Monday, April 09, 2012

Classical Music’s Most Secretive Gay Couple

Palestinian-Israeli pianist Saleem Abboud Ashkar and Danish violinist Nikolaj Znaider (who holds both Danish and Israeli passports).

This distinctly unappealing couple is shown here in Bergen, Norway, in June 2010.

For the life of me, I do not understand, in this day and age, why these two go to extremes, attempting to hide the nature of their relationship.

Everyone in Denmark, France and Israel (where the two spend their free time) has known about them for years.


  1. Look at the nose at that one on the left. He could smoke a cigar in the shower.

    Both look like they could use a good scrubbing.

    And lots of dental work.

  2. Yes, a good scrubbing would, I believe, be in order for both of them.

  3. I was at Znaider’s Philadelphia debut 10 or 12 years ago. Prokofiev 2, with David Robertson. Znaider and Robertson both laid eggs. Both got crucified by local critics.

    I’ve seen Znaider with Philadelphia since then—he got a second Philadelphia engagement. He was so uninteresting, I don’t remember what he played the second time he came.

    His RCA recordings, made on the cheap, should not have been issued. They do not add to his reputation.

    RCA clearly has lost interest in the guy. The Mendelssohn-Beethoven had to wait three years for release. The Brahms-Korngold had to wait three years for release. Several times RCA announced a Sibelius recording but always backed out.

    There are no unreleased RCA recordings in the can, which means he probably will lose his contract or already has lost his contract. RCA first dumped him 15 years ago before he ever made a recording but picked him up a second time. He’s made 6 recordings for RCA in 12 years, only 4 with orchestra, none worth buying.

    And what happened to the Elgar Sonata? It was recorded (with Ashkar) and was supposed to be issued with the Elgar Concerto but got left off the disc. Must’ve been awful.

  4. I have no idea why the Elgar Sonata was never allowed to see the light of day.

    I think Znaider is a first-tier talent—but he gets more bad reviews than any other first-tier talent of my lifetime, especially from critics in the U.S., France and Germany. I have NEVER seen a first-tier artist receive as many bad reviews as Znaider (and I refer to his reviews as a violinist, not his reviews as a conductor).

    It’s a complicated issue, I think. Lots of violinists and musicians make fun of him—they make fun of his oddball technique, they make fun of his oddball musicianship, they make fun of his oddball mannerisms.

    He’s somewhat interesting to watch in person, but significantly less interesting to hear.

  5. He’s a lovely guy, strange but lovely.

    He’s got a couple of problems.

    He has no highly-developed rhythmic sense. I wonder whether his problems with Dorothy DeLay were all about his difficulties with rhythm.

    I think his instrument is another problem. It always goes out of tune by the final movement of any concerto. Sometimes it goes out of tune right off the bat. My brother heard him play the Sibelius in New York with Dohnanyi, and Znaider’s violin went out of tune immediately. Dohnanyi was furious, and may have sabotaged the performance by deliberately pushing tempos. It was a shambles of a performance. Dohnanyi has never worked with him again, which is true of several conductors, who have said, “Never, never again!” He’s a little wayward in his musicianship, too wayward for some. This explains why he has to accept so many bad engagements (bad orchestras, bad conductors) to fill up his book. He’s forced to spend lots of unproductive time in Britain, Scandinavia and Israel instead of in music centers.

    He bends over backwards to help Cleveland out. He will do signings for hours, even at Blossom, and will do public master classes, even early in the morning after a performance. He’d sweep the hall at Severance if they asked him. I admire him for that, because Cleveland ignored him for almost a decade after his debut here. He never held that against them, and is engaged regularly now.

    I’ve never heard him conduct, but my instinct tells me he is wasting his time and should focus on the violin. What makes him think he can conduct Bruckner or Mahler or Beethoven’s Ninth, even with provincial British orchestras? That self-promoting Russian fellow who still guides his career behind the scenes should crawl back under some rug and disappear. Znaider should listen to the French critic who took apart his conducting and told him he was wasting his time. Znaider should listen to the German critic who took apart his conducting and told him he was wasting his time. Znaider should listen to the Chinese critic who took apart his conducting and told him he was wasting his time.

    Znaider’s violin repertory is pretty small. He needs to expand it. Not long ago he announced the Dvorak for the first time, and then cancelled it. This is the kind of thing he does all the time. He needs some good outside guidance. I’m told he won’t listen to his managers, and gets his lawyers and that self-promoting Russian fellow involved with them all the time, which doesn’t help things.

    Still, he’s a lovely guy.

    Strange but lovely.

  6. I have heard Znaider only once, playing Elgar in Boston with Colin Davis. I thought Znaider was magnificent, and wished he had played with a better conductor.

