an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me | Advertise | Follow me:

After Rattle, who will take Berlin?

Five years is a long time in politics, longer than most governments last. Simon Rattle has left the Berlin Philharmonic plenty of time to choose his successor.

A large number of players, and an even larger section of the home audience, would vote outright for Christian Thielemann. He is by far the most popular conductor in Germany today. Whether he is interested, after prior disappointments in Berlin, remains to be seen. My guess is that he will only accept if it is offered to him very promptly. He must be considered the one to beat.

thielemann wagner

Daniel Barenboim, whom Rattle defeated in a straight fight in 2000, has not taken his eye off the prize. He will be 76 in 2018 and, as a card-carrying Furtwängler admirer, might think that the Berlin Phil would constitute the crowing glory of his lifetime.

Cecilia-Bartoli-Daniel-Barenboim-La-Scala-Milan

Soundings will be taken with Gustavo Dudamel, 31, who is working with the orchestra next month and is contracted to Los Angeles until roughly the time of Rattle’s departure. Dudamel commands the highest global profile of any conductor, bar Barenboim and Gergiev.

Dudamel_charity_LP_2b_1

Andriss Nelsons, 34, favourite at Lucerne and Bayreuth, will be high in the reckoning.

Andris Nelsons conducting

So will Paavo Järvi, 50, who has made a huge success in Frankfurt.

paavo-jarvi-rudolf-buchbinder-orchestre-de-paris-salle-pleyel_d

If Valery Gergiev shows interest he will have to be considered, though he will be 65 at the handover. The same goes for Riccardo Chailly.

Still, five years is a long time…. it’s too soon to tell.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Comments

  1. Jarvi. lol

    Dude may have a few more bad notices by then ;)

    1. Thielemann
    2. Barenboim

    Outsider — Gergs,. His Pictures with BPO last year was brilliant, not just because of the playing, but how they wanted to play for him. Exceptional.

  2. My vote is for DUDAMEL!

  3. Robert Fitzpatrick says:

    Paavo, Nelsons, Petrenko, all could be on the radar if it’s not Thielemann (or Barenboim?). Gergiev? OMG, get a grip. It’s so weird that it could happen. I enjoyed watching him conduct on TV recently using a toothpick as a baton. They appear to like playing for the Dude, but he’s not strong (le moindre qu’on puisse dire) in the core German rep. I’m available as a tiebreaker.

    • harold braun says:

      What ever tool he uses,Gergiev is the most interesting.He has a fantastic sense of orchestral balance and color.
      As for Thielemann,outside the german repertoire his performances can be bland and faceless.His Tchaikovsky6last year with the BPO was a mayor disappointment.Dudamel still has to mature.

      • Alexander Hall says:

        It is astonishing how many people are blown away more by Dudamel’s personal appearance and the aura that stems from his amazing Venezuelan beginnings than what he actually does with the music. He conducted last year’s May Day concert with the Berlin Philharmonic, which to me was a huge disappointment. He turned the St. Antony Variations by Brahms into an absolute dirge, devoid of all rhythm precision or shaping of the lovely melodic lines. The rest of the concert was no better than average. Karajan spent many years in the provinces perfecting his vast repertoire before he became an overnight sensation in Berlin. Dudamel hasn’t even had a decade to mature and has spent all that time in the international limelight. Why should he be viewed as the greatest thing since sliced bread?

      • I think Gergiev should be the next director of the Berlin Philharmonic.

    • itrinkkeinwein says:

      Petrenko who?

      There are TWO of them (plus a bass).

  4. Lord Montague says:

    No conductor can be chief of the Berlin Phil anymore. No such “Übermensch” exists who could lead and form that organism of exceptional artists in the 21st century. Also the times of the dictatorships are over, in politics and also in music. Karajan was their last true leader. They don’t accept anyone as their leader anyway, despite claiming otherwise publicly at times. They should go the route of the Vienna Phil and decide to have no dedicated chief conductor but instead self govern the orchestra politically and artistically.

    Thielemann: favorite of the German press. But not a good match for the orchestra, limited repertoire. politically a strong candidate, but musically not the best choice for the orchestra.
    Barenboim: 15 years ago would have been the best candidate, but had to cede to Rattle’s freshness and media network. Now too old but still the best “generalist” living conductor around.
    Dudamel: “the highest global profile”?, maybe the globally most hyped conductor. Let’s see him in 20 years and see how much of his youthful temperament has distilled in actual musical depth and wisdom. Not a serious candidate now.
    Andriss Nelsons: Strong candidate, maybe a bit unexperienced yet but a better match with the BerlinPhil than the Dude.
    Paavo Järvi: not in good terms with the orchestra or not well known to them. Nobody cares what he does in Frankfurt, this is the BerlinPhil. ALso which huge success in Frankfurt?
    Gergiev: Unlikely, and only if they reopen Tempelhof airport down the street from Philharmonie, so he can fly in for the evening concert from the afternoon Walküre in Vienna and the morning Matinee in St. Petersburg.

    Again my bet goes to the Berlin Phil deciding not to have a designated chief conductor anymore but maintain and develop their own brand undiluted.

  5. Sebastian Weigle, hands down. A serious candidate, loved and respected by the musicians he works with (he was a hornist himself), young-ish but musically mature, amiable to work with, works well with managers, without the controversial baggage around Thielemann, and has been responsible for making the Frankfurt Opera the musically most successful house in the country.

  6. Paavo Järvi has been a disaster in Frankfurt. The HR Symphonie is now viewed as the second-best in town (to Weigle’s Opera and Museum Orchestra) and his neglect and disinterest in the personnel of the orchestra have taken the brilliantly coherent ensemble that High Wolff left and given us an ensemble with deep musical divides and a particularly problematic string section.

  7. Are we talking about the Thielemann who left scorched earth at Deutsche Oper Berlin and didn’t last very long at Munich Phil either? Seriously?

    In my humble outsider’s opinion: Great conductor (though with a very limited repertoire), but not the right choice for a leader.

    And, no offence intended: you consider someone a serious option who will be 76 then? The responsibles might want to call Mr. Gelb an ask him about health issues of elderly conductors. I wish Mr. Barenboim very well, but, as Norman said, 5 years is a very long time, not only in politics but also regarding the health of elderly people.

  8. The Germans want Thielemann, baggage and all. It’s a cultural heritage thing. With Rattle and Abbado, they wanted a kind of relief from Teutonic massiveness. But they are Teutons–they want their heavy meat and potatoes. With Thielemann, they will get it. They don’t have to worry about catholicity of repertoire; that’s why you’ll get guests like Chailly in Mahler, Cambreling in French music, Harnoncourt for music of Bach through to Mozart et al. The Berliners WANT a German conducting them in the core rep of Beethoven, Weber (yes, him!), Brahms, Reger, R. Strauss (and the lighter Strausses), Bruckner, and maybe some Mahler, and through to the Second Viennese School, Hindemith, and Pfitzner. Not varied composer-or-geographic-wise, but wide enough. Barenboim could do this same rep, and brilliantly. But there is something of Moses and the Promised Land with regard to Barenboim and the Berlin Philharmonic. This gig has twice eluded him, and the Staatskapelle Berlin was a consolation prize. But this speculation is fascinating to me. I am a fan of both Thielemann and Barenboim. If Rattle’s time is up, there will be a choice made. (Maazel is also a possibility.) We shall see.

    • Lord Montague says:

      Your stereotypes of Germany are several decades behind the realities, particularly when it comes to Berlin. Yes there is a strong fraction in the white haired bourgeoise concert audience – the “Bildungsbürgertum” with ties to conservative nationalist traditions – who have put Thielemann on the shield as the living Titan, the only living worthy successor to Furtwängler and Karajan. Thielemann serves a psychological need in the German audiences (as did Karajan), and he plays the role quite well and sometimes I think also consciously. But none of that stuff is interesting to an international audience, and that’s today’s audience of the BerlinPhil. Thielemann is better off in Dresden and Vienna (where he can also conduct his beloved opera performances, Strauss and Wagner et al).

      • Perhaps, but Thielemann is still a potent force and a distinct possibility. There might be a parochialism in his nature, but he is no mean musician by any stretch of the imagination.

        • Lord Montague says:

          I agree. But IMO they need more than what he has to offer. What Thielemann does, he does well. But being given the powers of the designated chief conductor, his character would command total control and suppression of competitors. Together with his limited repertoire, this would suffocate the orchestra artistically. The media would try to sell the German titan with the German repertoire. (Yawn) The strong associations with Furtwängler and Karajan, multiplied with Thielemann’s qualities, would turn this orchestra into a museum. I don’t see him striking the needed balance between tradition and innovation. He is better off with the more traditional ensembles in Wien and Dresden.

          • I see what you are saying, but they can always “hire out of house” for conductors in repertoire for which Thielemann is not suited. And perhaps he will want to conduct all the repertoire he wants HIS way–surely the sign of a great conductor, not hewing desperately to some old tradition. “Tradition ist Schlamperei!”

          • Lord Montague says:

            If Thielemann were chief, he would want to have a say who is hired “out of house”. He has a compulsive controlling character. It’s not as easy as you think.

      • Lord Montague says:
        January 10, 2013 at 7:42 pm

        “Thielemann serves a psychological need in the German audiences (as did Karajan), and he plays the role quite well and sometimes I think also consciously.”

        Really? And what might that psychological need be that, apparently, all Germans who listen to “classical” music have?

        • Ken Anderson says:

          The great John Culshaw answered that question in the chapter on Karajan in his fascinating unfinished autobiography, ‘Putting the Record Straight’. According to Culshaw, ‘Karajan satisfied that part of the German psyche that craves a leader.’ Please note, this is not a word-for-word quotation as I do not have the book to hand. But it is close.

          No doubt this comes under the heading of what Lord Montague calls ‘stereotypes of Germany decades behind the realities’ and it’s a pity that Culshaw himself is not on hand to respond to any such complaints.

          • Indeed – and remember that observations we make about other people or peoples often reflect our own preconceptions and prejudices, just projected onto them. Most people(s) crave a leader figure, especially in difficult times. It is part of the psyche of all humans, not just Germans. Karajan, for instance, was as popular and as admired in many other countries as he was in Germany – in many countries perhaps even more so than in Germany where the idea of a strong leader figure had, understandably, become very suspect to many, both war and post-war generations, but especially the latter. When I grew up in the 70s and 80s, it was very fashionable to be an outspoken Karajan hater among those interested in music who also deemed themselves progressive intellectuals. And his NSDAP past was brought up and held against him all the time.

    • Novagerio says:

      I agree with you all the way except for Maazel; do realize that in 2018 Maazel will be 88 years old! – And in the modern media-hyped world, the berliners will not do like the LSO did with Pierre Monteux: give him a 25 year contract when he was 80 years old!-:)

  9. @Lloyd: “Maazel is also a possibility.”

