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German Conductors and the demise of the Kapellmeister


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Dundonnell
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« on: November 03, 2015, 04:26:50 pm »

I wanted to be a tad controversial Grin

In my researches on Orchestral Conductors I was struck by the apparent disappearance of the old Kapellmeister tradition. There are a lot of orchestras in Germany and-it seems to me-that traditionally these were conducted by German conductors. Some of these were internationally renowned great conductors. Others were sound, solid conductors who could be relied on to turn out eminently acceptable performances in the concert hall or opera house or even on cd. From time to time they were capable of going further and producing very fine performances indeed. I am thinking of people (in no special order) like Joseph Keilberth, Horst Stein, Hermann Abendroth, Franz Konwitschny, Heinrich Hollreiser, Herbert Kegel, Fritz Rieger, Ferdinand Leitner. Of course some of these got appointments with orchestras in the former East Germany. Sometimes they got appoitments with foreign orchestras.

The word "Kapellmeister"-used I recall for a conductor like Horst Stein in particular came to typify this somewhat "old-style" German conductor.

In compiling my lists of German orchestras I was struck that today very very few German orchestras of any real note serm to have a German Principal Conductor. Next year Marek Janowski (who had a German mother) gives up the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra. Michael Sanderling conducts the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra and Christian Thielemann the Dresden Stattskapelle. Thomas Hengelbrock conductes the Northy German Radio Symphony Orchestra in Hamburg and Karl-Heinz Steffens the Rheinlndpfalz Philharmonic Orchestra. With respect however only Thielemann can be said to be very well known.

There are still a number of German conductors of distinction alive but four are well over 80 years old-
Michael Gielen (88)
Kart Masur (88)
Christoph von Dohnanyi (86)
Gunther Herbig (84)

Christoph Eschenbach (75) is in Washington, Markus Stenz (50) is with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, Jun Markl (56) is with the Basque National Orchestra. Others, like Lothar Zagrosek (73), Claus Peter Flor (62), Ingo Metzmacher (58), have no permanent appointments.

The days of Wilhelm Furtwangler, Hans Knappertsbusch, Eugen Jochum, Gunther Wand, Rudolf Kempe, Klaus Tennstedt, Carlos Kleiber, Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, Wolfgang Sawallisch seem long gone. Apart from Thielemann-who would probably not be acceptable anyway Grin-I could not see many if any of the current crop of German conductors being offered a major orchestra outside of their native country.
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Neil McGowan
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« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2015, 04:18:11 pm »

Next year Marek Janowski (who had a German mother) gives up the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Yes, but the helm is taken (with immediate effect, I believe - Janowski has gone early) by Vladimir Jurowsky - who is no less "German" than Janowski, and grew up in E Berlin, where his dad was conducting. He is a dual German/Russian national. (Oddly enough he is billed as "German" here in Moscow).

I wouldn't call V Jurowsky exactly 'unknown' Smiley  He is guest-conducting at the Bavarian State Opera over the next two months.

On the wider topic of your posting...  perhaps the advent of modern transport, along with modern marketing, and heightened expectations from listeners everywhere that performers they hear in local concerts must be on the same level as top recordings...  means that the age of the resident Kapellmeister is almost over? 

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I could not see many if any of the current crop of German conductors being offered a major orchestra outside of their native country.

Yes, they are too inflexibly rooted in the German repertoire (viz Thieleman). We were just discussing yesterday how the top conductors in Germany these days...  Jurowsky, Sinaisky, Petrenko...  are often Russians Smiley Perhaps this is the German forte - to provide the organisation and resources, as producers of musical events... and to in-purchase the top-level talent German audiences expect from all over the world, to fulfil their projects?  Bayreuth, as never before, is now primarily a production company, for example. Who would have thought that we'd see Der Meister's operas staged there by an Australian, and conducted by a Russian?  Grin

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Dundonnell
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« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2015, 05:33:39 pm »

Vladimir Jurowski-who, as you know, is the Principal Conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra-is regarded in the UK as a Russian conductor. He was born in Moscow and lived there until he was 18.His father Mikhail was 45 before he left Russia for Germany. As far as I know Vladimir Jurowski's mother was Russian.

