New York Philharmonic wins German residency

New York Philharmonic wins German residency


norman lebrecht

December 02, 2021

While Cleveland, Boston, Chicago, the LA Phil and even Pittsburgh have regular residencies in prestige European festivals, the New York Philharmonic has lagged far behind in old Continent prestige over the past two decades.

Its absence, however, has just been slightly remedied.

The orchestra has signed on for a mini-residency of three concerts next May at Kraftwerk Peenemünde, in the Usedom Music Festival.

The Peenemünde Power Station, now a concert hall, was built by the Nazis as a V1 and V2 rocket test and nuclear development site.

The orchestra will perform with music director Jaap Van Zweden and soloists Anne-Sophie Mutter, Thomas Hampson and Jan Lisiecki.


  • Allen says:

    Pity we didn’t do something similar with the (far more impressive and iconic) Battersea power station.

    I seem to recall this being suggested at some point?

  • gimel says:

    I don’t know if I should laugh or cry.

    -the WHAT festivals?
    -Lithuania? I think there are more Lithuanians in Brooklyn than there are Lithuanians in Lithuania.
    -impeccable timing, delta and omicron will be joined by a new Greek letter in May

  • The shame of it all….the absolute nadir of music making! Lenny is turning in his grave

    • Alviano says:

      Here we go again……..

    • V.Lind says:

      There can’t be many places in Germany without some echo of the recent past. Are you okay with any of them?

      Peenemünde may have a few sins to answer for, but it does not seem to me that it was a centre of anti-Jewish violence. And in fact it was surely from there that there was some significant resistance.

      I can’t access your NYT link below so do not know if you are reversing the hostility of the post to which I am replying here. But this post is consistent with positions you have taken here before.

      I definitely belong to the “lest we forget” school of thought, and am concerned at how little so many people seem to know about the war and the Holocaust. But I also think that a few generations on, today’s Germans, while charged with honouring the victims of past regimes, must be allowed to develop the country they live in.

      And if that means performing arts in places with less savoury histories, there at least are some arguments for so doing.

      • this whole residency is clearly a matter of who you know as far as my experience with Usedom and the total German music scene goes. And who do you think were the slave laborers that build the V2 Rockets for the Germans which were used to destroy London? Once again, I defer to Google and having spent time on Usedom and thoroughly studied the Island’s history and Peenemuende.

        Peenemuende led to Mittelbau Dora….you might Google that.

        Usedom is a fractured paradise with hundreds of empty hotels that will now house The New York Philharmonic and the great audience it will attract. The potential for another of the great German/Austrian festivals is certainly there, and it has staying power. And yes you are correct in saying that for me all of Europe and the rest of the world is more than tainted with growing anti-Semitism. You might read Europe Against the Jews-1800-1945 ad infinitum. The author is Goetz Aly, as well as looking into the works of the Polish historian Jan Grabowski.

    • Tamino says:

      I’m sure Lenny was proud of Apollo 11 landing on the Moon. A project led by a man who had a major career in Peenemünde before. Lenny would have understood these dialectical challenges of life and how people live with and in them. He thus also conducted the Vienna Philharmonic extensively, only 20 years after the Shoah.
      Therefore you are not qualified to speak for him it seems.

    • JB says:

      Is it worse than playing in Pyongyang ?

  • Lothario Hunter says:

    Alexander has done so much better for Chicago!

    As part of his Mephistophelian compact with Muti, he has secured an eminent annual winter residency in Tampa, on Florida’s sugary West Coast. There, every given winter, the august Maestro enjoys unconstrained, uninterrupted, CSO-sponsored daily access to his private subtropical .. Gulf. 24/7.

    Think of all the dreamy cruises! And let the petty people complain about the propriety of such an arrangement. Alexander knows what Muti fancies!

  • Monsoon says:

    I understand the reasons why American orchestras push to do residencies overseas — it’s prestigious, can pay well, etc., — but if orchestras want to live up to their mission statements that always talk about local impact, they should do more domestic touring to cities that aren’t large enough to support 52-week orchestra with 90+ tenured musicians.

    I just find it crazy that people in Vienna, London, Shanghai, etc. are more likely to hear one of the leading American orchestras in their city than the people in Virginia Beach or Riverside.

    • Sisko24 says:

      Yes, yes and yes! This is a good comment and a major complaint about our fine American orchestras. The next time I see or hear of someone decrying the ‘dying’ of classical music in America, I’ll remember this.

    • Jack says:

      Orchestras want to go places where they’ll make money, not lose money.

    • JB says:

      I don’t believe that it adds much to the prestige of NY Phil if they play in a remote place like Usedom for a small and unknown festival. It’s not Salzburg or not even Schleswig Holstein Music Festival.
      All this is possible because of 910,000 Euros of tax payers money which is not a huge sum. Aren’t there private or corporate sponsors in the US willing to spend 1 million to get NY Phil to their city ?

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    That is bizarre! How much of an audience do they get out there?

