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Letter to Lorin Maazel

8 Ash Close

New Malden


Lorin Maazel

C/o BBC Symphony Orchestra

Maida Vale Studios

London, W9

Dear Lorin Mazel

This letter, written with some reluctance on my part, concerns the recent performance of Mahler’s “Resurrection” symphony in which you directed the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall.

I will begin by identifying myself.   You will no doubt remember me as the horn player to whom you appeared to apportion the entire blame for the unfortunate absence of the off-stage players from their positions.

The torrential and ferocious verbal assault I was forced to endure would obviously have been spared to me had I been able to summon enough professionalism to play the parts of several other people (including my own) entirely from memory and from behind the stage.   My only misdemeanour it seems was to have been the only player to have been where he ought to have been. and at the time appointed.

In the absence of music stands, music, several other players and the person, appointed to hold the door at the precise aperture according to your instructions, I decided that, discretion being the better part of valour, not to play at all would be the wisest course of action.

The absence of the necessary equipment from the ‘crime’ scene would seem to me to have been the clear responsibility of the BBC although there was no mention of this undeniable fact in your tirade against me.

Would it be churlish of me to suggest that your perfect and omnipotent self might have checked these important arrangements beforehand?

The dictatorial (almost wholly tolerated) and unreasonable blaming of others for one’s shortcomings is a powerful weapon in the armoury of non-executive musicians such as yourself, reinforcing as it does to “maestrophiles”, the illusion of power and indispensability that you have created for your miserable selves.

Had this outburst been an isolated incident of such hideous behaviour on your part, I would hope to have borne it with resolve and understanding.   However, your demeanour seems to me to be a seamless sequence of petulance vindictiveness, selfishness and meanness of spirit, the worst of all being bad manners which you seem to reserve purely for use against orchestral players, the very people that give you prominence and adulation in public, and glory in the eyes of the critics.

I should be grateful to God that no offensive weapons or firearms were close to hand at the Festival Hall the other night, for judging from the loss of control you had obviously suffered I would have been fortunate to have escaped with my life!

One more benefit derived for me from this debacle is of course, that I shall not be required to make further contact with you.


Terry Johns

10 Responses to “Letter to Lorin Maazel”

  1. Conor Biggs says:

    Thank you a thousandfold for your response. One comes across jerks like these in our profession from time to time, who almost make us forget what a privilege it is to play such great music. Fortunately I’m not famous enough to be asked to sing with people like Maazel.

    Kind regards,
    Conor Biggs, singer.

  2. Deborah Hamilton says:

    Courageous and dignified

    • terryj says:

      Thank you for your message– I’m not really courageous. I don’t play for money any more. I just write and write music. I put up a letter every fortnight or so, from “Letters from Lines and Spaces” I hope you enjoy them
      Very best regards Terry

  3. Hans Stroe says:

    Congratulation and BRAVO…..

    Hans Stroecker
    Bass Trombonist of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

    • terryj says:

      Thank you for your message.The Mazel letter has provoked a hell of a lot of comment and correspondence.I must say that these letters “from Lines and Spaces”were written as a sort of thank you for a wonderful life in music. I put the Mazel incident in for its humour really, and to remind myself that at the time, and as a young man( it took place in the mid seventies I think — the date of the original letter was lost somehow) I thought it was a catastrophe!! Anyway- I survived but it’s worth remembering that the off stage players concerned never got a date for ten years with the BBC after that !!! When I was in the LSO many years later he came to do some opera recordings and his manners and deportment were perfect. He hadn’t been there for many years and was so obviously trying to ingratiate himself with the management. It was nauseating to watch, but he didn’t recognise me from a distance and after all those years so I kept well away from him.
      I love Vienna and look to your orchestra as one of a few places that keeps with traditions and still sounds like an orchestra did to me when I was a young man with dreams and ambitions. Thank you again
      Very best wishes Terry Johns

  4. Jack Burt says:

    Weel done, Mr. Johns.

    I had the unfortunate “pleasure” of witnessing Maazel’s petulance (such a great word) first hand, in Berlin, in 1980. He didn’t like the Choir he was given for a performance of the Britten War Requiem with the Berlin Philharmonic. So, IN CONCERT, he began giving sarcastic, overdone cues to the choir on each of their entrances, completely destroying the mood of music in the process. The piece ends in such a moving way – Soloists: “Let Us Sleep, Now” – then an a capella choir statement of “Requiescant in pace. Amen.”… Maazel couldn’t make it about any one but him so- He cuts off the orchestra and then simply quit conducting. The choir had to enter, sing the final phrases without any guidance from the podium, and cut themselves off to end the piece… Shameful…

    Nine years later he was stunned to learn he was not chosen to be Karajan’s successor in Berlin….

    JAck Burt

  5. Thomas Klaber says:

    I don’t know you, but I like your style. I have imagined doing some terrible things to conductors, but I never summon the will to actually strike a blow. Maybe next time. Thos Klaber, Bass Trombone, Cleveland Orchestra.

  6. steve levine says:

    bravo…i have had the unfortunate experience of being conducted my this ego-maniac many times when I was in the Philharmonia. I have seen him reduce fine musicians to a trembling jelly amongst other things. I don’t debate his intellect or ability but humanity is not in his vocabulary. He has the great distinction of being the only conductor i would place below Solti on a personal basis. Well done for making a stand.

  7. Ed Calfee says:


    I am so glad you got him told in such an eloquent way!!!

    Ed Calfee

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