The summer ends with a festival whimper

The summer ends with a festival whimper


norman lebrecht

August 21, 2022

Salzburg has staged its last major premiere of the month and the feeling is the festival has been well below standard.

The Bayreuth Ring  was booed off the stage.

Edinburgh has managed one secondhand opera and failed to put on a Beethoven 9th. Its classical content has seldom been duller.

The BBC Proms this week consist of an Aretha Franklin tribute, an Australian orchestra, Rattle conducts Mahler again,  a BBC Brahms-Franck concert, a drop-in from Finnish Radio and music from the BBC’s natural history series. Nobody’s rushing to buy tickets.

The lack of managerial energy is palpable.

What can be done to restore it?



  • Orchestral Player says:

    Maybe dull for you Norman but actually Mahler 2 with Rattle and the LSO is sold out so…..

    • Alan says:

      As was every one of the seven performances over five days I attended in Salzburg. And I saw an awful lot of people enjoying themselves. Not music critics I’m sure. But then again. When are they ever happy? I certainly enjoyed it as much as any other year.

  • mehrlicht says:

    Play Pettersson 🙂

    • Mark says:

      The reference to “Aretha Franklin” shows the tendency to emphasise such events ignoring the fact that the overwhelming majority of concerts are well within the western classical tradition.
      Having said that I have an idea that keeps the emphasis on the ” classical” while allowing for diversity. The BBC seems to think “diversity” means other kinds of music – rock, soul etc. Suppose instead they looked to other kinds of CLASSICAL music – Indian, Chinese, Iranian etc. That would meet its their diversity quota while remaining true to the Proms classical mission. Again the overwhelming majority of concerts would be in the Wesrern classical tradition but I’m sure there would be interest in the international aspect too

      • music lover says:

        Right.There was more Xenakis than Aretha Franklin…A fact Mr.Lebrecht chooses to so many things….He can´t get over having being dropped from the BBC.

  • Alan says:

    Get back to basics. A commitment to high culture,
    encourage elitism, celebrate the very finest.
    Stop rushing to the bottom, stop celebrating ‘diverse’ ie rubbish composers and dumb themes.
    Watch the audiences run back.
    I know this post will upset some readers.
    I don’t care. I don’t read replies so save it for someone who cares.

  • pji says:

    LES SIECLES at Edinburgh in SACRE was totally stunning and the Bergen orchestra was also worth my 900-mile round trip
    If music is talked down so much there is no hope….spread the word…great concerts happen all over the uk every week

    • MJA says:

      @pji – you are absolutely right: talking music (and festivals) down is a major part of the problem. The headline here is a good example, and this blog is crying crocodile tears if it’s claiming to be concerned (cf the last sentence). I can’t remember the last time it put out a positive piece about Salzburg, Lucerne, Edinburgh, Glyndebourne, the Proms or any of them.

  • chris says:

    Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh
    Symphony will save the day when they
    perform on the last day of the Salzburg
    Festival on August 31 !

  • Bill says:

    Schubert with Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau…stunning performance at Edinburgh Queens Hall

  • Ian J. Munro says:

    The music programme at this year’s EIF has been one of the most exciting there’s been. Some fabulous programmes and wonderful artists. Have you read the programme properly or do you just pick up the negative press? Feels like the latter.

  • Baroness Millhaven says:

    Find another hobby

  • Harold Clarkson says:

    Katya Kabanova in Salzburg was absolutely stunning. Corinne Winters has to be a great discovery , Jakub Hrusa outstanding conductor and Barry Kosky did a brilliant production.


    Edinburgh was wonderful -Bergen Phil superb, Takacs Qt and Dunedin Consort magnificent

  • Pencaer girl says:

    How about taking a look at the Fishguard International music festival? You don’t get more ‘world class’ than Dame Sarah Connolly singing Mahler! Not everything is dumbed down.