    But Lorin Maazel will be 87 in five years’ time. Of course, he is more or less ageless, musically speaking.

    • Hi!
      Maazel’s dad and mom lived past the age of 100! And remember, Monteux got an appointment to the LSO at age 85, and Stokowski got a six year recording contract with CBS when he turned 94!!!! Maazel is great, and very “with it”. He’ll live longer than the pianist and composer Leo Ornstein, I’ll wager. Ornstein was 110 when he died. Maazel will probably write two more symphonies and an American version of the RING cycle (based on O’Neill) during that time, just to keep pace with his Berlin Phil. activities.

      • I didn’t know any of this — but I love it!

        All way back in the days before they had laws against age discrimination (at least in the USA!) :)

      • It’s famously the case that Monteux insisted on a 25-year contract when he took over the LSO aged 86 but in fact he only worked with the orchestra for three years before his final illness….

  10. Manfred Honeck?

  11. Am I the only one here who finds Thielemann the most overrated conductor in the business? Sure Dudamel is hyped to the heavens, but at least he turns in a good performance here and there. Thielemann leads the most pretentious, ham-fisted, soul-crushing excuses for music making that I’ve heard in thirty years of listening to all the orchestral music I can get my hands on. He might be popular locally for odious political reasons, but as a long-term artistic choice, he would be a disaster.

    Also, the BPO won’t go without a music director. The VPO can do it because they mainly function as an opera house orchestra, where they do have the continuity and coherence of having a music director. As a symphonic ensemble, they only give a few concerts every year. The BPO gives concerts all the time. Without clear leadership, their quality and reputation would suffer a terrible dilution.

    • Do you call 85 five concerts a “few concerts”?? This is the number of concerts of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra between September 2012 and June 2013! If you have no idea about the work of the orchestra, don’t write about it!

      • Their emphasis is elsewhere, my point stands.

        • Lord Montague says:

          No. Their emphasis is that the “Wiener Philharmoniker”, the orchestra which plays the concerts, is based on the “Orchester der Wiener Staatsoper”, but players in the latter have to reapply to the former and not everyone is accepted. The “Wiener Philharmoniker” is a pure concert orchestra of musicians who all play in the “Stsatsoper”, but not the other way around.

    • Jan Müller says:

      The problem is: if you are choosing the WRONG LEADER, your reputation goes even further down as it has happened with Rattle. In this case it would have been better to have no leader at all, or a leader with a lower amount of concerts (whereas Rattle conducts almost all the time).

    • I remember Theilemann’s “Frau Ohne Schatten” at the Met a decade ago. Astonishing. I have never heard the orchestra play with such vibrant colors. I wonder why he never came back…..

    • @MSJ: You’re far from the only one. Have more often than not been unimpressed by Thielemann. The Berliners might want to take a look at Luisi, who is turning in the most consistently enjoyable performances of any maestro on the East Coast these days. I know a couple of players in the NYPhil who wish their management team had known about Luisi a few years ago before Maazel hit the road (and the Munich Philharmonic FWIW sounds terrific).

      • G Gaudette says:
        January 11, 2013 at 4:10 am

        “I know a couple of players in the NYPhil who wish their management team had known about Luisi a few years ago before Maazel hit the road (and the Munich Philharmonic FWIW sounds terrific).”

        Agree about the MP, but what does that have to do with Luisi?

  12. no one has considered the Brits! What of following where Rattle left off? What of Rattle’s ‘Zögling’?

  13. ranjbaran says:

    Dear Peter Rieglbauer and Stefan Dohr, the greatest conductor of all time whom Berliner Philharmoniker must appoint as successor to Rattle is Maestro John Axelrod. He is the perfect match for the future of the orchestra and for the city of Berlin.

    • Maestro Flash Montoya says:

      Axelrod might have decent literary skills, however were the Berliner interested in a pantomime routine, they would have invited him for a concert a long time ago. The only thing I think one can accurately predict about the new conductor of the Berliner Phil is that he will have full command of the German language, something that evaded Sir Simon. Alan Gilbert is the only American I can think of who fits this description. In the end though, The Dude could prove me wrong…

    • Lord Montague says:

      Who is John Axelrod? Is it a conductor? Never heard of his name. Neither did most of the Berlin Phil’s musicians.

      • Your Highness Lord Montague, please forgive me if you have never heard Maestro Axelrod (former Music Director of Luzern Symphonie Orchester, current Music Director of Orchestre des Pays de la Loire, Founder and Music Director of Orchestra X in Houston, Texas). Not to forget, Maestro Axelrod is also Principal Conductor of the great la Verdi Orchestra in Milano (the only orchestra in the world that can boast to have 2 leaders, one is called Music Director, the other is called Principal Conductor). In Vienna Maestro Axelrod is Music Director of the prestigious red carpet Radio Symphonie Orchester Wien. He speaks German much better than Sir Simon so the job description fits his profile.

        • Lord Montague says:

          Chill, my comment was tongue in cheek. Mr. Axelrod is a lightweight and not considered for the job, They haven’t even invited him for a concert so far.

        • Maestro Flash Montoya says:

          Ranbaran, you are mistaken on two counts: Cornelius Meister is chief conductor of the ORF Radio-Symphonieorchesters Wien. Secondly, John Axelrod might have interesting taste in programming, however his musicianship is not up to the demands of leading the Berliner Phil. Please don’t imply that John Axelrod somehow mysteriously slipped under their radar. I’ll say it again: if he were interesting for them, they would have invited him a long time ago.

          • Christophe says:

            Who are all you people??? I know that Axelrod was Music Director of the ORF’s Hollywood in Vienna concerts (so Ranjbaran was not completely wrong, only not specific), which were enormously successful, but just because he conducts film music, does that make him a lightweight? He also has conducted Mahler Symphonies throughout Italy and was considered by Italy’s top critic a true Mahlerian (after Mahler 3 in Napoli and Mahler 9 in Milan). He will record a Brahms cycle with his orchestra laVerdi and has conducted full Schumann and Beethoven cycles elsewhere as well as Wagner opera. Not to mention soloists love working him. As to being a Music Director, he deserves better orchestras than the “lightweight” mediocre ones he has directed, who were unable to keep up with his strong personality and innovative programming. His recent concert in Berlin with the RSB was a huge critical and public success, declared by the Tagespiegel as “Ein Kommunikationsgenie.” (I read it.) Maybe that is something the Berlin Phil (or any American orchestra) might need: someone who builds audiences and demands excellence from his musicians. I dont think they have not invited him because he is not interesting to them. That is a very naïve statement from a rather comical name (Maestro Flash Montoya?? Are you Iniego Montoya’s long lost brother from the Princess Bride??)…….Axelrod is only in his mid-40′s, has a child with ARTE’s Annette Gerlach who is from Berlin (maybe it was too much of Kozena that got the Berliner’s nervous), and he is friendly with many of the Berlin Phil musicians (I know this because one of their famous soloists told me), so I think you might want to wait for the next few years to see how his career develops. Maybe the Berlin Phil should invite him to Waldbühne and then decide. Frankly, having played under Axelrod, I think his musical interests are too diverse for the Berlin Phil, but I agree with Solenne Gonzalez that his mentor Christophe Eschenbach is probably the best German conductor of the older generation. He is the direct line from Karajan and Szell, has a more extensive repertoire than Thielemannn and by choosing Eschenbach, they would have their eminent German conductor (who was MD of NDR Hamburg for many years) and one who also conducts Dresden and Vienna regularly. And by the time he finally retires, regardless if hes 78 (Gunter Wand conducted the NDR at 90!, Thielemann will be near 65 and ready for the podium of Berlin. That makes better sense than supposing Thielemann is ready for it now. (and no I am not Eschenbach, even if my name is Christophe….)

          • Eschenbach–a conductor who is very passionate, determined, thoughtful, and mercurial, too. Some of his best performances: FIDELIO in San Francisco; Mahler 1, 2, 7, and 8 with Philadelphia; Mahler 6 in New York; and Bruckner 8 in New York, too, all of which I have seen. And his Paris cycle of Mahler (experienced only on the computer, alas) is overwhelmingly rich and deeply emotional. Yet it is he whose European star has waned. More’s the pity.

          • John Axelrod is not a serious musician. I saw him trying to conduct in Luzern one time and it was a disaster, a real disaster. Afterwards, I was invited out with three musicians from the orchestra and they all said that it was the worst experience they ever had as professional musicians. They repeated many times that he is a narcissist and just looking for attention, using music as his platform.

            People should get serious on this board and not even mention third class names, or worse, like Axelrod in connection with the possible future conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker.

          • Lambert Oschner says:

            Dear Christophe, let’s not talk non sense here. You are saying John Axelrod made a great CD album with Veronique Gens. First of all, everybody knows you don’t judge greatness of a conductor by a blind listening to a CD of singing accompaniment. Second, a studio made CD can be filled with the make up of many retakes. And finally, who in the world would call “HIS” Orchestre des Pays de la Loire even remotely worthy of international recognition? The answer to your narcissist comment is chill out!! Comments by record journalists mean nothing for the experts

          • Christophe says:

            Indeed, Monsieur Oschner….The Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire is a mediocre orchestra. I ask myself why Axelrod accepted in the first place. But what he has done with it is nothing short of remarkable. Just because there are some disgruntled musicians who did not want to work so hard, does not mean the man is not a good conductor. (And what about the disgruntled musicians – flute, bass and some 1st violins- against Rattle?). According to the critics, the public and the politicians and many other musicians who considered Axelrod the messiah when they begged him to be their music director, there must be something to the man. Look everyone, it is clear I like him. He is a marvelous musician and from my perspective he deserves his success. But, based on what I read, it is also clear he is a special personality that not everyone likes. You ask about nonsense? I think what Harmut, anonymous, il etait un fois and a few others write is nonsense. They have nothing better to do than gripe online. Maybe they should be practicing their instruments. (Then again, maybe so should I, but I feel an injustice must be defended). The point of this rather inane thread is why Rattle is leaving and who might replace him. It is not meant to be a condemnation of Axelrod, Eschenbach, Jaarvi, Dudamel or anyone else. So, practice what you preach. Stop talking nonsense and focus on the issue. What does the BerlinPhil need? Perhaps Rattle decided to announce his departure before they decided to announce not to prolong his contract? Maybe Axelrod decided to do the same thing. As far as Im concerned, Rattle has been a success and unfairly treated. Axelrod the same in France and Lucerne (and I know several non-swiss musicians in Lucerne who still adore him). Eschenbach the same in Philadelphia. Masur the same in London and Paris. Maazel the same in New York. Ozawa the same in Boston. Barenboim the same in Chicago. Muti the same in Milan. The list goes on. I feel rather ashamed to be a professional musician given what I see as very myopic and mean opinions by many of my colleagues. Do we need conductors? Yes. Do we need musicians? Yes. Do we need a public? Yes. So, why dont the holier than thou online critics stop talking nonsense and instead start suggesting ideas that actually are constructive so we can all keep our jobs! Most of what I read is not. And to be honest, not enough people read this blog to make really any difference. Its just preaching to the converted (on dit vous prêchez des convaincus). Do you think Axelrod or Rattle or Eschenbach or Salonen or Nézet-Seguin or Nelsons or others really care what any of us think? Really. I think we only care what we think. Tant pis.

