With 2 orchestras I’ll conduct all 9 Beethovens in a day

With 2 orchestras I’ll conduct all 9 Beethovens in a day


norman lebrecht

June 20, 2022

The German conductor Gabriel Feltz has two orchestras, in Dortmund and Belgrade.

This weekend and next he is conducting the complete Beethoven in a day.

(Er, why?)

Here’s the promo blurb:

1 conductor, 2 cities, 2 orchestras, 9 symphonies, more than 200 performers

The “Beethoven Marathon” – one of the biggest cultural events in the world in 2022, is the latest venture launched by the Belgrade Philharmonic and Chief Conductor Gabriel Feltz, together with the Dortmund Philharmonic, to be held in Dortmund (June 19) and Novi Sad (June 26) as part of the European Capital of Culture’s program called “Fortress of Peace.” One conductor, two European cities, two orchestras, 9 symphonies and a total of 10 concerts will culminate in a grand finale at a free open-air concert at the Petrovaradin Fortress with more than 200 performers.

The “Beethoven Marathon,” a unique event in the world of classical music, includes a rare performance of Beethoven’s symphonies performed alternately by the Belgrade and Dortmund philharmonic orchestras in one day, from morning to evening, under the direction of the joint chief conductor. Finally, in the famous Ode to Joy they will be joined by the Slovak Philharmonic Choir and vocal soloists Ana Malesza-Kutny, Michaela Selinger, Young Voo Kim, and Robert Bork.

“When I created this idea, my main motive was not an endurance competition in terms of who can play longer, but a unique mental and physical experience of the magnificent progress of Beethoven’s brilliant mind, from his first to his last symphony. In addition, we will convey to the audience a message of humanity, harmony, and joy in creating music by musicians of different nations. It is a huge contribution and very important gesture by us artists in these difficult times,” Chief Conductor Gabriel Feltz, the author of the “Beethoven Marathon” concept, said.


  • pjl says:

    MAAZEL famously did this in London in the 80s, I think, and with more than 2 orchestras, I think.

  • jonathan Sutherland says:

    This is quite an achievement.
    To my knowledge, the last (and only) time the complete Beethoven symphonies were performed in one day was in London in December 1988 when Lorin Maazel conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra.
    Gabriel Feltz is achieving the same feat with only two orchestras.
    And like Maazel, Feltz is also conducting from memory.

    • Michael says:

      I took part in the performances, and the feeling from the performers was that Maazel conducted more from ‘vague recollection’ than ‘memory’.

      His display of petulance during the performances with the LSO led to a breakdown in their relationship, which lasted several years.

      It was only the offer of a lucrative record contract, in which he tried to recreate the McCormackKreisler combination with Andrea Bocelli, that tempted him to work with the LSO again. It was a moment to be savoured, particularly when it suddenly dawned on him in the recording session that he had to play the violin in front of the same players he had been bad mouthing.

      • Skeptic says:

        I was playing too. He insisted we play his ‘editions’ (of e.g. the 5th)- hilariously, mind-bogglingly tasteless sub-Hollywood re-orchestrations which doubtless commanded a hire fee for the parts.

    • music lover says:

      Actually,it is absolutely unimportant,if someone conducts from memory or not.The Maazel performances(i heard one),as most of his performances,very his usual combination of erratic,perfunctory,dull blandness punctuated by showy,eccentric mannerisms.The man knew every note of the score,but nothing about the music….having played for Mr.Feltz,well …both musically and personally,it was an experience my colleagues and i wanted to forget as soon as possible.

  • Patrick says:

    Maazel did this in London with the LSO,RPO,LPO and Philharmonia over thirty years ago at the RFH!

  • Minnesota says:

    Interesting, but if he did all of Haydn’s symphonies consecutively over two days I’d be really impressed.

    • Danilo says:

      100+ symphonies just to impress you? Lol

    • SoulCollector says:

      Lol… and I’d fall into a deep sleep halfway through the 2nd symphony.