    I have never heard Znaider conduct. Oddly, his first conducting engagement in the U.S. was in Saint Paul, when he spent two weeks with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.

    The SPCO engagement was a weird engagement: two weeks playing at four local churches and two local colleges, with not a single concert in a concert hall, followed by a lighting-quick overseas tour. The engagement involved a quid pro quo: Znaider was to gain conducting experience in the U.S. while the SPCO was to gain a “front” for a five-day, five-concert tour of Scandinavia (where Znaider is popular). Both parties got what they wanted; Znaider was paid a pittance of a fee.

    Joshua and I were in Boston at the time, and my parents did not attend Znaider’s SPCO concerts. I have been told that Znaider was not a hit with SPCO management or musicians. He has never been asked back.

    I wish the Minnesota Orchestra would engage Znaider as a soloist, but Znaider—a Scandinavian—is not high on Vanska’s list or management’s list.

    There may be bad blood between Vanska and Znaider. Vanska apparently was unhappy with Znaider when both artists appeared with the Chicago Symphony some time ago and played the Beethoven concerto. Vanska told persons here in town that Znaider’s performance of the Beethoven had been “incompetent”.

  7. Interesting story, that, Vanksa, Znaider and Beethoven. Bad blood happens.

    Vanska may be on that list of conductors I mentioned that says, “Never, never again!” when it comes to playing with Znaider.

  8. 2 schlonzis

    which even a Berliner Kritic called Znaider a schlonz

  9. Nikolaj Znaider and Saleem Abboud Ashkar were all but outed two years ago by a small Norwegian newspaper that wrote a feature article about the two, complete with photos of them together on vacation. The two were made to look creepy in the photos—and in the text, too.

    “Nikolaj Znaider and Saleem Abboud Ashkar agree about most things, both musically and in terms of conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. During the Festival, they will play Schumann, both as soloists and as conductors for each other. It all started when both were engaged at the Risor Music Festival four years ago, when they played together for the first time.” And on and on and on . . .

    The article made Znaider and Ashkar look like a couple of pure weirdos, which they probably are. It also made them look blatantly stupid, which they probably are, too.

  10. Dear Robert 727:

    RCA also backed out of a Szymanowski recording for Znaider in 2004.

    Znaider will record the Nielsen Violin Concerto, live, in October in New York, for a small Danish label, Da Capo.

    I don't know why. Znaider recorded the Nielsen once before. It sold three copies and was withdrawn within a year.

    With the Da Capo disc coming, does this mean that Znaider no longer has an RCA recording contract?


  11. Dear Robert 727 (Again):

    Znaider played the Brahms Violin Concerto for his second Philadelphia Orchestra appearance. Znaider was never asked back.

    Those were the concerts in which Vladimir Jurowski showed the Philadelphia Board he was not up to the Philadelphia job. After those concerts, Jurowski was out of the picture and the Philadelphia Board started looking elsewhere.


  12. Znaider was a disaster in St. Paul. He was also a real jerk.

    He arrived unprepared. There was no point having rehearsals. The rehearsals were for his benefit alone. They gave him an opportunity to become acquainted with the scores.

    A new and very easy Vasks piece was played. Znaider had not even looked at the violin part let alone the orchestra score before he arrived.

    He couldn’t keep a tempo in Stravinsky’s Concerto In D. The syncopations were totally beyond him. He was lost. Eight performances of the Stravinsky, and he was lost in each one.

    The orchestra had to carry Znaider in everything. 30 minutes into the first rehearsal, the musicians realized they would have to ignore him if the performances weren’t to fall apart. As payback, they gave him an uncommitted accompaniment in Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 played at every concert in St. Paul and on tour. I don’t think he noticed.

    Znaider came to St. Paul at the last minute. He came straight from a Mediterranean cruise, which obviously had been more important to him than his first American appearance as a conductor.

    He acted like he thought he was a movie star. He thought people should bow and scrape to him. I think he’s insecure.

    You could not believe a word he said on any subject. He would lie about himself, about others, about his list of engagements, about anything and everything. He claimed constantly to appear with conductors and orchestras that had never engaged him. He was the most untruthful man I ever met.

    Everyone got tired of his act real fast. Remember the movie Working Girl? Remember Sigourney Weaver’s saintly act? And how everyone was on to her in the end?

    Well, in St. Paul Znaider was Sigourney Weaver in Working Girl. After three days, everybody had figured out his bony ass. His saintly act didn’t sell here.

    People were able to see for themselves why so many people in the business don’t like him and won’t deal with him.

    Total sleaze.

  13. There were other planned recordings for Nikolaj Znaider that RCA cancelled, not just the ones mentioned here.

    Eight years ago, 2004, RCA “postponed” (i.e., abandoned) plans to record Znaider in Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. That means that RCA backed out of recording Znaider in the concertos of Sibelius, Szymanowski and Tchaikovsky, among others.