        • Anonymous says:

          This is hilarious. As someone who played one concert with Axelrod in Houston while studying, I can verify that he is a musical lightweight of staggering proportions. Berlin?? Now that’s a good one…

          • Christophe says:

            And it is even funnier and downright ludicrous that anyone should take what Hartmut and Anonymous say as serious. Look where he is in 2013. He conducts some great orchestras. And as someone who has played under him many times, I can verify he is a deeply serious and mature musician, with successful recordings, and a very nice person. I know many other musicians who love playing under him. I also know some others who dont, and who feel threatened by his strong personality. Like his teacher, Bernstein, he is someone who polarizes some people and attracts others. But he is popular with the public, everywhere he goes. Does that make him a lightweight because he is popular? Is Lang Lang, with whom Axelrod toured, also a “lightweight,” according to Messrs. Hartmut and Anonymous? According to biographies, Lucerne was 2004-2009. Orchestra X in Houston, which he founded,from 1997-2002. in comparison, during this time, Nelsons was also a lightweight noone had heard of, Petrenko (which one?) was MD of Komische Oper or the other Petrenko was still an assistant in St. P, and Dudamel was still in Venezeula. Though I really like Dudamel, I doubt any of these conductors are yet “heavy” enough for the Berlin Phil post either…. Axelrod’s tenure in Lucerne was a musical success, the orchestra better under his baton than they had been under his predecessor (and, in my opinion under their de facto guest conductor, J. Nott, who continues a rather pretentious series called Beyond the Horizon-). I first heard Axelrod in Lucerne (2004, again 2006, again 2007) and was deeply impressed by not only the depth of his conducting, but also his innovative programming. I also heard some very mediocre playing from the musicians. Axelrod impressed me. The orchestra did not. As to Orchestra X , the last and only time he apparently has conducted in his hometown, was over 10 years ago, before he even started his conducting career. it was a great idea-developing GenerationX audiences- but hardly a serious orchestra. Therefore, noone can take Anonymous seriously. Stupéfiant!!!

          • Anonymous says:

            Very amusing, Cristophe. I played one concert with Mr. Axelrod in Houston while a student….hardly the first poor grad student to take a bad gig. The programming and the orchestra concept were fine. The problem is, Axelrod is over his head when dealing with musicians of great quality (and a number of us from those Houston days have moved on to top-5 and top-10 US Orchestras). What could he possibly teach the Berlin Phil?

            As for Lang Lang, he is not a lightweight. But every major artist has worked with countless lesser conductors. Isaac Stern told me at his home once that you could fill Yankee Stadium with the conductors he’s had to “hold by the hand” during performances. Your point?

          • Christophe says:

            And you are a self declared musician of great quality??? Thats my point. Axelrod is not for the Berlin Phil. But your negative, venomous comments about him are totally unnecessary. He is a great musician, and you are stuck in the 20th century, without understanding that his development has been commensurate with his success. His recording with Veronique Gens just won Resmusica Disc of the year in France, and Tom Manoff of National Public Radio wrote this about the same CD: “Based on this recording, I’m off to find more about this conductor and his orchestra. Just when I thought classical music was in trouble, I’m starting to hear some great new conductors.The year isn’t half done, but I’m listing this now as my Grammy choice for best performance by a vocalist with orchestra.”

            Do your research and stop making worthless arguments to satisfy your own need for validation.

            And frankly, the top 10 or top 5 USA orchestras are not necessarily only filled with such great musicians. Some yes, some not. And some of the top conductors of the world, including those listed in this much too long thread, have told me that many musicians need their hands to be held, and were lucky to pass the audition. I have great respect for my orchestra musician colleagues who take a collaborative approach to making music. I have no respect for egos like yours.

          • Il etait une fois says:

            Monsieur Axelrod time with us here in Nantes and Angers is ending in June 2013. We have enough of him [redacted]. He may personally claim success for our CD with Veronique Gens but those sessions costed much tears in her part [redacted].

          • Christophe says:

            Lets get the story straight. “il etait un fois” est méchant, mauvais et de risquer un procès en diffamation. Axelrod chose not to prolong his contract (read the news- Courrier de l’Ouest), not the other way around, despite his fulfilling his mandate to improve the quality of the orchestra and to elevate its reputation. He just did not want to continue to work with such immature and provincial musicians. He is right. And, because I am friends with Veronique Gens, I can tell you she is very good friends also with Axelrod and they will be collaborating on another project with another orchestra, and certainly not yours. Axelrod brought major label recordings to an otherwise unknown orchestra, hired two new concertmasters, helped the city of Angers confirm building a new concert hall, convinced the elected officials to negotiate an audio/visual contract to put money in your pocket, took your orchestra to Salle Pleyel in Paris, and is considered the most popular music director with the public in your orchestra’s 40 year history. Just any one of these things would be considered a major achievement, but all of them in 3 years? I think I know who you are, because I know most of the musicians in your orchestra. I think you are one of the musicians who could not handle the “exigence” of being good musician, and instead would prefer to simply “manger, boire et dormir,” as the article reads. Yes, there is a minority of musicians who could not manage to be professional and he asked for leadership and excellence. Too bad he wasted his talents on such as you.

    • I suggest to make all parties satisfied, why not a Duo of Axelrod and Thielemann for the Berliners, appoint Axelrod as Artistic Director/ Music Director specializing in the eclectic and contemporary repertoire and Herr GMD Thielemann as Principal Guest Conductor specializing in the German repertoire. Comments?

      • Christophe says:

        Bravo! However, Im afraid the blogonistas on this blog would never accept such a deal. I think you have excellent taste ranjbaran. Some of the comments coming from the peanut gallery indicate to me too many people are jealous of Axelrod’s success and contemptuous of Thielemann’s politics. I know from a Blumenmädschen soprano they both actually worked together at Bayreuth in 2000. Of course, Thielemann was conducting Meistersinger and Axelrod was only an assistant conductor for Parsifal (when Eschenbach was unfairly attacked for what was a wise decision, made by Herr Wolgang, to remove Sotin from the cast). I know Axelrod has conducted in Dresden often, and Thielemann has overcome his historical accusations of anti-semitism. Actually, Axelrod, I believe, is Jewish (his Bernstein Kaddish with Sam Pisar, survivor from Auschwitz is phenomenal-see YouTube). Thus, your idea is a winner- a Jew and a German together with the BPO! That is the answer to the Holocaust and would Rattle the Teutons of Berlin (no pun intended). Of course, Barenboim is the logical Jew for this, but not sure the Israeli’s would agree.

  14. John Kelly says:

    There’s not an especially long list of potential appointees. Assuming they do pick someone at all – and they do have enough time to decide, I would think the most obvious choice would be Mariss Jansons, if he’s still up for it in 5 years’ time. Nelsons is absolutely terrific but would be a riskier choice than an established “great/semigreat” conductor. Thielemann is the obvious “German” choice, but I think the orchestra sees itself more internationally-focused now and the last two picks have been decidedly non-German. Muti hasn’t been mentioned but is a fabulous conductor just 70-ish. Maazel too old and many will remember his “take my toys and go home” letter after he was passed over for Abbado. If they pick Gergiev I will eat not one but two crows.

  15. There is something frightening revealed about human nature when watching classical music fans talk about which conductor is going to take control.

    • Stephen Burnett says:

      Indeed – I’m reminded of certain scenes in “Spartacus” …

    • Or, maybe something very infantile, like children in a sand box arguing over who will be traded to, or will manage their favorite sports teams. After all, they own them, right? Now, what I don’t see is anyone willing to put their money (sic., allowances) where their mouth is with some serious wagers. The British bookmakers are waiting in the wings. Odds, anyone?

  16. José Bergher says:

    They could get Muti and Maazel as co-conductors.

  17. Baron von Brandenburg says:

    Dudamel was not very well-received by the orchestra in his last project (Strauss) and Nelsons is also thought by many of the musicians to lack depth. Right now, there are only two possibilities: Thielemann or Barenboim (the former is clearly the preferred choice of the players). But these too few options will, I believe, pave the way for surprise candidates Ivan Fischer / Esa-Pekka Salonen / Valeriy Gergiev. There are not really any other conductors except these five who have both commercial appeal and musical authority. I agree, though, that there is a high chance that they might opt for the Wien model…

    in any case, one should certainly rule out Dudamel and Nelsons. Luisi, Noseda, Nagano, Mazeel will not be considered. Jarvi (not serious enough), Petrenko (not good enough), Nezet-Seguian (they hate him) and Jurowski (not compatible) too.

  18. Jan Müller says:

    I believe it will be Thielemann or Nelsons (even though I would prefer a pure guest conductor system given the lack of really great conductors at the moment).
    If they think about Nelsons they should not fall into the Rattle-trap again and hire a chief conductor without checking him out in their core repertoire (Brahms Bruckner Beethoven Wagner Strauss Schubert) as they did with Rattle ending up with their first chief conductor who has never been convoncing in their core repertoire.
    Thielemann is better in the opera, Nelsons is a bit too young.

    I would favour a Vienna style guest conductor system thereby avoiding a the risk of chief conductor with too many blind spots in the repertoire.

  19. The BPO should create a television show called “Conducting Idol”, invite the top 7 or 8 candidates, and allow the audience to vote (internet or phone) to kick off a conductor every week. Of course Norman would certainly be on the judges panel and could dish out invective at those under-performing.

    If possible, they should also make this a reality tv show and have all the conductors live in the same house as the competition takes place.

    • Yes Addison says:

      Inevitably, there will be a heated argument and someone will say “I didn’t come here to make Freunden!”

    • David, what a brilliant idea. Imagine the tantrums, sulking, late night score sabotage – “I’m SURE I put all the bar numbers in for tomorrow’s rehearsal…” Maestro X would be sure to throw the telephone against the wall on hearing he’d had been drawn to conduct Ravel instead of his favourite Mahler. I love the image of 6 top conductors cooking an evening meal in the kitchen: “I will not be told how to boil eggs by a mere Kapellmeister.” Of course Norman would make an excellent judge…

      The surreal, random thoughts we have on a cold Sunday evening. But seriously, I hope they elect a successor quickly as one can’t be doing with years of speculation.

  20. José Bergher says:

    Perhaps a way out of this terrible dilemma would be to have Muti, Mehta and Maazel as co-conductors. The Three Ms. It even sounds good. Just as good as Die Drei Tenoren. Oder Die Drei Bratschen.