Does all this make them Germans Huh Huh I do not think so. Bruno Walter left Austria finally in 1939. Did he become an American conductor Huh The same question for Fritz Reiner or Pierre Monteux or Paul Paray.

The difference with Marek Janowski is that his mother was German, that he moved with her back to Germany from Poland whilst still a baby and grew up in Germany. Yes..he was Polish-born but that is all.

This is part of the ongoing debate (here and elsewhere) about the nationality of composers, conductors etc. We had Schoenberg recently described on this site as a "Bohemian" despite being born in Pressburg which, at the time of the composer's birth, was a city within the Austro-Hungarian Empire and, as Bratislava from 1919, was within the Slovak part of Czechoslovakia and is now the capital of Slovakia.

There is no correct answer to the issue. Different people will have different views and perspectives Smiley
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Neil McGowan
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« Reply #3 on: November 05, 2015, 02:31:24 pm »

Vladimir Jurowski-who, as you know, is the Principal Conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra-is regarded in the UK as a Russian conductor.

And yet he is a naturalised German, with a German passport. His wife, Patrizia, is German, and their children speak German at home - where the family live, in Berlin. In Germany, he is regarded as being a naturalised German.  He speaks German beautifully enough to present television programs in immaculate and erudite academic German (about music, art, philosophy, architecture, and other topics).

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Does all this make them Germans  Huh

Clearly, it does Smiley

We've veered off the question.

I believe that the post-war world has - at least until recently - been one of more permeable borders... a meritocracy, in which talent and ability are of vastly more value and significance than accident of birthplace. The generation of professional musicians working now in Germany are drawn from all over Europe, and all over the world. Whatever benefits the Kapellmeister system may have had in the early C20th, this system has now effectively ended.  Two phenomena have killed it off - the cd, and the age of jet air travel.

My wife sang a TV gala concert last night, here in Moscow. After breakfast in Moscow, she has rehearsals all day with Jurowsky in Munich today, after which she takes the last flight to Dusseldorf - to sing FIERY ANGEL there tomorrow. From there she'll fly directly to Berlin to rehearse FIERY ANGEL with Sinaisky - and in the evening, back to Munich (a third and different production of FIERY ANGEL).

That's how it works these days, and this is a fairly typical schedule. You need a good suitcase Smiley You eat meals in taxis, you sleep aboard aircraft. Jurowsky is jetting between Moscow, Berlin, Munich and London.



There are no video-clips from Munich yet - the clip above is her Berlin production from last year, for which she got a Faust Award nomination. She's singing the TV broadcast of ANGEL from Munich in Dec, as Evelyn Herlitzius has now completely withdrawn from the production - for personal reasons.

But the jetting can go wrong. The Inquisitor in the Dusseldorf FIERY ANGEL should have been sung by Oleg Bryjak - who was killed in the GermanWings air disaster when the co-pilot went insane and crashed the aircraft. A superb singer, greatly missed. RIP.







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Dundonnell
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« Reply #4 on: November 09, 2015, 12:47:20 pm »

We shall probably just have to disagree about Jurowski.....just as I find it difficult to think of Gerard Schurmann as an "American composer" (to my mind he remains Anglo-Dutch).

On the more substantive point you are quite right to point out the impact jet travel has had on conductors and indeed all musicians. I am not entirely convinced that this has been entirely beneficial as far as conductors are concerned. Some of those who are ostensibly Principal Conductors of a particular orchestra actually spend only a few weeks every year with that orchestra, conducting a handful of concerts, whilst jetting-off to another orchestra or opera-house. That certainly brings them the benefits of wider experience but it must be less than entirely satisfactory for the orchestra to see their principal conductor so infrequently.

I do know that the arrangement by which Donald Runnicles combined the principal conductorship of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the Deutsches Oper in Berlin did not work out very well. Runnicles took on both jobs at exactly the same time (the Autumn of 2009) but is giving up the BBC Scottish SO next year. He is a distinguished conductor and has done excellent work with both his orchestra and the German opera house. The orchestra certainly respected and liked him but they equally felt that they did not see enough of him to establish an even better rapport and even higher standards.

Jurowski will have the London Philharmonic, the Berlin Radio SO and the State Academic SO of the Russian Federation-three orchestras at the same time. He will indeed be doing a lot of air travel Grin
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