    • Zenaida says:

      The Usedom Musikfestival is actually quite well known in Germany. But it is by no means a large festival, definitely of the calibre of the Baden-Baden Festival, for example. This will be quite a major coup for Usedom, made possible no doubt by additional subsidies to celebrate its 20th anniversary. For the New York Phil’s sake (and the current debate on climate impact), I hope these concerts are only stops in a major European tour, to make the whole effort worthwhile.

  • CA says:

    Just not even in the same league…not even worth celebrating in my opinion.

  • Victoryman says:

    V1 or V2 anyone?

  • Victoryman says:

    V2 or V2 anyone?


    Great “outreach”. Too bad it has Nazi connotations.

  • David says:

    Gravity’s Rainbow Music Festival

  • Ruby Yacht says:

    I’d be more impressed if they had a summer home equal to Tanglewood.

  • Thomas Hampson
    Yestteardtay Sua7t n2th:51o 1r7ePMdf ·
    I am thrilled to be joining the New York Philharmonic at the Usedom Music Festival for this historic concert, celebrating the triumphs of humanity and of global cooperation. It means so much to me to be singing these particular Mahler songs, because they touch the truest depth of what the world is capable of when we turn darkness into light.
    It is especially meaningful for me as an American who has made so much of his life in Europe and Germany, because this type of bridge building between America and Germany has enriched and deepened my entire life.…/

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    640 West 239th Street, Suite 3D, Riverdale, New York 10463 Contact: Helen Kamioner @ 718.796.9802
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    Peenemünde — the former Nazi missile development center in whose shadow thousands of victims gave their lives, resulting in the birth of the intercontinental ballistic missile and the space race. On Saturday evening, September 28th, at 7:30 P.M, it will become the site of an historic memorial concert of Benjamin Britten’s massive “War Requiem,” Opus 66., conducted by Maestro Mstislav Rostropovich. In a show of solidarity and symbolic reconciliation, included among the dignitaries attending this event will be Mikhail Gorbachew, who will speak concerning “The New Europe and Russia,” Lord Mayor of Coventry, David Chater, and President of Germany, Johannes Rau. Several survivors of Peenemünde who have returned for this memorable occasion are also expected to attend. Located on the German vacation Island of Usedom in the Baltic Sea, 150 miles from Berlin, and 10 miles from Poland, the building in which the “War Requiem” will actually be held— a coal fired power plant built by Siemens—has recently been renovated at a cost of seven million dollars to accommodate exhibitions, large public gatherings and conventions, with a seating capacity of more than 1000. It also houses a 10-year old museum and information center which hosts ca. 350,000 visitors yearly. The “War Requiem” conceived by its producers as an initiative for world peace, will be offered as the opening concert of the 9th Usedom Music Festival, by the reunified German State of Mecklenburg-West Pommerania, under the Artistic Direction of Festival Manager Thomas Hummel, with the cooperation of Dr. Werner Molik, Chairman of the Friends of the Festival, and Dirk Zache, Director of the Peenemünde Museum. The concert will be broadcast live by North German Radio

    Peenemünde began construction in 1936 and was manned by slave labor in 1943. Following heavy bombing by the Royal Air Force in August, 1943, in which 750 people lost their lives, including 600 slave laborers, the manufacturing of missiles was moved underground to the horrifying Dora/Mittelwerk concentration camp in Thuringia in central Germany. The persons in charge were General Walter Dornberger, who headed military affairs concerning Peenemünde, and future chief of booster development at NASA, SS Officer Wernher von Braun, who led all scientific and technical activities. Both surrendered to the Americans at the end of World War II. In the early 1940’s, the first design for a 2-stage rocket that would reach New York was laid out on paper. Launched by the Third Reich in late 1944, the first ballistic missile, the V-2, fell on London, Paris, and Antwerp after covering nearly 200 miles in 5 minutes. “Both democracy’s and communism’s ballistic missile and space programs, as well as the Scud and Patriot missiles of the Gulf War began in the service of the Nazi State.” (From Dr. Michael J. Neufeld’s book, “The Rocket and the Reich.” ) Hitler had hoped the V-2 missiles would ultimately be the “Wunderwaffe,” (wonder weapon), so labeled by Goebbels, that would win the war for Germany and thus aid him in his quest to control the world.

    (Please See Next Page)

    Dedicated to the nations of Russia, Great Britain and Germany, The “War Requiem,” composed by Benjamin Britten, an avowed pacifist, was first performed to celebrate the Consecration of the restored St. Michael’s Cathedral at Coventry on May 30, 1962. The text is based partly on the traditional Requiem Mass and partly on the poetry of Wilfred Owens, killed in World War I just one week before the Armistice, and after he had received the Military Cross for bravery. Musical forces include the Boys Choir of Coventry Cathedral, the North German Radio Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1945, the Radio Philharmonie Hanover of North Germany, founded in 1950, the North Germany Radio Choir, the BBC Singers, the Philharmonia Choir of London, and the Hamburg Boys Choir. The Chamber Orchestra will be conducted by Andreas S. Weiser. The soloists representing the three nations to whom the “War Requiem” is dedicated are Russian Soprano Elena Prokina, British Tenor Anthony Rolfe-Johnson, and German Baritone Andreas Schmidt. Born in 1927 in Baku, Azerbeijan, Mstislav Rostropovich, who enjoyed a very close relationship with Britten, is Music Director for the entire event.