  21. Whatever you think of him, it WILL be Thielemann. I believe they’ll announce that sooner than one would normally assume.

    These things are far more foregone than they’re presented. Rattle gave many signs he was going to leave, even back when they extended his contract by a decade – he spoke of “his 16 years” even back then.

    Thielemann has known this. He has appeared to play hard ball with them, they like that and they’ll choose him. He filched their festival, NY’s concert and repeatedly rated the VPO and Dresdeners ahead of them in public. He is currently casting himself in Valhalla stone, and he’s proving right now that he can energise an orchestra.

    He’ll get it. Soon. Whether you like him, his music, or even if it simply is a bad decision, he’ll get the nod.

    The names mentioned above are ludicrous. Back before Abbado people spoke of Levine and other praiseworthy also-rans. But it was Carlos Kleiber and failing that, two spots removed from Karajan – Abbado.

    Rattle was the only curve ball and he was an historical juncture, which has been and gone, and he also had demonstrated commitment in Birmingham.

    My money is on Thielemann. If. You. Hadn’t. Realised.

    • Lord Montague says:

      I’m afraid you could be right. But when has Thielemann rated the Dresdeners ahead of the BPhO publicly? I don’t recall anything like it and it would be silly. Different, yes, but not ahead…

      • hehe. I actually once knew the REAL Lord Montague, son of the disreputable duke. I believe Thielemann liked to rank VPO 1 and Dresd 2 by some sort of….. criteria.

        • Lord Montague says:

          probably the criteria was compliance with mezzoforte most of the time. Some call it “Deutscher Klang” :)
          Anyway, dear BPhO, this is inevitably a political decision, but don’t make it too political. And don’t look back. Thielemann looks sexy now, because he is the antidote to Rattle. Don’t make the same mistake again. Look forward, not backward.

          • The entire country is looking backward right now – Thielemann’s warmed-up Furtelwänglerisms (Stravinsky’s spelling, if I remember right) will fit right in.

          • RB says:
            January 11, 2013 at 8:09 pm

            “The entire country is looking backward right now – Thielemann’s warmed-up Furtelwänglerisms (Stravinsky’s spelling, if I remember right) will fit right in.”

            Really? The entire country? All 82 million of them? They are all “looking backward” right now?

            Thielemann has cited Furtwängler as an important influence, but I am afraid that if you think his conducting style is “warmed-up Furtelwänglerisms”, that only means that you understand neither his nor Furtwängler’s style.

  22. Cicely Woodruff says:

    I realise that the orchestra is German by location and tradition – but how true is that of its current complement of players in this age of orchestral globalisation? My impression is that the BP has a much wider core repertoire these days than the narrow Teutonic fare more favoured by their brothers (I use the male sibling term advisedly!) in Vienna.

    I can’t believe that Maazel would be a contender – his star has long waned. I would like to think that Mark Elder would be considered but I fear his Britishness would count against him post-Rattle. Nelsons I think would be a strong candidate.

    • “Maazel’s star has long waned”. Huh? He was conductor of the New York Philharmonic–not a bad orchestra, but perhaps the parochial condescending European would think that! Maazel is still active, just started his new gig in Munich. I am not saying that Berlin would consider him, but to these well-trained ears (I am an active New York musician), but despite the various namby-pamby critics of the New York Times, I believe that Lorin Maazel gave some of the most incandescent, virile, and even exalted performances in a city that was too entrenched in its own little special-interest-music-groups to appreciate Maazel’s profoundly individual performances of the core repertoire. Maazel’s ELEKTRA, TOSCA, cycles of Beethoven, Brahms, and Mahler–these were quite a lot better than the average dope complaining churlishly about the music making not sounding like Masur or whomever. Maazel is very special.

  23. Solenne Gonzalez says:

    One name is clearly overlooked here, how about the great German conductor Christoph Eschenbach who was once a prodigy of Karajan? In my opinion he is greater than Christian Thielemann. He appeared last in January 2007 with Berlin Phil conducting Dutilleux Cello Concerto and Tchaikovsky Pathetique. Any opinion……?

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      He will be 78 in 2018. Highly unlikely that he would be considered for many reasons even though I am a fan.

      • Eschenbach! I can not understand how anybody would even think of that guy. Was a good pianist, but a very very bad conductor. Everything exaggerated and not natural music making. A totally weird conductor, who actually looks very scary and unkind. Perhaps he isn’t, but they say that first impressions are right and I don’t like his conducting or his look while conducting. We suffered too long with him in Hamburg and many in the audience couldn’t stand it anymore.

        • Christophe says:

          So you are from Hamburg?? I think you are just a méchant man….Nothing good to say…..Sorry, Eschenbach was a great success with the NDR and continues to conduct the orchestra and is and remains the MD of the Schleswig Holstein Musik Festival Orchester. That is where I had the chance to play under Maestro Eschenbach many years ago. He is an amazing musician, a clear conductor, and a very generous human being. What are you? Homophobic? You judge someone by the way they look? Maybe you should be judged by the way you write!

    • Perhaps Eschenbach can take over Dresden if Thielemann decides to leave, which I am sure he already has been asked. Ulrike Hessler brought the very gifted and energetic Eytan Pesses, as she did with Thielemann, and Pessen actually did quit as reported and will be freelancing and having fun.

      • Eschenbach will never have a position with a major German orchestra again, not in Berlin, not in Dresden, not anywhere. Because he is politically very well connected there, he got a job with the NDR SO in Hamburg but that was a disaster and they were very happy to get rid of him. He may be able to pose as a “great German conductor” elsewhere, but not in Germany.

        • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

          Posing as a great German conductor? Prelude to Lohengrin balancing a globe-balloon? Conducting with one’s eyes closed. Explain, please.

    • Marko Ein Berliner says:

      I remember that week of Eschenbach’s guest stint with Berliner Philharmoniker in January 2007. Friends who are members of the orchestra spoke of disappointment with his rehearsal technique as well as his stubbornly stodgy tempos as if he was driving a big truck unable to move the orchestra in musical phrases. That was the last time Berliner Philharmoniker wished to work with Eschenbach. He has not been invited back since then

  24. Timon Wapenaar says:

    Leonard Cohen. But first he’ll take Manhattan.

  25. Maazel too old
    Harnoncourt too old
    Remember this name: Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      Yannick is not out-of-the-question but is he up to the required German rep? He has more substance but less flash that the Dude. He will be in his early 40s in 2018, is openly gay, and speaks frankly about his partner of c10 years with the press in Phila; now that would be interesting to see if the Berliners are really a “world” classy (sic) orchestra. Yannick’s Phila Orch contract expires in 2017, I think, and they will probably renew (or not) in 2015 for another 3 or 5 years). Eschenbach had one 5 year contract there which was mutually not renewed through an announcement in 2006, 2 years before expiration of his contract. I agree that YNZ is a name to remember, if not in Berlin then elsewhere. Too soon to tell how Phila Orch is actually doing both musically and financially.

      • Emil Archambault says:

        I know it doesn’t say much, but Nézet-Séguin has been doing full Mahler and Bruckner cycles with the Orchestre Métropolitain in the past years. His Bruckner Fourth recording was quite well received. He is playing more and more Richard Strauss (joint concert with the National Arts Centre Orchestra and the Orchestre Métropolitain coming up), and conducted Salome at the Montreal Opera two years ago. His Mahler 4th and Bruckner 6th before Christmas got fantastic reviews.

        Definitely not his best repertoire (that would be French/Italian), but I think he’s good enough in it.

        I’d however be surprised to see him do Montreal’s Orchestre Métropolitain (his home orchestra, which he uses to test projects away from spotlights), Philadelphia (which he just started) and Berlin (assuming he’d drop Rotterdam Phil and his LPO guest conductorship), in addition to his opera work (probably continuing at the MET and his DG Mozart recording contract continuing with the Mahler Chamber Orch. It’s a lot, and he’d have to cut most of his commitments in North America for Berlin.

        It is telling that unlike many other MDs, Rattle has only one MD position (Barenboim has two huge ones, Berliner Staatsoper and La Scala, plus the Divan orch; Dudamel has the LA Phil and the Bolivar (always on tour, it seems)). Berlin is a near-full-time work.

      • “He will be in his early 40s in 2018, is openly gay, and speaks frankly about his partner of c10 years with the press in Phila; now that would be interesting to see if the Berliners are really a “world” classy (sic) orchestra.”

        Guess what – that he is gay doesn’t matter at all in Berlin. Berlin has had an openly gay mayor for many years. There are plenty of openly gay people in public life there.It’s no big deal at all. It’s inserting though that you think that and that it apparently is in Philadelphia.

        • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

          Is it really inserting? Apparently in Philadelphia? Please explain. Have you seem the Tom Hanks 1993 film “Philadelphia?”

          My comment was implying that I know of no MD or Chief Conductor of a major orchestra in Europe who is openly gay. There are at least 2 in the USA. Will you be at the march in Paris demaiin? I shan’t.

          Perhaps if the BPO chose a Brit with curly hair, they are ready for the next step. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

          • No, I meant to write “interesting”, but I mistyped and didn’t notice that my iPad thought I meant “inserting”.

            I watched “Philadelphia” when it came out, but I don’t remember all that much about it and I don’t understand what the movie has to do with this discussion. I don’t think it had much to do with specifically Philadelphia anyway, it was just set there because of the name of the city.

            I don’t really know how many MDs of major European orchestras were or are gay because, again, it doesn’t matter at all, certainly not in Germany, probably not in other European countries either. I know it still is a big deal in the US (for instance, see what a huge thing gay marriage currently is politically). I am not really interested in their private lives anyway. Allegedly Thielemann is gay, but who cares? I think Levine is, too, that didn’t keep them from hiring him in Munich (generally a quite a bit more conservative city than Berlin). Nor did it matter that he is American and Jewish, to tick off two more things you probably also think are still a big deal in Germany. It is quite astonishing to see just how many uninformed stereotypes and prejudices about the current cultural climate in Germany have appeared in this discussion (from a number of people, not just you).

            Bernstein never had an official position with the Wiener Philharmoniker because they don’t have a principal conductor, but in the 70s and 80s he came as close to that as anyone else, and he was as openly gay as it gets.
            Eschenbach is very openly gay and he held positions in Hamburg and Paris. BTW, I didn’t get your Paris reference…
            I had no idea that Nézet-Séguin is gay because his private life doesn’t interest me anyway, but he has a job in Europe, too.

            Nor did it matter that Rattle is a Brit or that he has curly hair. Just like it didn’t matter before that Abbado is Italian and I don’t think his hair played any role in the orchestra’s decision either.

          • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

            Thanks for your detailed response. In Paris tomorrow, the right will demonstrate against “mariage pour tous” proposed by Monsieur Hollande because they have nothing better to do. I apologize for being so insensitive and appreciate your empathetic world-view. My feeble attempts at ironic humour (note UK spelling) have fallen flat. Bonne nuit.