    For Znaider to rerecord Nielsen’s Violin Concerto makes no sense. For Znaider to rerecord it with Alan Gilbert is a big mistake. I realize that Znaider is rerecording it for a tiny label funded by the Danish government, but a second Nielsen recording will sell no better than the first, and likely even worse. The Da Capo label gets no distribution, and Alan Gilbert’s recordings are poisonous to the classical public.

    I think Znaider’s recording career, brief as it was, is probably over. Rerecording the Nielsen doesn’t count. It’s a Danish government project, not a commercial project.

    Znaider has not been playing well the last few years. He peaked as a violinist in 2004, when he was 29. It’s been downhill ever since for him. His technique is deteriorating and his musicianship, which never had any depth, is becoming weirder and weirder. To put it bluntly, Znaider’s playing and interpretations are getting worse by the year. He’s been a trainwreck since at least 2008 or 2009. US orchestral managers are noticing. Znaider has only three engagements by US orchestras next season. That is the lowest number of his career. I think his American career is coming to an end.

    I find it really weird that Znaider is trying to get into conducting. He has no talent for it. As a conductor, Znaider is worse than Itzhak Perlman, and Itzhak Perlman’s conducting is about as bad as it gets. Nevertheless, Znaider’s making a big push to develop a conducting career, calling in all his chits to get conducting engagements. His efforts are not working with US orchestral managers, who are not buying into him as a conductor.

    “FAILED VIOLINIST TURNS CONDUCTOR!” That headline never works out.

  14. Elaine, I believe Znaider has only two, not three, American engagements this coming season.

    That is not good.

  15. Znaider is a poof.

    I heard Znaider in Bartok’s Violin Concerto No. 2 not long ago with the LSO. His technique is falling apart and his tone is getting wiry. His performance was a shambles, and there were no musical compensations. It was like a late Menuhin performance, where the technique was gone and the musical flame had stopped burning. And yet Znaider had been playing that concerto nonstop for six months.

    Mark my words, Znaider is going to give up the violin soon. The Bartok at this point is totally beyond him. It is clear Znaider has given up practice.

    Znaider was supposed to conduct Mozart’s “Figaro” Tuesday night for the Mariinsky at the White Nights Festival. On Monday afternoon, he was replaced by a house conductor, with no announcement made and no press release. Something similar happened last summer: Znaider was announced as a judge for the 2011 Tchaikovsky Competition, which is now a Gergiev show, but Znaider was a no-show. The day before the finals, it was announced Znaider would no longer be part of the violin jury. Have Znaider and Gergiev had a falling out? Or was Znaider embarrassed to sit on the same jury as Mutter and Vengerev?

  16. Something is very definitely going on in Saint Petersburg.

    After one rehearsal yesterday, Znaider withdrew (most likely sacked) from tomorrow night’s performance of Brahms’ Violin Concerto under Gergiev. One of the supposed highlights of this year’s White Nights Festival is Gergiev performing all the Brahms symphonies and concertos with his “favorite” artists.

    Znaider is now out. An unknown artist will replace Znaider.

    Znaider never used to cancel. In the last two years, Znaider has become cancellation-prone, especially if Gergiev is involved.

    I smell trouble brewing.

  17. I have no idea what is going on in Saint Petersburg.

    However, I do not believe the “illness” claim. No one Znaider’s age is “ill” as often as he has claimed the last two years as explanation for his cancellations.

    If Znaider were genuinely ill, it would have been announced prior to Tuesday’s “Figaro” performance—but no advance announcement was made, and no explanation was ever offered after-the-fact to explain why a staff conductor had replaced Znaider. That tells me that Znaider had been yanked from the podium after the final rehearsal.

    The Brahms concert, much more high-profile, would have required an advance announcement of some sort if an artist were to be replaced—and indeed an announcement was issued late Wednesday evening. However, the very lateness of the announcement—after a rehearsal, no less—strongly suggests that Znaider was replaced, involuntarily, for artistic reasons and not for health reasons.

    I am confident that Znaider knows he is not playing well. One may see it in his face in photographs taken at the Bartok concert you attended in London—during the applause, Znaider looked completely demoralized—and one may see it in his face in photographs taken during his West Coast concerts with the Cleveland Orchestra in April.

    After Znaider’s final Cleveland concert, in which he played the Beethoven Concerto in Las Vegas, Znaider looked as if he were about to burst into tears. (He also looked fifty years old. In fact, he looked as if he had stayed up all night, gambling and drinking.)

    In the photographs, the conductor looked embarrassed, as if he had been ashamed to share the stage with Znaider.

  18. Late this afternoon, Znaider cancelled a youth concert scheduled for tomorrow night in Copenhagen. It was announced, truthfully or no, that he had pneumonia.

