Of all BBC conductors, which did the leader like best?

Of all BBC conductors, which did the leader like best?


norman lebrecht

February 02, 2023

From a lovely Times obit today of Bela Dekany, concertmaster of the BBC Symphony:
He joined the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 1968 and spent more than 22 years sharing the leader’s chair with Eli Goren and Rodney Friend. Over the years he worked with many fine conductors, including Colin Davis, Pierre Boulez, Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, John Pritchard and Andrew Davis. He was closest to Günter Wand, the orchestra’s demanding principal guest conductor, and the pair forged a powerful bond, with Dekany deploying his finest negotiating skills when arbitrating between the players and this irritable maestro.

Who would have expected a Belsen survivor to bond with an austere Rhineland Catholic.


  • Alexander Hall says:

    Austere Catholic? Hmm. In his biography of Wand entitled “So und nicht anders”, Wolfgang Seifert tells the story of the conductor in the immediate post-war period while GMD in Cologne. He and his wife took in a young female singer and incurred the wrath of the Cardinal of Cologne. Wand was read the riot act about the scent of immorality in Wand’s residence, and forever after he referred to what he had done as his “Kardinalfehler” (= cardinal mistake). Wand might have appeared austere to some but he also had a wicked sense of humour. If you bothered to pay attention, that is.

  • Herr Doktor says:

    From everything I’ve heard about Gunter Wand, he doesn’t sound like a very nice person. I’ve read repeated reports of his mistreatment of people, up to and including his wife.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      William Osborne has written great things to say about Wand as a person. Let’s hope he’ll elaborate.

      • Herr Doktor says:

        I don’t challenge Mr. Osbourne’s perspective even if it’s positive – and I hope he had a good experience with Wand for his sake. But I just read the Guardian obituary (below) which TI pasted in–which I had never seen before–and it says basically the same thing: that Wand mistreated many people in his life, particularly his wife.

        I don’t care how talented anyone may be in any particular field. Being talented gives no one the license to mistreat anyone or behave like a jerk. And it’s not the necessary or even best pathway to achieving great art. In fact, I think treating people well in any field is the pathway to achieving the greatest results. In the conducting world, case in point: Carlo Maria Giulini.

  • Gustavo says:

    The Wand of Youth.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    You’re right, why would musicians stay focused on music? Who would have thunk.

  • Peter San Diego says:

    Who would expect a Belsen survivor and a Rhineland Catholic to be incapable of bonding?

  • TI says:

    Well, if you read the Guardian obit for Maestro Wand…..


  • Anthony Sayer says:

    Who would have expected a Belsen survivor to bond with an austere Rhineland Catholic (?)

    Only those who consider music more important than the pathetic labels people give themselves.

  • Bedrich Sourcream says:

    What an awful remark. It’s very disrespectful to Survivors.

  • Mark Mortimer says:

    Interesting one. No doubt about it- ~Wand was the last great custodian of the Austro-Germanic repertoire. But, I’ve also heard from quite a few musicians who played under him- a deeply unpleasant & cantankerous man. I once queued up for hours outside the Philharmonie in Berlin to get a return ticket to see him conducting the Schubert Great with the BPO. It was worth the wait- a sensational performance but I recall him constantly snarling at the sublime prinicipal oboe (an English guy- forget the name- who’d been in Ratlle’s CBSO)- not very nice man was the conclusion.

  • Frank says:

    Geez, that Wand obit in the Guardian…
    I’m going to bin my Wand cds…