  26. Ed, you said it, I didn’t.

  27. I’m a latecomer to this thread, I know, but a certain very eminent composer once said to me that he thinks Oliver Knussen is one of the best conductors in the world… you must admit he’s pretty good, if you’ve ever seen him.

    (This wasn’t some envious bitch damning with faint praise either! “for a composer, he’s one of the best conductors…” etc, it wasn’t like that!)

    Now that would be a radical and amazing choice, wouldn’t it!

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      Agreed, radical and amazing and highly unlikely bordering on impossible. “One of the best conductors in the world…?” it depends on how far you are casting your net. Speaking of radical, amazing, unlikely, impossible: Roger Norrington would wake them up!

  28. Ivan Fischer???

  29. Ha ha, the John Axelrod troll is funny…

  30. Istvan Horthy says:

    I would eliminate all contenders over the age of 65 in order to ensure a good ten years’ tenure as musical director. And preferably someone with the flair and imagination – and wide repertoire – of Rattle.

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      Sawallisch became MD in Philadelphia in 1993 at the age of 70 and they got 10 very good years from him. I think it would be a grave mistake to eliminate a great musician and conductor SOLELY because of age. Agreed that imagination and wide repertoire are required unless they go with a multiple conductor model. Or no Chief Conductor at all as others have suggested in this blog.

  31. Wurtfangler says:

    Paavo Järvi ? Surely Norman is goading us? That would be much like suggesting Jeremy Hunt for Prime Minister (although, as far as I know, the MP hasn’t been done for drink driving!)..

    Honeck? I’m sure it was he who made the BBC Philharmonic sound like a third-rate band (quite a feat it has to be said!) when he conducted them years ago.

    After taking a punt on Rattle (with mixed success it has to be admitted by even his fans), I would imagine they would want to go for someone with a firmer grounding in their culture and tradition, and that would have to mean Thielemann. The idea that he should be discounted because he has a ‘small repertoire’ is quite ridiculous – he knows what he is good at and doesn’t pretend otherwise. You only need to have heard his extraordinary FRoSCH at Salzburg to know that this in the central German repertoire there is simply noone better.

    Jansons would be my second bet/hope – one of only a very small number of conductors working today who truly deserves the moniker ‘maestro’ (and I wouldn’t include Rattle amongst them). He is totally comitted to the composer and never seeks to impose himself between them and the audience.

    When so many orchestras/agents/managers around the world are choosing conductors for what they look like rather than what they sound like (a list that really is FAR too long to expand on), I really hope the BPO are sensible!

    • Lord Montague says:

      Thielemann is usually quite good in the German repertoire, agreed, but it is not “ridiculous” if he is lacking left and right, namely in the French and Slavonic/Russian repertoire.
      Jansons’ problematic health alone would rule him out I’m afraid.

      Anyway, my prediction is this:

      1.) Money is the ultimate benchmark – additional revenue on top of their base salaries has been shrinking since the golden Karajan years – and out of a small group of musically feasible candidates they will go for the conductor with the biggest revenue potential (festivals, TV rights etc.) That would probably be Thielemann for the time being. Gergiev actually might be a strong surprise contender in that category, sounds a bit crazy though. Barenboim is not strong in that department, this already broke his neck 13 years ago when Rattle won.

      2.) If Thielemann is emerging as the most likely candidate and there is a public debate before he has signed any contract, then we will see a nasty mud fight, and all the nasty old stories about Thielemann and Berlin will see a revival. To prevent damage to the BPhO they would need to act swiftly and without much public debate. If not Thielemann himself denounces his ambitions right away, after getting himself another continuation (e.g. life time) dream deal in Dresden, in order to avoid the PR desaster.

      • Lord Montague says:

        And in case you didn’t get my idea before, I think they should look into the future as well as learn from the past and adapt the Wien model, where the orchestra does not surrender the artistic planning to a chief conductor but instead choses to work on a continuous base with several top conductors, getting the best artistic results without having to deal with their personal shortcomings too much.
        The Berliner Philharmoniker are too strong a collective of virtuosos, there is no living conductor who could live up to the task of actually leading and forming them.
        But if Thielemann says: “News Years Eve concert and Salzburg yes, but only with me as the undisputed designated leader.” then they might surrender…

    • Mariss Jansons just won the Ernst-von-Siemens prize, which is probably the most important award in the field of music that anyone can receive — prize money is something like 150,000 €.

      I would definitely look to him as a serious contender for the leadership of the BPO. Besides, he is my musical favorite of all the names which have so far been thrown around.

      • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

        I couldn’t agree more about Jansons’ musical qualities. I hear that he has organizational problems in rehearsal but that orchestras forgive him once the concert starts. His real problem is his health. He was not engaged as MD by several US orchs because they were afraid to take a chance after he left Pittsburgh with major health difficulties. No question, he is a musician on the highest level. I hope BPO will take the chance.

  32. Given Norman’s bug bear about women players in the VPO, it is interesting (but sadly predictable) that no women conductors are being named even as outside candidates for the Berliners. In the spirit of adventure, how about:

    Simone Young, Xian Zhang, Marin Alsop, Susanna Mallki, JoAnn Falletta or Anu Tali?

    Although I don’t imagine that any of these are even close to being candidates this time round, how long will we have to wait for a woman to be appointed to one of the top orchestras?

  33. Gergiev should only guest-conduct now! He drains orchestras of their skill & precision albeit in performances often blazingly charismatic. The BPO would become chaotic very soon under his tenure! Barenboim has polyvalence and superb overview but is very slack on detail. I’d be sorry to see him in charge, while still respecting his human and general musical qualities, the standard and style would become very approximate – jack of all trades, master of none. I have a poor or indifferent impression of Thielemann’s recordings, but have not heard him live. Ivan Fischer, altho lacking hi-profile clout, has founded and nurtured the stunning Budapest Festival Orchestra; i’d be most interested to see, if ever…..
    Nelsons, certainly in five years time, and altho i’m sure Sir Tony is quite happy at ROHCG, i find him among the finest music-makers and, above all, someone who leads positively in the best sense, something which is surely neccessary for this Berliner Giftkelch!

  34. What about Gardiner?

  35. Manteuffel says:

    Berliner Giftkelch ist gut! The milk of human kindness is not on tap at the Philharmonie, certainly not backstage in the Orchesterkantine. O but if the public only knew about that flautist, that bassist, those 1st violinists who have spit on everything Rattle has offered them. Please, no tears for the BPO. They are digging their own grave.

  36. Thielemann probably has the the inside track on the gig, but if he doesn’t get it or doesn’t want it, my money is on Semyon Bychkov. Their best concerts in recent years have been with him, and he excels in the broadest range of repertoire of anyone working at that level today.

    • I have no idea if the BPO would currently be interested in Bychkov, but didn’t Karajan suggest him as a successor, way back in the day? It would be ironic if they ended up working their way around to Karajan’s choice, after all these years.

  37. A female foreigner? Simone Young? or one of a number of others?

  38. How about Esa Pekka Salenon?

  39. Christophe says:

    There is one other name that is not mentioned in the thread that is not only a guest conductor of the Berlin Phil this 12-13 season, but was also MD of that other great Berlin orchestra, DSO. Ingo Metzmacher. He is young enough, and mature enough. Has a very diverse repertoire, knows the core German rep, is committed to music of our time (his recording and book about 21st century music is still a milestone publication), and he is quintessentially German. While some may argue his tenure with the DSO was uneven, he is certainly wiser for the better, after Berlin and Amsterdam. Maybe he would be the less controversial choice than some of the other obvious names and perhaps the better one.

  40. Maybe this is a job for Chuck Norris? :)

  41. julia soret says:

    What about Daniele Gatti?

  42. Dr. Marc Villeger says:

    Maestro Eri Klas would bring a much needed musical quality and repertoire after the Rattle era…

  43. Robert Kenchington says:

    Don’t you all realize that Karajan is still chef dirigent of the Berliner Philharmoniker – albeit from the grave? During a record reign of 35 years he turned the orchestra into a music-making machine that came to know no other way of playing except in the style he imposed upon them during all that time. Young players who were not even born when Karajan died are coming into the orchestra and quite openly declaring that they will preserve his ‘tradition’ and his ‘sound’, etc.

    I have heard the BPO in standard symphonic repertoire under Abbado, Barenboim, Haitink and Rattle both in concert and on CD and DVD and they simply played Karajan’s interpretation. The combination of the players’ technical abilities and sense of history leaves little for the conductor to do. As when the the Chicago Symphony Orchestra once told Sir Adrian Boult: ‘it”s your rehearsal, but it’s OUR concert’. Ditto the Vienna Philharmonic.

    Personally, I feel the age of ‘the great maestro’ is over. Conductors have reverted to what they were 150 years ago: figureheads who mark time while the players make the actual music. Here’s a thought though: devise a hologram of Karajan drawn from his many videos and sync that in to a live concert with the Berliners – a crazy idea? Maybe, but I’m prepared to bet people would pay to see it!

    • Alexander Hall says:

      Spirits live on and orchestras do their best to maintain their own traditions, but…..
      (1) The days when you could recognise an orchestra by its sound on vinyl or CD have long since passed. Just try blind listening!
      (2) Conductors DO make a difference to the sound of the bands they conduct. To take a case in point, Salonen (who doesn’t do warmth anyway) has succeeded in stripping away the rich string sound the Philharmonia had and still has when they play under Dohnanyi.

      • Salonen also “succeeded” in stripping away the warm and fairly rich sound the LA Philharmonic had before him, cultivated for a long time by Mehta and Giulini and still preserved by Previn in his brief tenure. They had a warmer and deeper sound than most American orchestras but also the exactness often associated with bands west of the big water. Under Salonen, the richness of sound disappeared but it also lost its exactness and edge. The last times I heard them with him, they actually sounded pretty mediocre and there were also serious ensemble problems (he almost threw the whole orchestra in Sibelius 2, something one hears very rarely these days).

    • @Robert said, “Don’t you all realize that Karajan is still chef dirigent of the Berliner Philharmoniker – albeit from the grave?”

      That pretty much says it all, IMO.

      • Pamela Brown says:
        January 14, 2013 at 5:49 pm

        “@Robert said, “Don’t you all realize that Karajan is still chef dirigent of the Berliner Philharmoniker – albeit from the grave?”

        That pretty much says it all, IMO.”

