Just in: Berlin Philharmonic chief backs out of New Year’s

Just in: Berlin Philharmonic chief backs out of New Year’s


norman lebrecht

December 29, 2021

The Berlin Phil has just informed us that chief conductor Kirill Petrenko has withdrawn from the New Year’s Eve concert on medical grounds. The Israeli Lahav Shani has jumped in.

Here’s the statement:

It is with great regret that the chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker Kirill Petrenko has to cancel his conducting duties at the orchestra’s New Year’s Eve concerts at short notice due to acute back pain. The orchestra is very grateful to the young Israeli conductor Lahav Shani for being able to step in at such short notice. The music director of the Israel Philharmonic conducts the Berliner Philharmoniker for the second time in these concerts following his debut in September 2020.

The programme has been partly changed and is now as follows:
Johann Strauss Die Fledermaus: Overture
Max Bruch Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 1 in G minor, op. 26
Janine Jansen violin
Fritz Kreisler: Liebesleid
Janine Jansen violin
Igor Stravinsky The Firebird, Suite No. 2 (1919 version)
Maurice Ravel: La Valse

Two items replaced on the programme are Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Much Ado About Nothing overture and parts of Richard Strauss’ orchestral suite Schlagobers.


  • gimel says:

    Such surreal programming for a New Years concert.

    The Bat to remind us of Covid origins.
    Bruch is just sad music.
    The Firebird to remind us of cremation after Covid.
    The Valse is a long dystopian waltz.

  • John Borstlap says:

    The impact of the baton’s weight is often misunderstood by outsiders.

    • Tamino says:

      The baton is very light compared to the brain, indeed.
      Now clueless people only judge based on what they see, and since you see the baton, but not the brain…

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Bring back Sally!!

      • John Borstlap says:

        A month ago famous conductor [redacted] came here for advice about his batons, well, he had five of these silly sticks, of different lengths. One had a pear-shaped end filled with lead, for Bruckner he explained, and a very small one for Mozart but the problem was that it often slipped through his fingers. But the lead filled one gave him a regular back pain that’s why he never did Bruckner, he said. However we DID advise to do Bruckner with that lead ball since we thought the earlier he stopped conducting the better for the [redacted] orchestra. In thsi way we have a positive influence on music life.


  • HSY says:

    Speaking of Schlagobers, sadly replaced in the new programme, I really wish American ballet companies could start filming and releasing their productions. ABT has a by all accounts wonderful production of the rarely played ballet and yet almost nobody outside of New York City has seen it…


  • Music lover says:

    It would be good to mention both orchestras that Lahav Shani is chiefconductor. Yes, he is Israeli but next to Israel Philharmonic he is also chief conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra in The Netherlands. Thanks for adding it in the text!

  • AuditionFollower says:

    Speaking with Berlin Phil, I looked their website and I noticed that they are looking new principal flute. Because orchestra like Berlin Phil and also the top spot of woodwinds – well that’s a quite a big news from 2022…

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      What’s happened to Emmanuel Pahud?

    • Ozzie says:

      I actually wondered what happened to Dufour, I don’t think I’ve seen him play in months. It was always Pahud or a guest player. He is still listed on the website though. Does anyone have any insight?

    • Anthony Sayer says:

      Have they fired Pahud?

    • 5566hh says:

      Well spotted! Almost certainly to replace Mathieu Dufour, who hasn’t played with the orchestra for more than a year. I wonder what has happened to him?

    • mary says:

      Pahud and Dufour are both approaching retirement age, time in any case, to start looking for new blood.

      • Michael says:

        Pahud is 51. Dufour 49. What are you talking about?

      • Ozzie says:

        Huh? Both of them are around 50, in Germany you have to work until the age of 67. So I don’t think “approaching retirement age” is the reason here.

      • john Kelly says:

        Only if retirement age is around 50!!!! More likely one of the two of them is interested in a career as a soloist (Galway). If so – good luck with that!

      • Axl says:

        Pahud and Dufour are both born in early 70’s so they two are absolutely not old guys!. And btw, in Germany/basically in Europe there is mandatory retirement age of 65-67

      • sam says:

        Musicians, like athletes, retire when they can no longer perform at the level they wish to.

        It is not a number, it is their ability relative to their own expectations.

        Roger Federer can beat most of us in tennis with blindfolds on and both arms tied behind his back, but at 40, he can no longer win Grand Slams, which is what he expects himself to do, so 40 is the retirement age for him.

        67 may well be the retirement age in Germany, but the Berlin Philharmonic does not suffer players just for the sake of geriatrics.

  • Corno di Caccia says:

    An interesting programme, although it wouldn’t get me out to buy a ticket, even if I was in Berlin.
    As for the theory that any such Fledermaus is responsible for the start of the Covid plague I think that has flown away long ago. Human error is more than likely the true culprit.

  • Jean says:

    What is Firebird “Suite No. 2” …?

    • John Borstlap says:

      It must be a mistake, there is only one suite of 1919, combining the ‘best bits’ of the original ballet of 1911.

      • Anon says:

        There was the original ballet score (1910), and three orchestral suites (1911, 1919, 1945). The 1919 suite is therefore the second Firebird suite.

  • Eva says:

    Real pity! Expected the concert for several months as a digital hall subscriber.
    Well, good luck to Herr Petrenko. We love you!

  • Martin van de Merwe says:

    Too bad our Berlin friends forgot to mention Lahav is also music director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra ! (as a matter of fact he started there before Israel Phil.)

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    It’s a pity that the Korngold and R. Strauss works had to be replaced. They were the only ‘off the beaten path’ works scheduled.

    • Eyal Braun says:

      You can’t expect Lahav Shani to learn a Korngold work which he surely never conducted in such a short time. Lahav is a magnificent conductor , and he could well be a future candidate to head am orchestra like the BPO, and already today he is a musical director of two outstanding orchestras

      • Herr Doktor says:

        Correction…one outstanding orchestra.

        Maybe the other might get there during his tenure.

      • Barry Guerrero says:

        I never said I “expected” Mr. Shani to learn Korngold, or anything else. I said it was pity that those two works had to be replaced. There’s a difference. I’m interested in, and concerned, music – not conductors (a necessary evil – a means to an end).

  • Gustavo says:

    Why is this young lad unable to adapt to Korngold and Strauss, the only fun pieces worth looking forward to?

    What a shame!

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    I’m not surprised. KP’s conducting style is unsustainable. He has the upper body development of a rugby player but never goes to the gym. He is in constant tension which gives him the biceps and pecs of a superhero but the back pain of a warehouse worker. It was already a problem in Bayreuth back in 2013-15 and surely contributed to him bowing out of his Ring after three years instead of the usual five (and no, it wasn’t Castorf’s stage direction). I wish him a speedy recovery and, above all, a course of Alexander Technique or something which will help him to be able to share his talent without affecting his health.

  • Kyle A Wiedmeyer says:

    It’s a real shame they replaced those two works, they’re quite uncommonly played.

  • Gustavo says:

    Firebird, la Valse…

    What a lahav!

  • Mila says:

    Kudos for Shani for jumping in with about 2 hours notice when Petrenko basically couldn’t get out of bed yesterday morning after rehearsing the days before. I hope it pays off for the young conductor!

  • Gustavo says:

    No more limbo dancing; swallow a broom stick like Furtwängler!

  • Ernie says:

    Great seeing Rainer Seegers on the timpani. I guess they brought him out of retirement for this one.