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There are two worlds of music in Baden-Baden (is that why they named it twice?)

One half is hurling mountains of oligarch money at the Berlin Philharmonic to make it break its contract with Salzburg, and at star tenor Rolando Villazon to develop his directing career.

The other half is shutting down the local orchestra, the SWR Sinfonieorchesters Baden-Baden und Freiburg, whose conductor Francois-Xavier Roth is about to release his debut recording – Mahler, as it happens. The state, say politicians, cannot afford a resident orchestra.

The German Orchestral Society has just put up a petition you can sign to help save the SWR orchestra.

I wonder if it ever occurred to the members of the Berlin Philharmonic that they may be snatching bread out of other musicians’ hungry mouths. Or has Darwinism finally triumphed in the orchestral sector?

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  1. Francisco Martinez Ramos says:

    Social Darwinism in action.

  2. Petros Linardos says:

    Where can we read more about the problems of the SWR Sinfororchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg?

    • check Google News. there have been a few pieces on KIZ nachrichten and the DOZ are sending out bulletins.

    • This is a good place to start, a site for supporters of the orchestra (auf Deutsch):

      • Here you can find a decent number of supportive letters by such well-known personalities as Helmut Lachenmann, Friedrich Cerha and Saed Haddad:

      • Petros Linardos says:

        Sounds like the SWR Baden-Baden und Freiburg and SWR Stuttgart may merge. A very frightening prospect at many levels.

        But I don’t understand why the BPO are to blame. What exactly should they do differently?

        How easy would it be to talk a russian oligarch into supporting the SWR Baden Baden und Freiburg orchestra?

        To what extent does the thriving Baden Baden Festival support the endangered SWR Baden Baden und Freiburg orchestra? Can they do anything more?

  3. What a disgrace to attempt to shut down the SWR Sinfonieorchesters Baden-Baden und Freiburg, which is integral to the Donaueschinger Musiktage and has made many fine pioneering recordings of works by Ruzicka, Rihm, Klebe, Lachenmann, Globokar, Holliger, Kyburz and many other great contemporary composers!

    Have the ITV produce a 3rd season of Pop Star to Movie Star so Villazon can make further humorous appearances with Katherine Jenkins and Vanessa Mae in that greatest-ever train wreck of a reality TV show. I’m sure ITV will happily pay him enough to forget about his directing career, and sitting next to the buxom Katherine is not a bad gig for a hot-blooded latin tenor. From what I’ve seen on that reality show, I’d rather keep the SWR Sinfonieorchesters Baden-Baden und Freiburg instead of Villazon.

  4. Sorry, but I don’t understand what the Berlin Philharmonic has got to do with the threat of closure of the SWR SO. If you read the article at, it is very clear that the threat of closure comes from the Intendant of SWR public radio. All public broadcasters in Germany are cutting costs and slashing budgets and — outrageous as it may be — the radio symphony orchestras are being hit first. But what has that got to do with the BPO’s decision to move its Easter Festival from Salzburg to Baden-Baden? The Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden is independently run, has nothing to do with the SWR and used to boast (I’ll have to check whether it’s still true) that is the only opera house in Germany which receives no public subsidies.
    Unlike the BPO, one of the explicit remits of the SWR SO, like other radio symphony orchestras in Germany, is to champion new and contemporary music and it must surely rank as one of the best in its field. Perhaps the public broadcasters — in this age of “dumbing down” and cultural short-sightedness — feel that the orchestras should be catering to more popular and mainstream tastes. Who knows. But it’s the public broadcasters you should be attacking, not the BPO.
    Your accusation that the Berliners are “snatching bread out of other musicians’ hungry mouths” is startlingly simplistic and populistic and smacks of tabloid journalism. One of the wonders of the cultural scene in Germany is that there are so many orchestras and opera houses and theatres. Unfortunately, they are ALL increasingly under threat, as can be seen in the recent debate ttriggerd by a new book entitled “Kulturinfarkt” (Cultural infarction) which suggests that half of the country’s theatres and museums could be closed. Playing one orchestra off against another, as you do in your comments, will definitely not serve sensible and informed discussion and debate on such a difficult and complex issue.

    • Anon, you’re incredibly naive. Do you not realize the weight the BPO can pull with the German ministry of culture as compared to the SWR Sinfonieorchesters Baden-Baden und Freiburg?

      Read up on your Machiavelli so you’re up to date about realpolitik, including how it plays out in the corridors of power in Berlin. The SWR are locked in an uphill battle.

      • “Do you not realize the weight the BPO can pull with the German ministry of culture as compared to the SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg?”

        Yes. More than you do.

        “Read up on your Machiavelli so you’re up to date about realpolitik.”

        Have done. Thanks.

        • Then, wise sage of cultural politics, please expand your views on “dumbing down.” No doubt you are an expert in that field and use this technique “to serve sensible and informed discussion and debate on difficult and complex issues.”

      • Alexander Radziewski says:

        @TomV, in my point of view as an orchestra musician in Germany there is no reason to blame Anon for the content of his comment. The discussion to merge these both orchestras is much older than the decision of the BPhO to go to Baden-Baden. Even the broadcast organisations in the Southwest merged a couple of years ago.
        Some years ago, the Broadcast orchestras of Saarbrücken and Kaiserslautern merged and there was no outcry. Both broadcast orchestras in Frankfurt/Main were merged more than 20 years ago. Of course if this continues the twin broadcast-orchestras in Munich and Cologne and the both orchestras with the NDR in Hamburg and Hannover will probably follow.
        I don’t belong to this exclusive club of broadcast employees. Like 85% of all musicians in a German orchestras, I have a full paid job and have to make the numkber of services like in the english orchestras. The number of performances of a German broadcast orchestra during a season is not more than 90 including chamber music with selected members of the orchestra and the big broadcast orchestras includes around 115 members and more which is close as twice as much as local theatre orchestras with a higher number of performances. Please, compare with the size of the LSO or the London Phiharmonic and the program they execute during a season and make your own opinion.
        In Germanys orchestra scene there is even another discussion now: Shall we save exclusive and very expensive seats in a broadcast orchestra -no musician will be fired there- and pay in closing whole ensembles at another place or the opposite way? Sorry, to say but the members of the exclusive club missed the date to solidarize with the non so exclusive orchestras. Hope the total solidarisation will come but I am not so optimistic regarding the present situation of concurrence.

  5. Mathias Broucek says:

    Sad news. The truth is, however, that politicians throughout Europe has overspent and the public for classical music has declined. I have long-wondered for how long Germany would be able to sustain it’s huge number of orchestras.

  6. Michael Hurshell says:

    I agree that the BPO has nothing to do with the Rundfunk problems. The “thinning out” of radio orchestras has been going on for decades – and if Germany’s landscape of publicly financed orchestras is unique, the radio orchestra landscape was even more so. Take a look at what happened to the radio orchestras in France and Italy. HOWEVER, having a unique orchestra structure is no reason to demolish it – it was, and to some extent remains, one of the greatest cultural resources here. The historically developed court orchestras and ensembles founded by affluent Burghers in the 19th century left an unparalleled landscape of orchestras, right up until recently. Now there are discussions – EU centered, mostly, as in “we can’t subsidize Greece, Spain, Portugal etc., and keep our orchestras & theaters” and so forth. My feeling is, Germany IS rich enough to keep the orchestras; but politicians will give in to public pressure, as in “we’d rather have a stadium than a concert hall” and similar arguments. Classical music cannot survive on the good will of the general public, and never has… why should it have to now?

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