        Says what? That Mr Kenchington has no ear for orchestral sonorities or interpretation styles? The BP sounded quite different under, e.g. Abbado in the same repertoire from what they sounded like under Karajan while he was still alive and the overall sound of the orchestra changed quite noticeably when he became principal conductor – so much so that a lot of the old timers in the orchestra complained bitterly about that. The Karajan sound was much rounder, fuller, more blended. Abbado opened up the textures, slimmed them down, and his interpretations of, e.g. Brahms and Beethoven were very different from Karajan’s. One can hear that very well in recordings, too. I heard the BP play the complete Brahms cycle live when they recorded it the last time with Karajan in the late 80s and then very soon after that with Abbado (in fact, the Abbado cycle was begun while Karajan was still alive). Their interpretive approaches and the sound they drew from the orchestra were very different. Only a few years later, they played (and recorded) the Brahms symphonies yet again, this time with Harnoncourt, and that sounded drastically different again. Much leaner, edgier, more intense than Abbado’s very lyrical and flowing readings or than the big, blended – but amazingly transparent and dynamically very nuanced – last Karajan performances. Three completely different styles, all very well realized by mostly the same set of players within just a few years. And one can still hear that very clearly on the recordings, despite the obvious limitations vs hearing the performances live.

        What the orchestra has retained throughout all these changes and throughout working with all sorts of stylistically very different conductors is the way they play as an ensemble, the very flexible, chamber-music like listening to each other and breathing and moving together that marks only the very best of orchestras. That is also what young players mean when they say they want to become part of and preserve that tradition, not Karajan’s sound and interpretation style. That is long gone.

        • Robert Kenchington says:

          I have never heard Harnoncourt conduct the Berlin Philharmonic and I do indeed believe that he would have changed the sound to one very different from that cultivated by Karajan. But that must have been a rare exception.
          I heard Abbado conduct the Berliners in Mahler’s Ninth in London, and Beethoven and Schumann in the Berlin Philharmonie itself. The Mahler was almost identical to the famous Karajan recording of 1982 while the Beethoven, while using fewer players, was still rendered in that signature legato style that Karajan had developed. The only difference being a rather bland dynamic range. As to the chamber-like, self-listening autonomy you refer to, well, that’s Karajan’s work again!

          Meanwhile, I have heard Barenboim conduct them in the Brahms first symphony in Oxford which was basically the kind of heavyweight, texture-saturated rendition the orchestra has been playing since the time of Furtwangler – a conductor Barenboim admires. Once again, I sensed the orchestra was playing the way it wanted. I have also heard them with Rattle in Bruckner and Sibelius (both Karajan specialities) and once again – bar the odd bit of pointing and instrumental placement – it was basically the old man’s performance.

          With Karajan, you always knew that he was firmly in control of the orchestra, for all his physical frailty in later years. This was never the case with Abbado or Rattle. By then the players had reclaimed the self-governance they sacrificed to Karajan in exchange for commercial success and they were – and are – the ones who decide how the music will be rendered in concert. This is why I find both Abbado and Rattle such bland conductors, because whatever interpretative ideas they may have, are subject to the corporate decision of the orchestra.

          You know old story: when Furtwangler died and was succeeded by Karajan, it was a case of ‘The King is dead, long live the King’ . When Karajan died and Abbado took his place the cry was very different: ‘The King is dead, long live the Republic’. Unfortunately, an orchestra is not a democracy…

          • Ken Anderson says:

            Robert Kenchington and Michael express opposing views but curiously, they both have a point. (And thanks to them for steering the discussion into less surreal territory than the various imbecilic suggestions for Rattle’s possible successor.)

            Michael is spot on in his analysis of the BP’s different style and sonority under various conductors after Karajan. I recall that shortly after Abbado took over, some of his Brahms and Mahler rehearsals were filmed. In one passage in (I think) Brahms 1, Abbado asked the brass to reduce their sound to forte. The players replied that they always played that particular passage fortissimo. Abbado made the wonderful reply: ‘That was a different orchestra’.

            Karajan himself, in conversation with Richard Osborne, described the many patient rehearsal hours he spent with the BP in the 1950s, rebuilding the orchestra after Furtwängler and influencing them towards a strengthened sound. However, in the mid-1960s I encountered a cellist of the BP and when I told him how I admired the BP/Furtwängler recording of Schubert 9, he said that in that work ‘we always play Furtwängler’, no matter if the conductor was Karajan or whoever. I’m reminded also of Dohnanyi’s wry comment, after years in Cleveland: ‘We give a great concert … and George Szell gets a great review.’ As Robert Kenchington says, perhaps it’s sometimes a case of ‘basically the old man’s performance’.

          • Ken Anderson says:
            January 15, 2013 at 1:53 am

            “Robert Kenchington and Michael express opposing views but curiously, they both have a point. (And thanks to them for steering the discussion into less surreal territory than the various imbecilic suggestions for Rattle’s possible successor.)

            Michael is spot on in his analysis of the BP’s different style and sonority under various conductors after Karajan. I recall that shortly after Abbado took over, some of his Brahms and Mahler rehearsals were filmed. In one passage in (I think) Brahms 1, Abbado asked the brass to reduce their sound to forte. The players replied that they always played that particular passage fortissimo. Abbado made the wonderful reply: ‘That was a different orchestra’.

            Karajan himself, in conversation with Richard Osborne, described the many patient rehearsal hours he spent with the BP in the 1950s, rebuilding the orchestra after Furtwängler and influencing them towards a strengthened sound. However, in the mid-1960s I encountered a cellist of the BP and when I told him how I admired the BP/Furtwängler recording of Schubert 9, he said that in that work ‘we always play Furtwängler’, no matter if the conductor was Karajan or whoever. I’m reminded also of Dohnanyi’s wry comment, after years in Cleveland: ‘We give a great concert … and George Szell gets a great review.’ As Robert Kenchington says, perhaps it’s sometimes a case of ‘basically the old man’s performance’.”

            Yet – when you listen to Karajan’s 1968 recording of Schubert 9, you will find that it is actually quite different from Furtwängler’s.
            One can hear quite well how Karajan transitioned the orchestra from Furtwängler’s style to his own in recordings of the period, e.g. the 1957 Bruckner 8 on EMI which is still quite “furtwänglerian” or the 1962 set of Beethoven symphonies which also still contain quite a bit of that old sound, through the later 60s when the sound had become much more polished, blended and rounded off, as one can hear in the Schubert 9 which one reviewer once called “a tour of chromium heaven”…

            Of course these changes, while definitely noticeable, were subtle and gradual, not drastic, sudden changes, and neither were those in the post-Karajan period. The same applies to guest conductors with any orchestra in any given period. It’s still the same people playing the same instruments producing the same basic sounds, playing together in the same basic style, but conductors who have a strong vision and the skills to bring it across can always make a very noticeable difference. What distinguishes orchestras like the Berliner or Wiener Philharmoniker is that they have their own very strong collective identity but they can and will follow conductors who have something to “say” and arrive at very different results. Just listen to the WP under e.g. Bernstein, Karajan, Kleiber, Solti, Giulini and you will hear it is obviously the same orchestra with the same instantly recognizable sound but the musical results are often very different.

            BTW, I think that remark from Dohnányi doesn’t really refer to what we are discussing here, the lingering influence of a great conductor, but the fact that many Americans are still fixated on that pantheon of musical gods such as Toscanini, Szell, Reiner who were presented to them by the record industry as “the best ever”. For instance, if you discuss Strauss, many of them will kneejerk to point out that Reiner’s recordings are “the best ever made” but if you listen to them carefully, they are actually pretty mediocre in every respect, musically, technically, and sonically, too, although the recorded sound was really quite good *for the time*. Yet you will not have any problem finding people who maintain that even the sound “has never been bettered”.

          • Robert Kenchington says:

            Ken offers a sensible and well-developed argument here, using the Wiener Philharmoniker as a prime example of how an orchestra can retain its collective identity while accommodating the individual wishes of the conductor. And there is no doubt when you listen to them under Bohm, Bernstein, Giulini, Kleiber, Solti and of course Karajan himself there is no doubt who is at the helm.

            However, this argument reinforces my point about the Berliner Philharmoniker, whose overall style and tradition could be fused with a strong musical personality on the podium, but its that very lack of strength on the part of Abbado and Rattle which has led the orchestra to fly on automatic pilot in so many of its recent concerts and recordings.

            Meanwhile, among other conductors, there are some – as was and is the case with certain guest maestri in Vienna – who will deliberately cultivate the orchestra’s corporate sonic image because it makes the conductor seem better than he really is. There is certainly one international conductor out there who if he does land the Berlin job, will do exactly that. It’s very easy to get a great sound from the Berliners but the real challenge for a conductor – as Karajan faced when at the beginning of his career – is to achieve high standards from an impoverished semi-professional ensemble. To make something of ‘Die Meistersinger’ with only 20 players soon sorts the men from the boys!

            Besides, most modern conductors are not necessarily chosen for the strength of their musicality, more for how good they look on a CD cover, hence the plethora of pretty-boy maestros in London, Los Angeles and elsewhere – one reason I suspect Abbado was chosen over Haitink in Berlin I suspect – and you only have to look at Dudamel…

            So in essence the Berliner Philharmoniker has two types of conductor to choose from if they wish to retain the post of chef dirigent: a ‘hold the fort’ boy who hides his limited musicality behind ‘glorious tradition’ or a pin-up guy who sells records, looks pretty and leaves the players to make the actual music. Either way, it’s not a very inspiring prospect.

          • Alexander Hall says:

            In a way it is instructive that so many of the comments posted here have directly or indirectly confirmed that Karajan was indeed one of the greatest conductors of the 20th century. Indeed, he fashioned a particularly rich and deep palette of tonal resources in the Berlin Philharmonic despite choosing tempi that were closer to Toscanini than Furtwängler. As Walter Legge once memorably commented, “He is incapable of producing an ugly note.” I mention this because it didn’t take long after his death before we had all the stuff-and-nonsense about his supposed Nazi past influencing all his interpretations, to the extent that certain critics (I won’t mention names, but I could!) actually heard the sound of jackboots grinding the poor players into the ground. The “period/historically informed” mafia in the BBC did their best to persuade listeners that lush string sounds and orchestral perfection were no longer acceptable. I’m willing to take a bet that in 100 years from now it will still be Karajan who is admired for the breadth of his repertoire and the excellence of his recordings and most definitely not Messrs Brüggen, Harnoncourt, Herreweghe and Norrington.

          • Robert Kenchington says:
            January 15, 2013 at 7:24 pm

            “Ken offers a sensible and well-developed argument here, using the Wiener Philharmoniker as a prime example of how an orchestra can retain its collective identity while accommodating the individual wishes of the conductor. And there is no doubt when you listen to them under Bohm, Bernstein, Giulini, Kleiber, Solti and of course Karajan himself there is no doubt who is at the helm.”

            MICHAEL:

            I think you are actually responding to my last post, not Ken’s which I quoted. The tree view here only allows a few branches so it can get confusing who is responding to who, which is why I usually quote from the posts I respond to. I made the point about the Wiener Philharmoniker you seem to refer to.

            ROBERT:

            “However, this argument reinforces my point about the Berliner Philharmoniker, whose overall style and tradition could be fused with a strong musical personality on the podium, but its that very lack of strength on the part of Abbado and Rattle which has led the orchestra to fly on automatic pilot in so many of its recent concerts and recordings.”