    So perhaps Znaider was genuinely ill in Russia, and the pneumonia was not diagnosed until late yesterday or today.

    Not entirely convincing . . . but well within the realm of possibility.

  19. The pneumonia story was a complete lie, as things turned out. Znaider was performing again three days later.

    Three last-minute cancellations within ten days, all under mysterious circumstances, and then it is announced that he has pneumonia. Then he has a miraculous recovery, and is performing again three days later.

    Doesn’t add up.

    Does he have a drug problem?

  20. There’s some bad information here from two commenters.

    Znaider played three times with the Philadelphia. He debuted with the Prokofiev Second under Robertson, many years ago, probably 2001, and was unimpressive. He next played the Tchaikovsky under Dutoit at Saratoga, probably summer 2003, and was unimpressive again. The Tchaikovsky performance was memorable because it was so bad Znaider should have been embarrassed. Even Znaider laughed about it to the European press, telling them how bad it was, which was not a smart thing to do. Five years later, April 2008, he returned to Philadelphia one last time to play the Brahms under Minczuk, who was substituting for Jurowski, who had cancelled. Znaider was unimpressive for a third straight time. He has never been reengaged.

    The 2008 concerts were not the ones that soured Philadelphia on Jurowski. Jurowski didn’t play those concerts. Jurowski had cancelled in 2008. Philadelphia was irritated about the cancellation, because Jurowski continued to conduct in Europe while claiming to be too ill to come to Philadelphia, but it was the concerts the following year that killed Jurowski’s chances in Philadelphia. The 2009 Jurowski appearances were disappointing, and Philadelphia began looking elsewhere.

    It appears that Znaider is frozen out of Chicago now, too. Chicago engaged Znaider frequently during the Barenboim years. After Barenboim’s tenure ended in 2005, Znaider has been asked back to Chicago only once, in 2009, and in 2009 he fizzled. There have been no Chicago engagements since.

    In Chicago, Barenboim treated Znaider like a whipping boy. Barenboim cancelled on Znaider twice at the last minute. Both times, Barenboim was trying to send a signal to Chicago Symphony management, but Znaider was the one who had to pay the price. Recordings of the Szymanowski and Tchaikovsky concertos were cancelled because of Barenboim’s childishness, and sessions were not rescheduled. Loss of the recordings was a big setback to Znaider’s career.

    After Chicago and Philadelphia cooled on Znaider, New York, Cleveland and Boston began picking him up. However, the only US orchestra that engages him regularly is Pittsburgh, which seems to like him. Each visit, the Pittsburgh critic gives Znaider the most amazing reviews of his career. The story is that Znaider and the critic (who is out) have a thing going during the Pittsburgh visits—which three persons in Pittsburgh have confirmed to me. “Want to know how to get in touch with Znaider while he is in Pittsburgh? Call Druckenbrod.”

    This coming season, Znaider hits New York and Boston, and no place else in the US. Those appearances are not back to back, which means Znaider has to cross the ocean twice for a single engagement. Only artists with bad agents and bad bookings do that sort of thing.

    I wouldn’t call Znaider’s US career over, but his US career is clearly in trouble if not hanging by a thread. No one wants him for recitals because he cannot fill even the smallest halls. His repertory is so small that orchestras that want him have already heard him in his repertory and are not interested in repetitions.

    He’s hoping to become a full-time conductor and drop the violin, but he has to deny this to the press. If he says he is winding down his violin playing, the violin engagements instantly die.

    He’s between a rock and a hard place, but it’s of his own making. He’s made a series of bad choices, and they’re coming back to haunt him. It’s his own fault for not keeping up his violin skills. His overwhelming vanity is what makes him think he can conduct.

  21. And something very definitely is going on behind the scenes, what with all the cancellations and all the bogus illness announcements. After the pneumonia announcement, Znaider was rehearsing two days later and performing three days later. That’s what I call a remarkable recovery.

    I don’t wish him ill, but he needs to reassess what he is doing and where he wants to go.

    Look at his calendar for next season. It is the schedule of a novice. There are a couple of prestige engagements, and the rest is Malmo and Malaga and Manchester and such.

    Znaider was getting better engagements ten years ago than he is today. Of course, he was playing better ten years ago than he is today.

  22. You people are like so not not NOT clued in. The problem is SNOW. FLAKE. Znaider is the BIGGEST addict in the classical field. Everyone knows it. Except you I guess. Why does Znaider cancel so often at the last minute? It is SO not pneumonia. Get real. Znaider is going down to Venezuela next week to get a year’s supply of dust, real cheap. Znaider will be in Venezuela for ten days. In that ten days Znaider will stock up. Get a full year’s inventory. More if his friends put in orders. It is cheaper in Venezuela than anywhere else.

