The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra’s plan to include Sibelius’s Valse triste in its New Year’s Concert for 2015 has come to nothing.
The orchestra issued the following statement:
‘Die Wiener Philharmoniker bedauern außerordentlich, das bereits bekanntgegebene Programm des Neujahrskonzertes 2015 abändern zu müssen. Das im Gedenken an den 150. Geburtstag von Jean Sibelius angesetzte Werk Valse triste wird wegen unannehmbarer Forderungen des Verlages im Rahmen des Neujahrskonzertes 2015 nicht aufgeführt werden.’ [‘The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra greatly regrets that the previously announced programme for the New Year’s Concert 2015 must be changed. Valse triste, which had been included to mark the 150th anniversary of Jean Sibelius’s birth, will not be performed in the context of the 2015 New Year’s Concert owing to unacceptable demands from the publisher.’]
As grounds for its withdrawal, the orchestra claims that the publisher is demanding excessively high fees. This is not the case.
On the contrary, Breitkopf & Härtel’s initial offer was moderate already. Another substantial reduction of the fees, taking into consideration the special cultural aspect of the inauguration of the Sibelius Year in the framework of the New Year’s Concert, still failed to bring about an agreement.
The sole issue for the negotiation was the license fee claimed by the publisher for the film rights (synchronization rights). Only the broadcasting and public performance rights (via radio, television, etc.) of “Valse triste” are protected by performing rights organization (e.g. GEMA): they thus were not an issue in Breitkopf & Härtel’s contract offer. There were also no hire fees involved, since the sheet music to “Valse triste” is exclusively available as sales material and is subject to controlled prices in Germany and Austria.
Jean Sibelius would have deserved a “front row seat” at the concert marking the beginning of the year in which his 150th birthday will be celebrated far and wide.
The musical commentator Norman Lebrecht observed: ‘The amount requested by the publisher was 4,000 Euros. The Vienna Phil refused to pay more than 2,000. The orch recently trousered a million dollars from Sibelius’s near-compatriot… the Birgit Nilsson Foundation. Have they no shame? Absolutely none.’