      Seriously, how are you even comparing rich Beethoven symphonies to Haydn symphonies, which are like the the cartoons played before the actual movie back in the day? Rhetorical question. And, I adore Haydn, but it the symphonies are apples to oranges.

    • music lover says:

      Yes,and for Leif Segerstams 380+,we´ll grant him one more day.

  • J Barcelo says:

    Lorin Maazel did that (in London?) years ago. Now, if Feltz wanted to do a Mahler cycle in one day, that would be something; the boxed set of his Mahler symphonies is superb!

  • Karl says:

    That dude needs to take some OCD meds.

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    No, thanks, bulimia is a mortal sin.

  • Guy says:

    He can conduct by zoom both orchestras (or more) at the same time! Or he can have them each play a different symphony and finish in half the time! Or he can play at double tempo… or he can play it all night …
    At least he’s not playing in the nude! The naked conductor! Or is he!

  • Maria says:

    Nearly as bad as Schiff and his 48 in one sitting! All hearing and no listening, and centred around one person or anyone but Beethoven or Bach!

  • tet says:

    Maazel took 12 hours. If Feltz conducts at the original metronome markings, he can do it in 6.

    • D. says:

      6h40min, just did last 3 with m.Feltz, and he was amaising, fresh and inspiring ’till last note, as both the orchestras and Slovakian choir!
      Vita e bella!

  • Alasdair Munro says:

    Martin Brabbins could be asked to do the Havergal Brian cycle .

    • Herr Doktor says:

      Better yet…the Leif Segerstam cycle awaits some trailblazing soul seeking to make a name for his/her career. (Alondra de la Parra, perhaps?)

      Think of it – it could be a great marketing success as well. All that’s needed is for a wealthy donor (or wealthy Segerstam relative) to pay the audience that will fill the seats. They should include popcorn as well.

  • Beethoven says:

    What a stupid idea. Completely deprived of musical phenomenon

  • Simon says:

    Music is not a sport. This kind of stunt surely only proves a huge misunderstanding of the highs and lows of Beethoven’s writing? Also, too much of a good thing gives you indigestion – in this case musical indigestion! Does this guy go out for dinner and have 9 starters….or 9 mains…or 9 deserts? No! The strength of
    a musical meal, in my opinion, comes in the pairing and variety of various styles…the contrast enhances the menu.
    Musical sportsman should run the 100 metres and steer clear of music! Oh, and by the way, top sportsman do not perform 10 hours a day – they simply can’t give their best at an international level.

  • TITUREL says:

    No idea of the quality of the playing, but Stewart Goodyear apparently played all 32 sonatas in one day. What is WITH these complete-o-thons?

  • Adrian Brown says:

    I conducted from memory all the Beethoven’s and Brahms in one day with Stoneleigh youth orchestra fundraising some 30 years ago. No big deal. Adrian Brown

    • SoulCollector says:

      I would think your then youths would feel differently. I, on the other hand, having been in the best youth orchestra in the US and 2 of the top symphony orchestras in the US for a combined 48 years, think conductors themselves are “no big deal.”

  • MF Choi says:

    I agree with my heart. It’s the best way to show the grandeur of Beethoven.

  • Drsteelhead says:

    An unnecessary stunt, not unlike speed climbing. Perhaps, they’ll enjoy playing the symphonies as quickly as possible. On period instruments, of course.

  • MariaCadiz says:

    Capella Cracoviensis did it in 2016 in Krakow, Poland. One orchestra on period instruments, 5 conductors and Capella Cracoviensis Chamber Choir + soloists.

  • Gustavo says:

    Okay, okay, but why?

    It reminds me of Segerstam’s S15elius Marathon.

  • Paul Dawson says:

    Downvotes seem to be accumulating for those comments describing the marathon as pointless. Bring them on to me as well. Why rush these things?

    Following the Schiff WTC sans interval, I am questioning my role as an audience member.

