On Artistic Excellence

Last year Helge Harding and I wrote an essay on contemporary music education, assessment of musical performance, quality management in teaching, and questions of artistic excellence in general. The text is now published as a leading article in the latest issue of magazine Üben & Musizieren. It will soon be available via the Schott Music website—for now I uploaded a PDF full-text version here. Looking forward to your opinions!

The Dilemma of Opera Singers

In an insightful report about making a career in opera singing, Emilia Smechowski portrays five former voice students of Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler Berlin, citing the protagonists (whose names are disclosed) with some sensitive and very personal statements. While a public discussion of the over-competitive environment and unhealthy working conditions in classical music business is most desirable, the article raises the question if the author had better quoted her sources anonymously. Given that she claims to have been a fellow student of the interviewed artists, some of whom feel that they are characterised in an inappropriate way, the impartiality of her perspective seems at least disputable.

Conductors and Misconductors

The classical music world seems more wretched than ever. In his vulgar piece on conductors’ sexuality and abuse of power, Norman Lebrecht suggests that »sex is one of the perks of conducting«, further elaborating on the »powerful relation of baton and penis«. The author, a knowledgeable observer of the business, takes it for granted that virility is required to conduct an orchestra, and implies that a conductor who doesn’t assault women leads a »rather boring life«. Mr Lebrecht, even if you cannot imagine it: Ill behaviour of conductors is not exactly a result of gender inequality, nor is it likely to improve as soon as more women enter the podium. Quite the contrary, it is an issue of deep-rooted misogyny and contempt—fueled by opinions like yours. It is about time, as Barbara Hannigan has aptly claimed, to ditch the whole outdated maestro attitude altogether. Conductors are musicians, nothing more and nothing less, and we should look upon them as partners at eye level rather than rulers of the orchestra.

The Chasms of Classical Music Business

Here is a short history of the recent video shred controversy which continues to stir up Berlin’s classical music scene, apparently increasing in complexity from day to day. The story is to be continued, and I will update this post in due time on new developments. For the time being, I am looking forward to hear your opinions.

December 26, 2017 – Moderator and composer Arno Lücker and violinist Carlotta Joachim produce a salacious shred of a video performance of Daniel Hope and Ludovico Einaudi, which is published on Neue Musikzeitung‘s Bad Blog of Musick.
December 28 – Hope forces Lücker to take down the shred after only a few hours online in which it was accessed approx. 70 times. He also has his lawyers send a cease and desist letter on pain of a fine. Lücker shares his experiences with the web community.
The following days – Social media widely discuss the issue, with most commenters taking sides with Lücker while rejecting Hope’s attitude and behaviour. Blogger Alexander Strauch gets extensively involved in the case.
January 12, 2018 – Lücker is told by Sebastian Nordmann, director of Konzerthaus Berlin, that his freelance work as a moderator will be discontinued after the current season. It is unclear if Hope, who regularly appears at the Konzerthaus as well, has played a role in this decision.
January 15 – Moritz Eggert publishes an open letter in defence of Lücker on the Bad Blog of Musick, claiming Hope’s responsibility for the dismissal, and pleading for conciliation. The letter is translated to English three days later.
January 15 – Albrecht Selge reports the case on his blog Hundert11: Konzertgänger in Berlin.
January 16 – Sebastian Nordmann leaves a comment in the Bad Blog and states that Lücker’s humour is incompatible with his duties at the Konzerthaus, thus vindicating his dismissal.
January 16 – Robert Jungwirth reports the case on Klassikinfo.
January 17 – Norman Lebrecht reports the case in a blogpost on Slippedisc, getting several facts wrong.
January 17 – Daniel Hope adds a comment to Lebrecht’s post, stating that, after Lücker has apologised to him, he is now done with the matter. As for the lawsuit, consequences are still unclear.
January 17 – Marlene Fercher covers the case for BR Klassik, reporting that Lücker’s future blogposts at Neue Musikzeitung will no longer be editorially independent.
January 17 – Jens Laurson shrewdly comments on the affair in Forbes magazine.
January 18 – Neue Musikzeitung’s editor-in-chief Theo Geißler dissociates himself from Lücker in a statement on his Facebook wall. The post is deleted only 15 minutes later.
January 18 – Jeffrey Arlo Brown and Hartmut Welscher, in a VAN Magazine article, suggest that Clemens Trautmann, head of Hope’s label Deutsche Grammophon, intervened at Neue Musikzeitung to have Lücker removed.
January 19 – David Sanderson comments the case for The Times.
January 19 – Things get more transparent now. In Michael Cooper‘s report for The New York Times, Hope is quoted to have taken down the lawsuit for Lücker, while claiming not to be responsible for his dismissal at the Konzerthaus.
January 19 – Arno Lücker and Carlotta Joachim issue another shred video based on a performance of Anne-Sophie Mutter and Lambert Orkis. It is available on YouTube for about 12 hours before disappearing again.
January 20 – Carlotta Joachim also contributes a statement on the Bad Blog of Musick, further detailing the context and ambition of the Hope shred.
January 20 – Lücker and Joachim attend a concert of Daniel Hope in Essen and meet him afterwards to make up with each other. The question remains whether and to what extent Neue Musikzeitung‘s freedom of press has been manipulated.
January 22 – Niklas Rudolph comments for Deutschlandfunk radio station.
January 22 – Alexander Strauch summarizes the whole affair in a blogpost on his personal website, commenting in particular on the alleged invasions of fundamental rights, and criticising the recent media coverage.