultaneously………..

    • ruben Greenberg says:

      This was a Celibidache ritual.

    • Anthony Sayer says:

      I remember him doing this with the LSO in the 1970s. Great concert, though: Rhenish Symphony (I think), Debussy’s Prelude…, then Rhapsodie Espagnole after the break, finishing up with the Tannhäuser overture. I thought he just wanted to show the audience how much he appreciated how well they individual sections had played.

      Many regarded it as the moment when the LSO really took off, leading to their current status today. The go-to band in the 1970s had been the Philharmonia.

  • Old men do daft things 🙁 (58)

  • Julio de la Rosa says:

    Why on this earth was the harp behind the horns?

  • Corno di Caccia says:

    Personally, I think DB should have stuck to the piano exclusively and never picked up a baton at all. Certainly there should be a health warning on his Elgar recordings. His interpretations never excite me; he always appears so lazy. It’s not a good idea to mess with horn players. As Simon Rattle once said, they’re the stuntmen of the orchestra. I can’t disagree with that.
    It’s sometimes difficult to know who some conductors are indicating to stand up after a performance unless they actually wend their way through the ranks – alla Rattle – and personally invite the players to take their share of the applause. That way there’s no room for mistaken or unclear signals.

  • Corno di Caccia says:

    Also, in response to M. Bowen’s point, you certainly wouldn’t find this happening with Colin Davis as he is, sadly no longer with us.

  • Alexander T says:

    A very overrated musician regardless of the veracity of this story.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    An absolutely awful man. Increasingly so.

    • Max Raimi says:

      I had many conversations with him when he was our Music Director in Chicago, which I suspect you have not. I always got along fine with him. He was prickly, but he is the one Music Director with whom I felt it was safe for me to disagree. He actually welcomed push-back, an exceedingly rare trait in a maestro.

  • JB says:

    Well I think DB has been a wonderful musician and like many others he may not be perfect. I would love to work with someone of his stature even if they gave me a hard time or I disagree with things they did. Think of all the great art that we wouldn’t have if we silenced those who behave badly. Anyway looks to me like a slight mix up
    that’s all.

  • Kyle Wiedmeyer says:

    I’ve never seen a solo (orchestral) musician take an audience’s applause without standing up. Clearly Mr. Barenboim should’ve bid him to do so.

  • Annabelle Weidenfeld says:

    I simply don’t understand a lot of the comments here describing Barenboim’s signalling orchestra soloists out for applause as “narcissistic”! He is showing appreciation and asking us to join. Of course every element from back desk strings are equally vital and stand with their group but how nice it is for us the public to have a chance to show special appreciation for a Cor Anglais solo that moved us to tears! Barenboim is the first, and only conductor I saw who brings his whole orchestra up from the pit on stage for applause after conducting an opera and stands with them. Most certainly go up on stage alone leaving the orchestra in the pit.

  • Ilio says:

    There are hand signals that can tell which artists to stand. Surprising this wasn’t done. I’ve seen it done with major orchestras.

  • Rika Malan says:

    Shaping, educating, rolemodeling young people MUST be done with tact, and sensitivity and love. Hopefully Mr Barnboim, on hindsight realises this as well.

  • Karl says:

    DB does not age well.

  • wiener says:

    Leider wieder einmal eine gehässige Falschmeldung

  • Thomas says:

    Barenboim was right. You just don’t do that.

  • placidity westeast says:

    F them all.
    Bastards: Barenboim-boim and all the players.
    Drivel Drivel swivel to delivel (deliver) se crap oh de jour(y).

  • Richard Westerdale says:

    Mr. Barenboim has difficulty sharing the spotlight with anyone. Even with his new piano, he rarely gives Chris Maene any credit for designing and building it.

  • I’m so happy for these long, tedious applause routines. It allows me to get out to the parking lot before the crowd.

    • Saxon says:

      If you have a middle seat then you are just stuck in the auditoreum for ages. The Proms are nice since if you are promming, you can easily slip out.

  • grabenassel says:

    Well, just take a look:
    It starts at about 1:30:30….obviously something was cut out, but you see laughing and smiling horn-players….we should ask someone, who was there rather than speculate….

  • Ian says:

    I worked with the maestro could not believe the bad report. The latest is more credible. A very compassionate human.

  • Corno di Caccia says:

    Furthermore, it must always be remembered that each member of a wind or brass section is a soloist – playing one to a part – unlike string players who are essentially copycats of their section leaders, and therefore deserve more individual calls to stand up and receive applause when necessary. I recall the story that, in bars’ rests during orchestral rehearsals, Dennis Brain (the greatest horn player ever) frequently used to keep his lip in by playing along with the violin parts.
    I wonder if anyone reading can remember a film in which Yul Brynner played the part of an orchestral conductor and during one scene, as the orchestra played some National Anthem-type-piece, the whole orchestra stood up to play…. even the ‘cello section. Now there’s a challenge.

  • Stoppercrime says:

    If Mr Barenboim is reading these comments, do you think he cares?
    His next concert will be a sell out and the one after that.
    And nor does the Horn player, who is used to driving on black ice.

  • Max Raimi says:

    I once had a conversation with Pierre Boulez after a performance of the entire “Bluebeard’s Castle” with the Chicago Symphony at Carnegie. I said to him, “Maestro, as I know you are aware, the viola section has three rather prominent, extended and difficult section solos in “Bluebeard”. If the horns, say, or the bassoons had a comparable role, I have no doubt you would have given them a section bow. Why not our viola section?”
    He gave me his wonderful Gallic laugh and said, “Well, you know, it was your choice–you chose to play the viola!”

    • anon says:

      I once played in an /ad hoc/ orchestra where the conductor gave a long “section bow” to the violas… we all found it extremely funny (and laughed out loud), because we all knew that the conductor himself was a viola player.

  • leo grinhauz says:

    Barenboim is a relic. His privileged, egocentric and narcissistic personality has been enabled throughout history. He will be forgotten after his memorial service. As they used to say at my favorite burger place in Lachine, Quebec, “suivant, next!”

  • Save the MET says:

    The Chicago Symphony Orchestra was delighted when their board did not renew his contract. Dashing Danny is all about himself.