Flying orchestras – two agencies take a cut

Flying orchestras – two agencies take a cut


norman lebrecht

October 12, 2021

London’s Barbican Centre and Southbank Centre will present Andris Nelsons next May, performing Strauss with his two orchestras, Boston and Leipzig. Nelsons’s agent K D Schmid are involved. So is the London agency AskonasHolt.

Not sure why.

Not sure either that this carbon waste can be justified, flying in two orchestras when one would do.

You may think otherwise. We present the unredacted press release below.

KD SCHMID announced this morning a partnership with the Barbican Centre, Southbank Centre and Askonas Holt to co-present a series of London concerts featuring Andris Nelsons conducting his two orchestras from both sides of the Atlantic.

The Strauss Project will see the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig give two concerts at the Barbican Centre on 9 & 10 May 2022, while the Boston Symphony Orchestra will perform at Southbank Centre on 12 & 13 May 2022. Together, they explore the major concert works of Richard Strauss in a one-of-a-kind residency, with Yuja Wang, Marlis Petersen and Lise Davidsen joining as soloists.

“Following a period of great artistic deprivation due to the pandemic, this project is a sign of hope and togetherness”, commented Andris Nelsons. “The universal power of music binds us beyond borders and continents. Our Strauss Project is particularly close to my heart, and to be able to go on tour, performing his music with my two beloved orchestras, is a dream come true. Both orchestras have a strong history of performing Strauss’ music – and were also conducted by the composer himself.”

“As we emerge from the difficult times caused by the pandemic, we are delighted to collaborate with the Southbank Centre, as well as our colleagues from KD SCHMID and Askonas Holt, to realise Andris Nelsons’ bold vision for The Strauss Project”, said Huw Humphreys, Head of Music at the Barbican. Toks Dada, Head of Classical Music at Southbank Centre, added: “In a post-Brexit, post-pandemic world, collaboration is increasingly important to ensure the arts community continues to achieve its shared ambition to bring great music, and great artists, to as many people as possible.”

Donagh Collins, Chief Executive at Askonas Holt, also commented: “We are very much looking forward to this partnership, which can hopefully inspire a model for presenting orchestras in London, and beyond, into the future”. Karen McDonald, Managing Director at KD SCHMID, concluded “In the true spirit of Andris’ alliance, we’re delighted to be venturing into this new partnership with our friends at Askonas Holt to present two top international orchestras in London in collaboration with the Barbican and Southbank Centre.”

The alliance between the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Gewandhausorchester Leipzig was formed under Andris Nelsons’ direction in 2017. It is a multidimensional collaboration designed to create opportunities for the two orchestras, their administrations and for their respective audiences. In addition to new commissions and learning programmes, they have been celebrating their shared mutual heritage while also shedding light on the traditions of each ensemble and the cities they are proud to call home.


  • R. Brite says:

    I can get there by train, Norman – am I allowed to go?

  • Gustavo says:

    No problem if everyone in those cities would immediately stop driving fossil-fuelled cars 24/365.

  • CA says:

    Stop the insanity of global travel like this. BSO should do more to increase interest in its home country. It’s already the “wealthiest” American orchestra. The word hubris comes to mind here. Stay home. Build audiences here. Before this art form disappears altogether in your home country. My two cents.

  • giampi says:

    Same program in Paris at the Philharmonie

  • liveisbest says:

    Performing artists are most justified to travel around the world, because they can’t be replaced by anything. You
    can’t experience concerts by Zoom. Artists must be in front of me.
    Everything you can at home now, but not the live performance. Perhaps everyone should stop to fly, but these artists not.

  • Gustavo says:

    Eine Alpensinfonie should be sponsored by the hydroelectric and wind power industry.

    Sinfonia domestica by MS Teams or Zoom.

  • Eduardo says:

    this gravy train has run its course. stop it. This practice has to change drastically.

    • D says:

      Gravy train? The costs of touring an orchestra are enormous, and the concert fees rarely allow an orchestra to recoup their up-front costs. Here in the U.S., at least, orchestras like the BSO must rely on major donors to supplement the costs of touring so there’s at least the possibility of breaking even. Orchestral touring is a promotional endeavor, not a moneymaker. That alone, perhaps, is reason enough to curtail the practice. But do not accuse the orchestras of making a quick and easy payday by touring–it’s quite the contrary.

      • Eduardo says:

        the title says, “two agencies take a cut……” the orchestras and the environment are the victims…. as well as being less money available for other musical projects, more modest perhaps.

        • D says:

          Norman’s titles reveal merely his biases; if you actually read the article as quoted in the post, you will see that the agencies are co-presenting these concerts, which means they are sharing the financial risk with the venues by putting up their own money in exchange, presumably, for a percentage of the box office. This kind of arrangement says less about the alleged rapaciousness of agencies and more about the increasing financial pressures on the Barbican and the Southbank Centre that make the presentation of touring orchestras with expensive soloists too much of a risk/burden to undertake on their own. And let’s be real: the risk, even to the agencies, is quite real: with declining concert attendance even pre-COVID, the notion that they would ever make a killing at the box office is illusory. If not for the agencies “partnering” with the venues, it’s unlikely these concerts would be happening at all. This is about keeping the agencies’ clients happy.

  • Allen says:

    To save the planet, it would make sense to speak to China before worrying about where our orchestras are playing.

  • Gary Freer says:

    They should all wear hair shirts and self flagellate between movements to display their public repentance.

    Can’t wait to see Yuja Wang’s outfit.

  • Couperin says:

    Will maestro be eating two dinners every night, one with each orchestra?

  • sonicsinfonia says:

    So we are only allowed now to see orchestras local to where we live? I have no professional symphony orchestra concerts within an hour’s travel of where I live, so I am now forbidden to attend opera or concert performances?

    Visiting performing arts companies are one of the greatest of cultural exchanges between countries. They provide world brand recognition which, in turn, leads to increased ticket and media sales for the company/orchestra. They also provide political cultural links – think what the Bolshoi and Mariinsky tours did for international relations during the Cold War era.

    The planes will fly whether 100 musicians have booked tickets or not. Since the players, staff and crew travel as a group on tour maybe they contribute less to pollution than driving individually to and from home, rehearsals and concerts.

  • Patricia says:

    All Strauss? What a nightmare!

  • poyu says:

    Why don‘t you think another way around: the two orchestras are invited and will travel around the same time anyway, there is no need to invite two conductors for this.
    Orchestras travel at the same location at the same time is very common; BBC proms, Salzburg festival, the unfortunately cancelled 2020 Amsterdam Mahler cycle… We didn‘t think it‘s a problem when they had different conductors, why we have problem when they share one conductor?

  • NormIsSexy says:

    share of global greenhouse gas emissions from…
    air travel ~2.5%
    the internet ~3.7%

    maybe we should all just stop wasting electricity reading this opinionated garbage.
    …but not today 🙂