    Personally, I yearn for time to digest a live performance, Even back in the days when the standard orchestral programme was Overture, Concerto [Interval] Symphony, I used to wish for an interval between Overture and Concerto. I recall an Ole Schmidt performance of La Gazza Ladra overture, forgotten concerto and Nielsen 5. (Snare drummer earned their pay that night). The Rossini was played so sensationally that I was aching for time to digest it.

    A propos Nielsen, it brings back a superb Galway rendition of the flute concerto. Instead of allowing the audience to digest this over the interval, he played an Irish jig as an encore. Spectacular virtuosity, but the Nielsen became just a distant memory.

  • guest says:

    Er, why not? A day following Beethoven’s career as a symphonist from 1800 to 1824 strikes me as a day well spent. I understand this was originally planned for 2020, the 150th anniversary, but Covid intervened. There is no nonsense about ‘continuity’, either – there will be intervals, and breaks between the concerts. re Schiff, I would happily spend a day listening to performances of both books of Bach’s WTC — preferably with the different keyboards available to Bach on the stage, as well as a modern piano, so that each Prelude and Fugue could be played on the most appropriate instruments, perhaps by different performers — provided the emphasis was on variety and enjoyment, and quasi-religious veneration of The Master (composer or performer!) was not required or expected.

  • Anusia says:

    Oh well. Better 9 symphonies than Vingt regards sur l’Enfant-Jesus.

  • MB says:

    Not a music event. A dumb publicity stunt.

    • Jonathan Jonathan Sutherland says:

      I disagree with MB most strongly.
      Having followed Gabriel Feltz’ career for some time now, I believe he is the polar opposite of a ‘stuntman’.
      He is in fact a very serious conductor much respected by his two orchestras which is a vastly more valuable yardstick than anything armchair amateur detractors may opine.
      He even learnt the notoriously difficult Serbian language to better communicate with the Belgrade musicians.
      Recently Zubin Mehta publicly praised the quality of playing Feltz has achieved with the Belgrade Philharmonic.
      I think the opportunity to hear how Beethoven progressed as a symphonic composer, with all symphonies played in order, is a fascinating venture. As for the commentators who are making absurd parallels with sporting marathons, let’s consider the logistics.
      There will be two orchestras playing a total of c.6 hours 40 minutes of music. That makes roughly 3.5 hours playing for each orchestra, which is an hour less than just one performance of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.

  • Twins says:

    While you are writing comments, Feltz is writing a history.

    • Gustavo says:

      Wozu Witze schreiben an die Wand?
      Den größten hälst Du in der Hand.

    • Ludwig says:

      A history of what exactly? Only a mind that does not understand music would listen to 9 Beethoven Symphonies in one go! Felts is delivering nothing more than the Golden Arches of Classical Music – a publicity stunt that only stands to benefit him – no cultured mind would fall for such nonsense!

  • Stephen says:

    Seem to remember this sort of thing happens in Rag Week in Cambridge from time to time?

  • Sidelius says:

    I’m not sure even Beethoven would approve. Even if your brain can absorb all of that, I doubt your emotions can process it in a way that does him justice. Your feeling brain cannot endure that much push and pull, surge and calm, storm and fury without it all turning into a pointless pudding of notes. It seems to me it would just cheapen the experience. Not the way to really get the music, I think. Maybe just two or three of the larger symphonies with a concerto thrown in might be musically digestible. The ninth by itself is long enough to almost be a whole concert of course. Also, it is cruelly demanding on the musicians, they won’t be able to lift their arms for days after. They may require therapy.

    • guest says:

      Perhaps you are right about the emotions. But about the ordeal: a commenter above says it took 6 hours 40 minutes; each orchestra did 4 of nos 1-8 alone, and came together for 9. Would a professional musician find playing around three and a half hours in the course of a day excessive or trauma-inducing? I thought they were rather tougher than that.

    • Brian Bell says:

      Perhaps consider Beethoven himself. He did several “Academy”s, where a couple of his symphonies received first performances, along with a new piano concerto, maybe the Septet, etc. etc., in a marathon that ran hours. One could recreate one of those, as the programs survive. And don’t forget to turn off the heat!