  • Douglas Quigg says:

    I’m just glad that, following the damned pandemic, things are picking up again. I can’t get tickets for Rattle and the LSO and let’s give the Aussie’s a bit more respect Norman. Some of them actually make great music. Mind you, The Philadelphia Orchestra and Beethoven’s 9th is farcical.

    • Barry Guerrero says:

      It’s not farcical. You can go online and easily buy 50 to 75 first rate recordings of Beethoven’s 9th on any given day. Beethoven’s 5th is hardly less moving than his 9th. Furthermore, “Isle of the Dead” is right up the Philadelphia Orchestra’s alley – I would far rather hear that in concert than sit through yet another Beethoven’s 9th. That’s just my preference, but I can’t alone in feeling that way. Choirs can easily be super spreaders of any given virus. There was a choice in avoiding this situation, and the chorus involved rejected the proposed compromise. However, the Minnesota Orchestra recently performed and recorded Mahler 8 with their choral members wearing masks. It can be done.

  • JMW says:

    “The lack of managerial energy is palpable. What can be done to restore it?”

    They should consult me; I could liven that festival up with alacrity. The inertia is so palpable that the introduction of new blood there is clearly a desperate priority.

  • Rob says:

    It would be much more interesting if Rattle did Maxwell Davies’s Symphony No 1.

  • Sean says:

    The Australian World Orchestra is actually made up of some of Australia’s leading players from around the world who love coming together to perform, and it’s pretty bloody good!

  • MacroV says:

    What’s your beef with the Proms lineup? They all look like good shows to me.

  • David says:

    EIF opening concert BBC Scottish and Runnicles, Salome – Bergen/Gardner, Les Siecles, Czech Philharmonic all fabulous. And over in Glasgow, Scottish Opera Candide wonderful. Also, a good touring version of Marriage of Figaro from Opera Bohemia doing the rounds in Scotland. Lots to enjoy, and many are.

  • Freewheeler says:

    Spice up the program with Glazunov, Taneyev and Gliere. We all love Russian music.

  • frank says:

    Leipzig’s Wagner 22 festival was marvelous: great singers, great orchestra, great productions ( except for some idiotic dancing in the Ring,) and great opera house .

  • Raymond J Houser says:

    Yet in September, music festivals are in good hands in the Czech Republic. The Lipa Musica Festival, now in it’s 19th year, will feature some of the best performers. Hana Blazikova, one of the top sopranos in early music, is the featured artist of the festival and will be performing in four separate programs over the month. See program.

  • music lover says:

    There was much to enjoy at the proms this year….I am glad to hear music and performers of that calibre live again after the pandemic,and playing it,too……But there are are always misanthropists who savor the kick of being upsetand whining about the good old days……let´s have them there little bit of joy.
    And,yes,i enjoy hearing the Australian World orchestra,the Finnish Radio Symphony,ORF Radio Orchestra,Oslo PO,WDR RadioSymphony,and many more Proms debuts.

  • John OC says:

    Can’t comment on Salsburg etc, but this is the week were I skip listening to a bunch of concerts. Aretha Franklin not to my tasted and the Earth Prom is typical BBC lecturing us yet again on Climate Change.

  • Tony Sanderson says:

    Looking forward to Harry Christophers conducting the Sixteen on Wednesday night. Usually a special occasion.

    What’s wrong with Australian orchestras?

  • William Stockler says:

    As a matter of fact, this week’s Proms have sold very well., with three completely sold out

  • Una says:

    Aretha Franklin was just wonderful tonight, and the place was full to bursting with 5,000+ up dancing in the end. I was there, and I hope it comes across well on the telly on Friday night. I am at the Proms each night this week, and came down 200 miles especially for this week of concerts I chose to go to – and not just the Mahler that was sold out from the start. Hardly dull for me,
    Norman, and 3+6+2 concerts in all over the season for £165 in total!

  • Ciro says:

    Re the “Australian Orch”
    WTF are you trying to say here?
    But this might put you straight….. Or not. Elitism can be a dangerous sport