            MICHAEL:

            You do definitely have a point there, and you also had a lot more good points in your second post than I would have suspected after your first “Karajan conducts from the grave” post which was so over the top that it obscured your original point.

            However, whatever Abbado’s or Rattle’s weaknesses may or may not be, I don’t think one can say that “Karajan conducts from the grave” or that the current players, many of which have never played under Karajan, somehow still channel his style and his interpretations or default to them if the man on the podium is a weaker conductor – or if he consciously attempts to draw a “karajanesque” playing style and sound from them. I sometimes wish that was actually the case!
            And I guess some conductors wish that, too!

            Karajan, whatever one may think about him or his style in general or in particular repertoire, really got a very impressive sound from the orchestra and at its best, the music making could be very intense and inspired. He really was a master conductor and he had such a control over the orchestra and his style was so highly developed, it was really impossible for other conductors to emulate it even while he was still alive and the style very much ingrained in the orchestra, and the essentials of what made it different are pretty much completely gone now.

            That chamber music like, listening to each other and reacting to each other flexibly way of playing that was *one* of its essential ingredients was not something that he invented nor something he “taught” them. That is something which was and to a certain degree still is inherent in the traditional German orchestra school, at least in the better orchestras. A really good example for that is the set of Strauss recordings with Kempe and the Staatskapelle Dresden. They play the pieces not as orchestral blockbusters, but as complex chamber music. And that orchestra still has that flexibility. I just heard them live in “Hänsel und Gretel”, not an easy piece that even though it is an opera for children, and the nuancedness of the music making even in a routine repertoire performance was pretty stupendous.

            Anyway, back to Karajan – he incorporated that in his style of music making but what really made his conducting different is very hard to explain. It had a lot to do with the very meticulous rehearsing he kept up until the very end (I sat in a rehearsal of Brahms 1 when they recorded it for the last time and was astonished to see him still rehearsing fine detail and balances), but also with the actual personality, I think. Even during the last years, when he and the orchestra were constantly in each other’s hair, when he was on the podium, you could sense – and hear – just how much they were at the edge of their seats and giving their very best.

            ROBERT:

            “Meanwhile, among other conductors, there are some – as was and is the case with certain guest maestri in Vienna – who will deliberately cultivate the orchestra’s corporate sonic image because it makes the conductor seem better than he really is.”

            MICHAEL:

            That’s probably true, but what’s wrong with making good use of the substance offered by the orchestra?

            ROBERT:

            “There is certainly one international conductor out there who if he does land the Berlin job, will do exactly that. It’s very easy to get a great sound from the Berliners but the real challenge for a conductor – as Karajan faced when at the beginning of his career – is to achieve high standards from an impoverished semi-professional ensemble. To make something of ‘Die Meistersinger’ with only 20 players soon sorts the men from the boys!”

            Well, yes, but Karajan himself said it still sounded pretty bad and he had to imagine the sound he really wanted at the beginning of his career. But yes, that slow learning on the job over years with provincial ensembles is something that is probably invaluable, and something very few conductors have that experience these days.

            But Rattle did show that he was able to get very good results in Birmingham, even though I never found the orchestra quite as impressive as some critics made it to be. He definitely knows the craft.

            ROBERT:

            “Besides, most modern conductors are not necessarily chosen for the strength of their musicality, more for how good they look on a CD cover, hence the plethora of pretty-boy maestros in London, Los Angeles and elsewhere – one reason I suspect Abbado was chosen over Haitink in Berlin I suspect – and you only have to look at Dudamel…”

            I think that is unfair. Abbado was chosen by the orchestra on the basis of some real strengths and they perceived him to be a person of integrity and someone who actually had more substance and was less flashy than a lot of the names that were thrown around back then.
            I don’t think Haitink was ever an option. I value him and his meticulous approach more than many do, and I know many of the BP members back then valued him very highly, too, but he was really too conventional a conductor to take them into new directions.

            ROBERT:

            “So in essence the Berliner Philharmoniker has two types of conductor to choose from if they wish to retain the post of chef dirigent: a ‘hold the fort’ boy who hides his limited musicality behind ‘glorious tradition’ or a pin-up guy who sells records, looks pretty and leaves the players to make the actual music. Either way, it’s not a very inspiring prospect.”

            MICHAEL:

            It may not be that limited. I think whoever gets that post will automatically become a big “star”. I do remember back then many were surprised by the choice of Abbado. He was well in business, held prestigious posts, made plenty of recordings (but then who didn’t in those days?), but his name was rarely mentioned when people discussed the candidates. He was just that fairly quiet guy who turned out well prepared, sensitive performances but not somebody who people thought of as a podium star. There are some who say that all the extra attention he suddenly got did not do him well. I observed myself that during his tenure, it seemed more and more that whereas in the beginning, he had very specific ideas of what he wanted but a gentle way of implementing those ideas and persuading the players to follow him, his performances became increasingly less focused. It seemed to me that often, he would just show up without a really clear concept, basically just let the orchestra play and preside over these sensitivity feasts where the players indulged in the refinedness of their playing but interpretations became less and less specific and compelling. At least that was my impression.

          • Robert Kenchington says:

            Reasoned and seasoned observations, Michael with which, by and large I concur. But your description of Abbado’s relationship with the Berliners confirms what I have been saying all along: Abbado – and Rattle – do not have the same strength of personality and focused musicality to mould and develop the sound of the orchestra in the way that Karajan had. Watching them both in concert with the orchestra, its as if they are half afraid of the players – the complete reverse of Karajan who was afraid of nobody.

            Orchestral players are a notoriously hard-bitten lot and you have to win their respect and one way is to show them exactly what you want. The conductor has to take the lead and moreover be allowed to take the lead by the orchestra in musical matters – otherwise the conducting will be bland and the players will simply use their own judgement which – as the recent New Year’s Day Concert from Vienna demonstrated – results in technically proficient renditions which completely lack personality. And its PERSONALITY even more than musicality that makes the difference between a great conductor and a mediocre one.

            The problem is that most of the great conductors up to and including Karajan were tyrannical (in some ways they had to be) creating a counter-revolution among an increasing number of self-governing orchestras. Now the pendulum has swung too far the other way and – as I have said previously – the modern maestro is merely a figurehead. Once again, an orchestra is not a democracy and rule by committee leaves nothing but a handful of maybes.

          • Alexander Hall says:

            Very glad to read somebody, albeit obliquely, referring to the anodyne and quite frankly boring New Year’s Day concerts in 2011 and 2013 conducted by Welser-Möst. Had he not been an Austrian and coincidentally Director of the Viennese State Opera it is doubtful whether the Vienna Philharmonic would have engaged him for this important “do” in the musical calendar. The problem with timekeepers is that they lack personality, and so many of the names being floated in these columns to succeed Rattle – the mediocre Welser-Möst, Chung and their ilk – fall very precisely into that category. En passant, it’s worth pointing out that the same phenomenon can be observed amongst modern-day violinists and pianists. Especially when they hail from the Far East, technical excellence in spades but with nothing to say about the music at all.

          • Alexander Hall says:
            January 16, 2013 at 7:14 pm

            “In a way it is instructive that so many of the comments posted here have directly or indirectly confirmed that Karajan was indeed one of the greatest conductors of the 20th century. Indeed, he fashioned a particularly rich and deep palette of tonal resources in the Berlin Philharmonic despite choosing tempi that were closer to Toscanini than Furtwängler. As Walter Legge once memorably commented, “He is incapable of producing an ugly note.” I mention this because it didn’t take long after his death before we had all the stuff-and-nonsense about his supposed Nazi past influencing all his interpretations, to the extent that certain critics (I won’t mention names, but I could!) actually heard the sound of jackboots grinding the poor players into the ground. The “period/historically informed” mafia in the BBC did their best to persuade listeners that lush string sounds and orchestral perfection were no longer acceptable. I’m willing to take a bet that in 100 years from now it will still be Karajan who is admired for the breadth of his repertoire and the excellence of his recordings and most definitely not Messrs Brüggen, Harnoncourt, Herreweghe and Norrington.”

            Accusations of the kind that Karajan’s sound esthetic somehow reflected a fascist mindset were flung at him even during his lifetime, but they really are nonsensical. The strongest argument against that is that Michel Schwalbé, one of his concertmasters for several decades and a man of Jewish background who lost his entire family in the holocaust, not only accepted the invitation to come to Berlin as a “kind of reconciliation”. He also said that what connected him and Karajan was that they were musically very much on the same wavelength. Schwalbé’s playing represented that esthetic in its purest form:

            http://www.tagesspiegel.de/kultur/michel-schwalbe-des-meisters-erste-geige/1622130.html

            I completely agree that Karajan’s legacy will last because – it already has proven that it lasts.

            However, the contributions of at least some of the mentioned gentlemen active in the period performance movement will definitely last, too. Certainly Harnoncourt’s will. He has had a much bigger impact on musical performance practice than pretty much anybody in the past half century.

            I don’t care what the “period/historically informed mafia in the BBC” has to say about Karajan, but neither do I care what people who want to blanket dismiss the whole period performance movement either. It has enormously enriched our understanding of the musical styles of past periods and provided fascinating insights into the sound worlds in which the great composes lived. It’s not an either/or. We can have and enjoy both.

        • Your opinion. You are entitled. I disagree.

          • Pamela Brown says:
            January 15, 2013 at 6:48 pm

            “Your opinion. You are entitled. I disagree.”

            Thanks for the detailed response! Just out of curiosity, how many times have you actually heard the BP live under Karajan, Abbado, and Rattle, and any given guest conductors with a strong profile, e.g. Solti, Giulini, Wand, Harnoncourt, or others? Yes, one can get a good idea of what an orchestra-conductor relationship from recordings, and I guess most of our knowledge of that comes from recordings, but it does give you a much better idea if you actually see and hear them interact live.

          • @Michael is perhaps more interested in the number of words in a reply rather than its logic?

            Agreeing-to-disagree tends to accompany a position one believes is strong; taking potshots tends to accompany a position one believes is weak.

          • @Michael said, “Yes, one can get a good idea of what an orchestra-conductor relationship from recordings, and I guess most of our knowledge of that comes from recordings, but it does give you a much better idea if you actually see and hear them interact live.”

            Does Michael intend to push a theory that what he considers to be an ‘evolution’ in the sound of Berlin post-Karajan is so subtle it can only be discerned listening to a live performance?

          • Pamela Brown says:
            January 16, 2013 at 4:35 pm

            “@Michael said, “Yes, one can get a good idea of what an orchestra-conductor relationship from recordings, and I guess most of our knowledge of that comes from recordings, but it does give you a much better idea if you actually see and hear them interact live.”

            Does Michael intend to push a theory that what he considers to be an ‘evolution’ in the sound of Berlin post-Karajan is so subtle it can only be discerned listening to a live performance?”