    COCAINE is what got Znaider sent out of Russia last month. The Russians seized his stash. Znaider needs more. Quick. Thus the Venezuela trip. All arranged after Znaider’s Russian nightmare, courtesy Diego Matheuz, who is taking care of all the little details. You people are SO naïve. You must be priests. Or Pilgrims. Did you just land at Plymouth Rock?

  23. No, but Plymouth, Minnesota, is nearby.

  24. I always heard he was gay. There is someting feminine about him and his manner. A kewpie doll quality. His drug problem is connon knowledge.

    He is the worst conductor I’ve ever seen. No one is as bad as he is. I wrote the following on the Guardian website after he conducted Shostavocih and Beethoven in Manchester. This was in May. Both symphonies were ninths.

    “Sorry, but couldn't disagree more with your review. This is one of the worst concert-going experiences I've ever had. The Shostakovich lacked impact and at times coherency - it may be a "farrago" as you say but that doesn't mean it has to be a disconnected jumble with no focus. The Beethoven was.... well, what can I say? The choir were on superb form (you're right to point that out) and the orchestra played well. I thought the soloists were a bit disappointing - maybe they were as uninspired as I was. But the whole affair was dragged down by Znaider's conducting. The first movement was the aural equivalent of watching a fat man with a hangover trying to get out of bed - I've never heard it performed so ponderously or sluggishly. The second was better but still lacked any real excitement. The slow movement threatened to grind to a halt a certain points. And the finale began laboriously worked its way through a decent march but never left its very solid contact with the earth and ended with a fizzle. Znaider was superb in the Bartok concerto earlier in the season and my advice to him would be to put down his baton permanently and stick to the violin.”

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  25. Interesting thread.

    Is Alexandra the Alexandra I think it is? If so, hello!

    By the way, Alexandra, I heard the same story about Znaider and Andrew Druckenbrod. It doesn’t take much for news to travel from Pittsburgh to Philly.

    I think Znaider trying to become a conductor is an example of his overpowering narcissism. His ego must be ten times the size of his talent.

    Jens Laurson in Munich attended two different Munich Philharmonic concerts with Znaider as conductor. The first concert was so bad, Laurson left at intermission. As for the second, Laurson wrote that Znaider should be “earning his keep with the likes of the Würzburg Philharmonic or the Boulder Philharmonic” and basically treated the concert as a big, bad joke in his review.

    Andrew, it’s interesting what you said about Znaider and the West Coast concerts with Cleveland. Apparently his performances of the Beethoven were a shambles. It is said that Cleveland was not happy. The writer for the SF Chronicle dismissed Znaider’s performance in a single phrase, calling him “weirdly jittery and unfocused”. Cocaine? Those are standard effects.

    As a matter of fact, I wonder if Znaider was on cocaine the entire West Coast tour. A contract photographer for the Las Vegas newspaper posted a dozen or so photos of the Vegas concert on his personal website. Znaider looked high as a kite in the photos. He didn’t even look like himself.

    Also, his clothes were rumpled and his shoes were unshined. He looked like he had slept in his clothes and jumped out of bed ten minutes before playing, without even washing his face or brushing his teeth.

    Back in 2007, 2008 or 2009, Znaider was caught with cocaine in Russia during the Moscow Easter Festival. Gergiev bailed him out of that jam. How many times is Gergiev going to keep bailing him out?

  26. By the way, I just noticed tonight . . .

    If you do a google search for Nikolaj Znaider, google supplies the word "gay" as a suggested addition to your search.

    That means there are lots and lots of searches for "Nikolaj Znaider gay", right?

  27. In 2010, Znaider cancelled a New York Philharmonic summer concert in Vail because he was all coked up. Znaider had been out partying and coking the night before and couldn’t get himself wired the day of the concert. Augustin Hadelich was called in at the last minute as a replacement. Hadelich played the Mendelssohn Concerto better than Znaider at the run-through, though Znaider had been coked up during the run-through, too. Officials of the New York Philharmonic didn’t seem to care. They thought it was no big deal. For them, dealing with coke users and arranging for replacements is part of the business. On with the show and all that.

    The doctors at the local hospital said Znaider had overdosed.

    People at the New York Philharmonic didn’t seem to care about that, either.

  28. Andrew, I am going to leave my comment elsewhere, as these comments have become too lengthy. I fear my comment will be lost or ignored here, and that you may not even notice it or read it at this point.

    Consequently, I am going to leave my comment under your “Chiemsee” post.

    Nancy and I spent a lovely summer’s day at Chiemsee many years ago. It was the summer after Mary Ann completed graduate school, and we were free at last from the burden of onerous educational expenses.

