I wrote a few lines on the questionable tendency in classical music journalism to refer to performers as ›geniuses‹ and to conductors as ›maestri‹. Not that anybody asked for my opinion, and I guess that some of you don’t care at all—but that’s exactly why I felt the need to express my uneasiness with that matter. Out now in VAN Magazin. Your thoughts are appreciated.
The latest issue of Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (#1 / 2019) features an article and interview by Anna Schürmer on the relationship of social media and contemporary music, with noteworthy statements by Moritz Eggert, Johannes Kreidler, Irene Kurka, and Martin Tchiba, and also including a few thoughts on digital communication and publication from my humble perspective. Thanks for providing the platform!
The recent press coverage of Daniel Barenboim‘s leadership style is somewhat surprising to me. An article in VAN Magazin implicitly claims to reveal truths or new ›insights‹ into Berlin’s classical music scene, while other commenters play down the issue, purport that the discussion has only just begun, or even defend Barenboim in the sense of an outdated cult of genius. However, I am pretty sure that anybody involved with Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Staatskapelle Berlin, or Barenboim-Said Akademie could tell similar stories as anonymously reported in VAN. It is obvious here that somebody possesses too much power—but the main problem is not Barenboim himself but the system that empowered him, provided him with enormous amounts of money, paid court to him for decades, and allowed him to take control of three public institutions. Barenboim must doubtlessly be blamed for creating suppressive working conditions and for establishing feudalistic structures in his environment. Still, the responsibility for these maldevelopments lies with the German government and Berlin Senate who continue to afford an alleged world-class conductor at any cost, as a beacon figure to make the Staatsoper great again. The current criticism seems fair enough, but is pointless as long as large parts of Berlin’s cultural politics hinge so much on Barenboim. His case is only a symptom of the corrupted classical music business which appears, in institutions as well as in education, essentially based on hierarchy, authority, and exercise of power.
With sorrow and compassion I learned that my former teacher Lajos Papp (1935–2019), the most influential figure in the musical education of my early youth, has passed away on January 17. As a composer and committed piano pedagogue who served at Oldenburg music school for decades, Papp has significantly formed my personality, and I consider myself lucky to have enjoyed his tuition. Even though he taught me for only about three years, I continue to draw on his undogmatic and sensitive approach, fostering the creativity and individuality of students at any time, in my own teaching and music-making. A native of Debrecen, he was rooted in the Hungarian school of music education, acquainting me with the works of Béla Bartók and his own fine compositions that remain to be a source of inspiration for me to this day. May he rest in peace, and may his legacy continue to shape the education of auspicious young musicians!