Exclusive: Berlin Philharmonic takes down Mäkelä concert

Exclusive: Berlin Philharmonic takes down Mäkelä concert


norman lebrecht

May 24, 2023

We understand that the Digital Concert Hall has taken down Klaus Makela’s recent performance of Tchaikovsky’s sixth symphony, which was held to be a bit of a disaster.

This is apparently the first time a regular Berlin Phil concert has not been kept on the streaming service after its initial live showing.

The official line from the orchestra is that this is ‘due to rights restrictions’. This can only mean that Mäkelä or his manager is refusing to release the streaming rights.

UPDATE: We have received a late clarification: ‘The rights restrictions are connected to contractual details of Mr. Mäkelä’s label.’
That will be Decca.


  • kh says:

    Most likely it’s problems with Decca. I seem to remember some of Lang Lang’s concerts were withheld for similar reasons.

    Mäkelä was very well received in both of his Gewandhausorchester and Czech Philharmonic debuts in recent weeks after his Berlin debut, conducting totally different works. His concerts in Berlin were by no means a disaster either, just a tad cautious IMO.

    • Jouko900 says:

      Mäkelä has already started recording all of Shostakovich’s symphonies. Maybe the reason is that.

  • The View from America says:

    Perhaps Tchaikovsky was complaining about it.

    • Paul Shaw says:

      Does this really matter ?

      • jim says:

        As we say in New Zealand, Yeah-nah.
        The planet is still spinning, the Berlin Phil is still Philling its purpose in life, and Makela is presumably still globetrotting. So, no, it doesn’t really matter.
        Today I learned that a record label (do we still call them that) is able to have quite a wide influence over other entities and that contracts can have powerful influences over what we get to see and enjoy so, yes, it matters. Deeply.

  • Concertgebouw79 says:

    There are many data about famous conductors who came only once in famous orchestras and never came back after only 5 or 6 concerts. ex: Rattle and Karajan with the Concertgebouw. I’am not sure that Mäkelä will come back soon in Berlin. Any way he has enough duties…

    • Daniel Reiss says:

      I’ve never been invited once. They can have their old KCO! I’ve always wanted to lipsynch “Das Lied von der Erde”, too.

  • Tamino says:

    Recording Label contracts these days are HUGE problems for orchestra or venue based streaming platforms. Probably quite a few engagements with Berlin Phil have not happened, because the visiting soloists or conductor’s label contracts did not allow media production with Digital Concert Hall.

    • Daniel Reiss says:

      Keilberth’s Ring, Kubelik’s Meistetsinger, etc. The list is long. Often the performer is dissatisfied with a performance.

    • Thornhill says:

      I don’t think that’s it. Pretty much all of Decca and DG’s other current artists who have appeared with Berlin have recent recordings in the Digital Concert Hall, such as Nelsons, Uchida, Dudamel, YNS, etc.

      Why would Decca just single out Makela?

      • Tamino says:

        Because they would want to record Tchaikovsky with him in the future. Simple as that.

        But of course I don’t know if that’s all that’s to it. Maybe one side wasn’t happy with the performance.

        • Thornhill says:

          Nelsons’ Digital Concert Hall recordings include music he subsequently recorded with Boston and Leipzig, and music DG is likely going to want to record with him in the future, like Mahler and Stravinsky. Ditto with Dudamel and others.

          • Tamino says:

            Yes, but we also know that there are always contractual battles behind the scenes about this, and Decca (now another Universal subsidary) might just play the game a bit harder than DG regarding their youngest conductor horse in the stable? Just a guess.

            I understand only Tchaik6 was withdrawn, not the other half of the concert?

  • Paul Johnson says:

    It was awful! Surely, rights would have been established before the concert?

  • sonicsinfonia says:

    Not sure it’s an exclusive or that the concert has been taken down. Discussion in numerous online forums about a delay in posting Mäkelä’s concert to the Digital Concert Hall after the live stream. There was a cool press review for the concert but, as other’s say below, it’s more likely to be a contractual matter – possibly the concert was never planned to be available after the streaming.