  29. All right, I am over here now, as I have promised.

    I should note, before I begin, that Mary Ann and Alvin have returned from Belgium, where they had a most pleasant and stimulating holiday. Mary Ann asks about you often, and wonders whether you will ever make it to Syracuse, which I told her was unlikely—at which point she asked when you next plan to come to Princeton for a visit, so that she might come down while you were here with Nancy and me. I told her you must attend a conference in New York in October, although I did not remember the dates, and that Nancy and I were hopeful that you might make it down to Princeton the following weekend so that Nancy and I might see you again at long last and—for the first time—meet Joshua. We are still hopeful that such is possible.

    Have you read the new Lukacs? I was most disappointed. It was not one of his finer efforts.

    May I assume you are keeping up with your reading? That is essential for one such as yourself, and I offer you the example of your father in the event you find it difficult to combine a heavy reading load at work with a heavy reading load at home. If you need inspiration, you have a splendid example at hand to emulate and noble footsteps nearby to follow.

    I read what you posted yesterday with Mr. Lebrecht. To begin, I would note that the forum is hardly worthy of you, and that none of the comments offered by other writers were worthy of my time—or yours. No doubt you were having a bit of fun, to be sure, but I would strictly limit the time spent in such platforms. Readers of such forums are indeed in sore need of guidance, on many subjects, but are unlikely to benefit from sensible or truthful statements, no matter how well-formulated or elegantly uttered.

    In short, I appeal to your sense of practicality and economy.

  30. Mr. Szeps-Znaider is not worth the world’s time or attention. At the age of 73, I have seen dozens of violinists come and go, appearing before the public for a few years until falling by the wayside, unable to demonstrate the lasting and compelling artistry that separates the great from the good and the lasting from the ephemeral. Miss DeLay had Mr. Szeps-Znaider pegged his first week at Juilliard, observing that he lacked two qualities, at least one of which is necessary for a sustained career: keen and superior intellect; and genuineness, which cannot be faked. Miss DeLay remarked that Szeps-Znaider possessed mere surface intelligence, with no discernible depth, and that he displayed considerable fakery, which he tried to pass off as genuineness, but which might never be confused with the real thing. The public would soon catch on, or so Miss Delay insisted. In short, Miss DeLay predicted precisely what has come to pass. Bless her soul.

    Musicians, as a class, are emotional persons. They are not, as a class, the highly-analytical and ultra-rational professionals you deal with and appreciate on a daily basis. They do not possess the qualities you expect to see (and the qualities you most prize) in others. Musicians are largely instinctive. Their instincts are wrong more often than not. They are capable of offering astonishing helpings of malarkey, bad judgment and poor taste along with the occasional insight. For every one Sviatoslav Richter, there are 200 Szeps-Znaiders.

  31. No matter how foolish or odious their behaviors and beliefs, musicians are not to be taken seriously off the concert platform. They cannot be granted any credence beyond the expression of notes on the printed page. A musician’s gift is very limited in scope, and generally comes coupled with deficiencies in other qualities expected in the well-adjusted and well-rounded adult. When musicians do idiotic things or make idiotic statements outside their bailiwick, they must—quite rightly—be ignored.

    Miss DeLay knew these things. She had great wisdom in sizing up her students, assessing where long-term problems lurked, and predicting the ultimate level of accomplishment for each of her students. She was seldom wrong.

    She also knew which students suffered from personal defects that would inhibit their growth over a lifetime.

    Miss DeLay recognized, at the outset, an extravagant narcissism in Mr. Szeps-Znaider, a narcissism more extravagant than any she had previously seen in any one student. Its source, she believed, resided in what she referred to as “a Mommy problem”, by which I believe Miss DeLay meant that Mr. Szeps-Znaider had been both spoiled by his mother to the point of ruination as well as used by his mother to satisfy her own needs and desires to the point of abuse. In Miss DeLay’s words, Mr. Szeps-Znaider was destined never to surmount his “Mommy problem”. Such would account for Mr. Szeps-Znaider’s unadult-like if not unacceptable behavior well into adulthood.

    You must be made aware that both of Mr. Szeps-Znaider’s parents immersed both Szeps-Znaider children into radical Leftist politics at a very young age, using them shamelessly as public tools and public shills to advance the Hard Left political views of the parents. The actions of the parents aroused great resentment within Denmark, and caused at least one outright scandal, covered at length in Danish newspapers and magazines. The Szeps-Znaider daughter, Tamar, has never been able to emerge from those scandals. She has been unable to establish a viable career, and now finds herself pregnant, without prospects.

    If I were a Christian Scientist, I would say it is God’s Law of Adjustment at work. Not being a Christian Scientist, I note merely that it is a case of the shortcomings and oddities of the parents repeating themselves in the shortcomings and oddities of the children.