    The resort Island of Usedom, known once to the elite of Berlin as the German Riviera — has been restored to its former natural elegance and flair since the reunification of Germany in 1990. With nearly 100 miles of sandy white beaches, 5 star hotels and restaurants, manicured promenades and turn of the century villas, Usedom offers visitors all the comforts and activities required for a first-class vacation, including health spas, shopping and sightseeing, golfing, horseback riding, hiking, biking, sailing, fishing, boating, and water skiing. The quaint Island villages of Heringsdorf, Ahlbeck, and Bansin, were made famous by Kaiser Wilhelm II, which he had built into his personal Imperial Baths in the 1860’s, and have welcomed such prominent guests as the Brothers Mann, Maxim Gorki, Leo Tolstoi and Johann Strauss. The late American artist Lyonel Feininger, a frequent visitor to the Island, published a book with many sketches of Usedom.

    The Usedom Music Festival, of which Kurt Masur is one of the original patrons, opens its 9th Season on September 28th, with the memorial concert of Britten’s “War Requiem” in the village of Peenemünde, and continues through October 12th, offering a series of 18 concerts in various locations throughout the Island, including authentic Gothic churches, shipping piers, a clipper ship, outdoor promenades, and inside villas and grand ball rooms of luxury hotels. In keeping with its custom of exploring the cultural traditions of the countries along the Baltic Coast, the Usedom Music Festival, continues to delve into the rich musical heritage of the music of Russia. The focus of this year’s festival will reach from Saint Petersburg straight into the heart of the 850 year old city of the Czars, Moscow. At the center of this year’s Usedom Music Festival stand the works of Muscovites who have greatly contributed to musical history: from Tchaikowsky, Scriabin and Rachmaninoff, to Mjaskowskij, Schostakowitsch and Prokofiev, through its most recent composers, Denisow, Schnittke and Gubaidulina. The musical genres of the festival spans the gamut from instrumental and vocal concerts, to symphony and chamber orchestra concerts to jazz concerts. Another highlight of the festival will be the presentation of the winners of the American Young Concerts Artists Competition from New York City. Other guest artists include Vladimir Spivakov, Natalia Gutman, the Borodin Quartet, Russian Jazz artists, the Moscow Quintet, the Chamber Choir of the Tschaikovsky Conservatory, Pianist Vassily Primakov, and winners of the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Music Competition, among others.

    For tickets and further information in Germany, contact the office of the Usedom Music Festival at 011.49.383.783.4647; Fax:; e-mail:
     Sponsors for this Memorial Concert in Peenemünde include: 
    20 Partner Hotels auf der Insel Usedom
    Auswärtiges Amt (Außenministerium der Bundesrepublik Deutschland)
    CITTI Handelsgesellschaft
    DKB Deutsche Kreditbank AG
    E.dis Energie Nord AG
    ENBW Die Energie-AG
    Gasversorgung Vorpommern
    GEMA Bezirksdirektion Berlin
    Gemeinden der Insel Usedom
    Klinikum Plau am See Mediclin AG
    Kurzweckverband der Seeheilbäder Insel Usedom
    Landesregierung Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
    Landkreis Ostvorpommern
    Lübzer Brauerei
    Meklenburgische Versicherungsgruppe
    Norddeutscher Rundfunk
    OZ Ostsee-Zeitung
    RADIO 3 Klassik Club
    Robert Bosch Stiftung Stuttgart
    Schöner Inseln!
    Stadt Swinemünde
    Stadt Usedom
    Stadt Wolgast
    Stifftung der Sparkasse Vorpommern für Wissenschaft, Kultur, Sport und Gesellschaft
    Stiftung Mercator
    UBB Usedomer Bäderbahn
    Zweckverband Seebäder Insel Usedom

  • Allen says:

    Let’s keep a sense of perspective. Yes, this place has horrendous associations but, at the end of the day, it’s an old power station and does not reflect badly on the people who will be going to the music festival.

    We should be more concerned about current events like the sight of certain “protesters” in London spitting at a bus full of Jewish children. Now THAT is chilling, IMO.

    • Spitting at a bus full of Jewish Children, as history has taught us, leads to….?

      • Allen says:

        Nothing good.

        I would suggest that anyone who considers it appropriate to target an age group which cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be responsible for your grievances, perceived or otherwise, is part of a sinister dehumanisation process. And that leads to … ?

        It is also worth remembering that the Manchester bomber targeted the same age group.

  • Tom Phillips says:

    “The New York Philharmonic has lagged far behind in old Continent prestige over the past two decades.” And deservedly so – they are vastly inferior to at least the first three of those orchestras.