    • guglhupf says:

      All Berlin Phil subscription concerts are available on the digital concert hall roughly a week to 10 days after the live stream goes it. It’s basically non-negotiable and would definitely have been planned…

  • Philip Boakes says:

    I went to the concert and in the first half, his Shostakovich 6th was a triumph – very well received by the audience. The Tchaikovsky wasn’t as flawless, but it was a perfectly serviceable account, so this doesn’t make sense.

  • Daniel Reiss says:

    Was only the second half of the concert removed? I’ve never heard him, but there are various reasons to keep a recording “in the can”. I wouldn’t make a federal case if it.

  • Kman says:

    It would seem to me that an appearance on the Digital Concert Hall would only enhance his popularity and thus interest in his recordings. Seems counterproductive for Decca.

  • David Brackenbury says:

    I was one of those who saw the concert as it screened live and it was not ‘a it of a disaster’. It lay well within the performance quality spectrumt that I have come to expect from these concerts. This is the second time that I have unexpectedly had to come to it’s defence, the first being after your unfair criticism shortly after tye concert was aired. What do you have against it?

  • Tony Sanderson says:

    Let’s hope he does better at the sell-out BBC Prom playing Belshazzar’s Feast. Plenty could go wrong in that piece. I think the ticket sales may have something to do with the soloist, Yuja Wang.


  • Alan says:

    His sibelius cycle on decca was mind numbingly dull. His Stravinsky more so.

  • Alank says:

    Thank you for posting this. I was away for the concert and have been waiting “breathlessly” to hear the archived performance to make my own opinion. I thought it very strange that the concert never showed up. Now I know.

  • viola_maker69 says:

    it’s probably a PR move to prevent people from nit-picking this performance after the negative reviews.

  • Jeff R says:

    I watched it live. What a bore! Something was amiss. No chemistry.

  • Sisko24 says:

    Good discussion here. I heard him conduct the Tchaikovsky 6th with the NY Phil this past December. It wasn’t a Pathetique for the ages, but it was far, far from being a disaster. I did hear flashes of momentary brilliance in the march (3rd) movement, but he didn’t seem to grab that moment. So I can see that his future is very much brighter and more inspiring than what he did then. Maybe this is simply a case where the record company IS attempting to protect their conductor’s future legacy (and their future profits) by not allowing too much exposure of him in this repertoire too soon.

  • Beatitude says:

    There are many recorded BPO performances with Decca recording artists that are in DCH archive. Labels and artists tend to fully embrace the free marketing and invaluable broad-based exposure such opportunities present to all parties. This is particularly applicable to artists who are young, relatively unknown and attempting to build their own “brand” in markets around the world. An impressive performance logically enhances interest in the artist and increases sales of their catalogue and live performances. The concert was clearly being recorded with the intention of being available on demand in the archive – there was never any mention to DCH subscribers that it could only be viewed via the original broadcast and encore during its weekend of performances. “Rights restrictions” would seem to be a convenient excuse to provide cover for a post-concert decision that was made by a party or individual unaffiliated with the BPO who was unhappy with a performance that they did not want give ongoing access for others to see. Gee, I wonder just who that might be…

  • Unvaccinated says:

    I wouldn’t buy any of his releases even if I had the money too. He just isn’t very good, I’ve heard the results via youtube.

  • Mark Mortimer says:

    He isn’t very good is he- but he’s got the Concertgebouw so somebody must think so? The other Finn- who’s now gained control of the Philharmonia- he’s rather mediocre too. Too many of these Finns about- there are better young conductors elsewhere but they never seem to get the breaks with the big orchestras. Anyway- they’re all making a load of dosh & the classical music business rolls merrily along.

  • trumpetherald says:

    Because he is a Decca exclusive artist who is going to record both pieces for them…Nothing unusual. Wcrb Radio took down the Shostakovich 1st piano concerto with Wang,Rolfs and the BSO under Nelsons from their on demand broadcasts a few years ago for the same reasons( in this case,for an upcoming DG recording)…No need for gleeful insinuations here.
    BTW,the concert was fabulous..I was at the second concert,and my four friends and former colleagues playing with the BPO thought the same.

  • Gary Sudder says:

    It’s likely more US empire propaganda.