    I have gone on too long, and have meandered at my peril.

    My point is: don’t be too hard on the shortcomings of others. You must be prepared to forgive and look away from foolishness and folly. It is unfair to demand that everyone possess the keen intellect and powers of analysis granted to you by the divine grace of God.

    Your gift and your endowment are unique. Don’t waste them with Mr. Lebrecht.

  32. Dorothy DeLay was always very dismissive when talking about Znaider. Of all her students, Delay was openly dismissive of two, and Anzider was one of those. She kept telling him he needed to learn to play in tune, but he never managed to take advantage of her wisdom on anything, even something as basic as intonation and pitch.

    If you see Znaider now, he’s unkempt. His hands are dirty, his fingernails are dirty and unkempt, he has bags and dark circles under his eyes, he has sores around his mouth. He never used to have hygiene problems. He has serious hygiene problems now.

    He looks like he never sleeps.

  33. Anzider! Well, you know who I meant. Maybe that will be Znaider’s new nickname. Better that than “Andre Rieu’s Sister”, which is what the kid violinists of today call him.

  34. Dan, you may or may not already know that IMG tried to pressure orchestras to book Znaider for two weeks, one as conductor and one as violinist. The pressure from IMG was intense. The resistance from orchestras was even more intense.

    Not a single one bit. Except Pittsburgh. And I doubt the Pittsburgh experiment will be repeated, even in Pittsburgh, no matter how many glowing reviews Andrew Druckenbrod dishes out.

  35. Gavriel Heine got one of his first important engagements replacing Znaider, who had cancelled a conducting appearance in Basel because of “illness” (“snort, snort”). Swiss law enforcement authorities were called in. Znaider had a serious problem with Switzerland for a period. Znaider had to agree to stay out of Switzerland for three years, which only ended in 2010 or 2011 or something like that. He could not even route himself through Zurich airport to change planes while the ban was in effect.

    Basel was furious with Gergiev at the time, because Gergiev had arranged Znaider’s engagement. Basel immediately got on the phone with Gergiev and demanded that Gergiev locate for them another conductor. Gergiev told Basel to engage Heine. Basel did, and Heine was a success.

    Znaider has never been invited back to Basel, it goes without saying.

  36. I don’t get the Gergiev-Znaider thing. It has never made sense to me.

    The only thing they have in common is poor hygiene.

  37. The sores around Nikolaj Znaider's mouth are COCAINE SORES.

    And Nikolaj Znaider is unkempt because he is A COKE HEAD.

  38. Znaider and Opus3 Artists recently had an acrimonious parting of the ways, with charges and countercharges flying back and forth.

    Znaider signed with Opus3 in January 2010. He didn’t even survive 3 years with one of the best agencies in Europe.

    Opus3 told Znaider to drop the conducting gimmick and focus on the violin or else run the risk of losing his violin bookings. Opus3 also told Znaider he needed to expand his violin repertory, which had become way too small, and brush up on his technique, which had declined perilously the last few years.

    Znaider threw a hissy fit, claiming that Opus3 was not getting him good engagements, not booking him with competent conductors, and not stemming the downward spiral of his fees.

    Opus3 told Znaider to shape up or ship out: that the problems were of his own making and were his alone to correct, and that Opus3 did not provide babysitting services to clients.

    Znaider’s response was to erupt into a Vesuvian rage. The outcome was that Opus3 told Znaider where to shove it and that he was off the roster.

    Within an hour, Opus3 removed Znaider’s bio from its website and his name from the roster lists—and posted a review of Vilde Frang’s new recording of the Nielsen Violin Concerto, a review in which the writer prominently noted that Frang’s recording of the Nielsen was far superior to Znaider’s.


  39. You may be interested to know that Opus3 and Znaider briefly patched things up, but it didn’t last. They had further acrimonious battles, and Znaider once again is off the Opus3 roster. Permanently this time, it appears. Things got VERY nasty.

    Opus3 had enough of him, and washed its hands of him.

    Znaider cancelled his appearance next month with the Halle Orchestra in Manchester, UK, but the orchestra has yet to make an announcement.

    Is he entering a clinic? It would be to his advantage. He looks dismaying.

    However, an informed source tells me that Znaider cancelled Manchester in favor of an all-gay Christmas cruise lasting almost three weeks.