            MICHAEL:

            If you read the part of my post you quoted, I think it is quite clear that I said

            “Yes, one can get a good idea of what an orchestra-conductor relationship from recordings, and I guess most of our knowledge of that comes from recordings”

            which clearly says that one can definitely get a good idea of an orchestra-conductor relationship from recordings.

            However, I also said

            “but it does give you a much better idea if you actually see and hear them interact live”

            by which I meant that it does give you a much better idea if you actually see and hear them interact live. Especially when you see and hear them many times live.

            Furthermore, I did not say that what I “consider to be an ‘evolution’ in the sound of Berlin post-Karajan is so subtle it can only be discerned listening to a live performance”.

            First of all, I do not consider nor did I call the changes an “evolution”. I just consider them changes, whether for the good or the worse is a different discussion.
            Secondly, I said the exact opposite, namely that the changes are very noticeable. It was Robert’s initial argument that it didn’t really change at all and that Karajan was still “conducting from the grave”.
            However, the discussion has long moved past that. I think you may be a little confused about who said what here.

          • @Michael said, ” I think you may be a little confused about who said what here.”

            Not so. Just trying to obtain some definition for your position on live v recordings.

            Hopefully, you’re not creating an appeal to authority fallacy that if you don’t listen to Berlin live you can’t possibly evaluate its sound?

          • Pamela Brown says:
            January 16, 2013 at 3:11 am

            “@Michael is perhaps more interested in the number of words in a reply rather than its logic?

            Agreeing-to-disagree tends to accompany a position one believes is strong; taking potshots tends to accompany a position one believes is weak.”

            For me, the number of words in a reply is more a reflection of the degree of interest one has in a particular subject and discussion, but also a measure of respect for the argument one is replying to. In this case, Robert and Ken made a number of interesting observations that I felt were worth replying to in detail. There is no problem with disagreeing, even heatedly, as long as one explains one’s opinion and as it turned out, even Robert and me who seemed to start out from completely different positions actually agree on far more than we disagree. As for the logic, what I said obviously made sense to both of them. That’s what I call a good discussion!

            Just throwing out a snooty “whatever! I disagree, live with it” non-reply without providing arguments is not what I would call good style, and it adds nothing to the discussion. As for “potshots”, merely asking what experience your opinion is based on, since you didn’t feel like backing up your position with arguments, is not taking a “potshot”.

            Hope that answers your questions!

          • Pamela Brown says:
            January 17, 2013 at 1:41 am

            “@Michael said, ” I think you may be a little confused about who said what here.”

            Not so. Just trying to obtain some definition for your position on live v recordings.

            Hopefully, you’re not creating an appeal to authority fallacy that if you don’t listen to Berlin live you can’t possibly evaluate its sound?”

            I think that’s the third time you ask me more or less the same question, so there is really no need to quote again what I said in the first place.

            As for the more general question of how well one can evaluate the sound of an orchestra from recordings, especially from recordings only – your evasive replies suggest to me that you have never heard the BP live, or maybe just once or twice – that is a nearly impossible question to answer. How can one “measure” or judge how “exact” another person’s perception of the sound of an orchestra is? How can one even judge how “true” one’s own perception is? I can only guess how realistic my own perception would be if I hadn’t heard and seen this orchestra live countless times over many years since well, I have, and I can’t erase that and start over. And I could, I wouldn’t have any “data” to compare to…

            I was lucky in that I grew up in Berlin where I could hear the BP and the other Berlin orchestras regularly – and since it’s all subsidized by the state, it was (probably still is) quite easy to get cheap tickets for high school or university students, plus when you studied with a member of one of the orchestras and the people at the artists entrances knew you, you could pretty much just walk in during the day, use one of the many practice rooms, hang out in the two cafeterias, sit in rehearsals, and usually also just stay for the evening performance and grab an open seat. They have always been very liberal about that, at least back then, because the orchestra members supported this kind of “under the radar” activity because it is good for students to hear as many concerts as possible.

            Anyway, since they all come through Berlin on tour, I was also able to hear basically all of the world’s great orchestras live, most of them multiple times, and in the very “honest” acoustics of the Philharmonie on top of that. That hall doesn’t add much “warmth” to the sound nor does it muffle or smudge the sound. Ironically, those very transparent acoustics make it a rather tricky venue to record in because it can sound rather bright and “glassy” in recordings.

            I was often surprised by how different some orchestras sounded live, and not just because I knew them from recordings made in other halls. The first times I heard Russian orchestras – those were the USSR State with Svetlanov and the Ministry of Culture with Roshdestvensky – it was a real shock just how different they sounded live than from the recordings I had heard. Not just because a lot of the Soviet recordings were somewhat crappy, also because of how they liked to record, mix and EQ them. The brass playing was at time rather aggressive and edgy, as many of those recordings suggest, but the string sound had an enormous dark warmth and depth which you wouldn’t have guessed from the recordings at all.

            The first time I heard the CSO live (Bruckner 8 with Barenboim), I found it very underwhelming because that thin, forced brass sound and the wiry strings made a fairly loud sound on the stage, but it really didn’t fill the hall. A few weeks later, I heard the Israel PO in the same piece (with Mehta) and I was surprised by just how rich their string sound was – one can’t really tell just how good thy sound from the recordings made in their apparently pretty dead hall in Tel Aviv.

            I have also heard many other European orchestras live in their own halls, e.g. in Hamburg, Leipzig, Dresden, Munich, Vienna, Amsterdam, London – RAH, Barbican, RFH – as well as most of the top US ones in their own halls (NY, Chicago, Boston, LA, SF) and a few of them again in Carnegie. So yes, I think I have a fairly realistic idea of how all those orchestras really sound, and that can at time be quite different from what they sound like on recordings. Not just because of the inherent limitations of recordings and playback equipment, but also because a lot of recordings are, or used to be, heavily “doctored” because the major labels all wanted to create their “brand sounds”. E.g. the extremely harsh and aggressive CSO/Decca recordings or most of the Karajan/DG recordings which were heavily manipulated to create that ultra-sweeth, smooth, hazy and glossy sound. And it didn’t sound like that live at all, which is why I generally prefer live Karajan recordings as a memory of what the orchestra sounded like with him.

          • My questions were primarily rhetorical, so, in that sense they have been answered.

          • One can certainly evaluate the sound much better when listening to the performances live in the hall than by recordings alone – that is not a “fallacy” at all but an obvious fact. The sound that arrives to your ears from recordings – even those made from live performances – already went through several distortions: 1) microphones and recording equipment, 2) recording engineers making adjustments, 3) your own playback equipment. Conversely, when listening to a performance in the hall, there are no distortions whatsoever between the true sound and your ears. Such distortions, by the way, could in some cases either improve or worsen the sound quality, but they always inevitably change the sound to a certain degree.
            In addition to many recordings of the Berliners, i have heard them live in concert many times, both in their home and on tour – in the 1970s and 1980s with Karajan, in 1990s with Abbado, and more recently once with Bychkov and several times with Rattle. There is no question that two dozen years after HvK’s death, that time divided about equally between two strong conducting personalities as their music directors who hired most of today’s BP musicians, the orchestra is very different now from the way it was a quarter of a century ago. And that is not surprising at all, considering that the vast majority of the currently active orchestra members have never played with HvK. There is one important constant though that has not changed – consistently high quality of their playing.

          • @MarK said, “One can certainly evaluate the sound much better when listening to the performances live in the hall than by recordings alone – that is not a “fallacy” at all but an obvious fact.”

            It seems to me there are different arguments to be made about listening to live performances v recordings. On that I think we agree. For the purpose of this discussion, my concern is that if the axiom of the argument is that only live performances are worth evaluating, for example, than those of us who do not have the privilege of listening to the BPO live on a regular basis are thereby unqualified to have an opinion on the sound and the changes.

            My other point was that it does not seem logical to compare live performances of current conductors with recorded performances of HVK.

            Thus, simply for clarifying discussion, it would seem the argument could be based on recordings; not because they are in any way superior to a live performance, but only because they are the common denominator.

            Does that make sense? :-)

  44. How about Eiji Oue?

    • With all due respect, IMO EI did little to move the MO forward during his tenure there, despite all the bravado and posturing and conducting without scores. Ironically, EI seems to be the only past maestro of the MO who has not pitched in to help in their current crisis.

      I think Berlin can do better than that….

  45. Mark Mortimer says:

    Begin by saying, Simon Rattle is a gifted man. I met him once whilst working as a lowly salesman in the classical department of a London record store- a charming character. Superb in Mahler and anything after- does anyone do a better Rite of Spring than him for example? (in which his prodigious technical abilities really come to the fore). Very circumspect in Beethoven, Brahms and Bruckner which unfortunately for Simon, is the core of the Berlin’s repertoire. In all fairness, how could he compete with the legacy of Furtwangler and Karajan in this respect. Most would agree (including him) that his tenure in Berlin was not a bag of roses. I’m suprised he lasted as long as he did (16 years by 2018) but it is testament to his strength of character. No doubt, lucrative guest conducting/directorship opportunities will come his way, but I sincerely hope that he uses his talents more as a teacher and supporter of youth music making in the UK. His detractors like to claim he’s in it for the money, let him now proove that this is not the case.

    As for many of the names already mentioned, many of them are mediocrities. Harding (Rattle’s protege) Jarvi, Jurowski, Salonen, … the list goes on- all over hyped ‘Time Keepers’ as Alexander Hall so rightly says. Dudamel has the potential to take on a great orchestra one day, but he has much to learn and not for a long time. Thieleman is an interesting conductor/musician who is up to the job. Many forget however, that he holds dispicable far right political views which are of the Neo variety. But maybe that will go down well with certain factions in the orchestra. Maazel is one of the great conducting talents of the last century but he is now over the hill. His big chance came after the death of Karajan, but he was abashed by the very deserving Abbado ( a sublime conductor btw).

    The only true candidate is Barenboim. Like all great men he has his detractors but he is the only living conductor with the requisite talent, charisma and experience to take on this great ensemble. He has wanted the post all his life and unlike some of the other candiadates with a similar lust, is totally deserving of it.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Mark, I generally agree with your opinions, but don’t understand your point on Thieleman’s political views: how do we know that they are his views and not rumors? Whenever I’ve read or heard his own words, I found nothing politically inappropriate. Admittedly he is not the most eloquent, interesting or diplomatic talker. Like many other great musicians (Barenboim included), he has more to say when making music. Can you back up your argument on Thieleman’s political views?

    • “Thieleman is an interesting conductor/musician who is up to the job. Many forget however, that he holds dispicable far right political views which are of the Neo variety. But maybe that will go down well with certain factions in the orchestra.”

      That’s right, Mark – everyone knows there are big “Neo factions” in this orchestra. You can instantly tell who they are from their shaved heads, the bomber jackets, the leather boots.

an ArtsJournal blog