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  41. Within the past year, I got ahold of Znaider's Elgar Concerto and another "Encore"-type disc of showpieces. I should preface this with the fact that I am a violinist myself and know/am very familiar with all the pieces he plays on those discs. I would probably never known of Znaider if not for 2 things...he appeared with the Oregon Symphony awhile back, and although I didn't hear any of the performances (I think it was the Sibelius he played), I think very highly of Carlos Kalmar, the orchestra's music director. The second thing is, and after reading this thread I'm almost ashamed to admit, that I paid a small sum of money for Znaider's autograph from an autograph dealer. I just find the guy totally cute, and i'm gay myself so there ya go. I had no idea he was a cokehead. I also never knew he was gay but that's kinda interesting...I think a good number of these unmarried concertizing artists out there nowadays are. C'mon, they travel all over the globe to big cities. Anyhow, the playing on the Elgar (Concerto, with Colin Davis I think?) can be summed up in one word: Boring. They tried to make a big to-do out of that disc because he's the current borrower of one of Kreisler's violins. Jeez, I hope he doesn't try to swap the violin for drugs sometime! The "Encore" disc was definitely not disappointing. I dare say he gives one of the best Ysaye Sonata #3's out there, and he puts fresh new spins on a couple of the (transcribed) Chopin Nocturnes and the Wieniawski D major Polonaise and the almost-impossible-to-play "Variations on an Original Theme." My favorite young violinist out there nowadays is probably Ray Chen, whom I'm partial to because his teacher was Aaron Rosand (one of my favorite violinists) and he's definitely carrying Aaron's torch, and he's not a drug user, at least not that I know of.

    All of this talk of Znaider reminds me of...can you guess? Eugene Fodor, who died a couple years ago, and whose career ended long before it should have. Like Znaider, Fodor of course took home medals from a few big competitions (the Tchaikovsky in 1974 and at least one other big one.) He was a Heifetz pupil for a bit, and Heifetz had absolutely no tolerance for bullsh*t and Fodor gave him bullshit-a-plenty, from what I've been able to tell. He eventually left Heifetz's class at USC or was possibly kicked out...Heifetz dismissed a lot of students, even many who were "very good violinists". But, Fodor wrecked himself with the drugs. He wrecked his whole life with them. Znaider is on the same path.

    I didn't know until now that he'd tried his hand at the baton...not surprising, and definitely a dumb move. If you stop practicing, you will lose your facility, and then you can't give concerts anymore.

    As for the rest of his recordings, I won't be listening to them. As noted here, he has a small repertoire, and I seriously doubt his interpretations of any of the big concerti he's recorded could replace my personal faves (Milstein for the Brahms, Kogan for the Tchaikovsky, Heifetz for the Elgar and Prokofiev #2, etc.)

    It'll be interesting to see what happens with Znaider. Looks like he's on the way out though.

  42. The disc of encores you mention was recorded in 2001 or 2002 or 2003, probably about the time Znaider’s playing was at its peak. The Elgar you mention, recorded in 2009, was Znaider’s final RCA recording. I doubt any further recordings will be coming—Sony/RCA removed Znaider’s artist webpage from the Sony/RCA website within the last year.

    According to other violinists, Znaider’s playing has been going downhill nonstop since 2003. Znaider’s early sponsor, Barenboim, last engaged Znaider in 2007, and has not touched him for the last six years.

    Znaider is now married. Last year he married a Danish girl young enough to be his daughter. She was five months pregnant at the time of the wedding, and Znaider had refused to marry the girl until the girl’s family threatened to raise a huge public ruckus.

    News wise, it was all very, very quiet. There was no press coverage of any sort—of the engagement, wedding, or marriage itself—in the Danish press. Most Danes remain unaware that Znaider is married.

    Znaider’s wife is also a cocaine user, and she gave birth—very prematurely—to a cocaine baby.

    A sleazy bunch all the way around!

    Have you seen the close-up photographs of Znaider published in the Danish press at the end of December? He is unrecognizable—and he looks awful.

  43. Jeezzzz, he's really gone. What I'm curious about though is how you found out about his marriage, even if Denmark isn't largely aware of it?! He may be married to a female, but obviously, the guy is gay and always will be, no matter how hard he tries not to be, or maybe he's not even trying now haha

    All I can say in conclusion is that if I had his talent, and could be paid $20,000-30,000 (probly not even that much though) to fly somewhere and play a single performance of a concerto, I'd call that a dream job and wouldn't do a thing to jeopardize it. He had tons of talent and totally squandered it. As I say, he's another Eugene Fodor, only worse. I did see your pics of him wearing the foundation and lipstick. Disgusting. RCA was wise to drop him. Obviously he wasn't going to be making them any more money.
    The Elgar he did was like listening to 45 minutes of nothing. I've heard more interesting performances of that piece from community orchestra concertmasters on Youtube.

    It's too late for him. Even if he tried to clean up, he had his turn and nobody is going to pay attention to him anymore. The best hope for him, if he has any trace of anything human left in his body, would be to get a post on a university staff and teach. Something tells me that ain't gonna happen though.

  44. More obnoxious backbiting here than in ten blogs about the Jenner-Kardashians. Pathetic. And you longhairs are supposed to be so elevated!