Setting course for a time of change

Andrea Zietzschmann is the new general manager of the Berliner Philharmoniker

(Photo: Paul Schirnhofer)

It could all have been very different: a doctorate, scientific work or even opera dramaturgy. All of these would have been possibilities for Andrea Zietzschmann who graduated in musicology and business administration. But then, at the Edinburgh Festival in 1996, Claudio Abbado asked her whether she wanted to found a new orchestra with him, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, and be its new manager. This set the course for orchestral management. Andrea Zietzschmann had previously also gained experience in this field at Abbado’s side as a freelance staff member with the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester, where her duties covered an impressive spectrum: from organising tours to an emergency before a television transmission when Abbado’s dress shirt urgently needed to be ironed. “This taught me something important,” says Zietzschmann today, “that the most varied of conditions have to be met for artists to be able to give their best on stage.” 

Young orchestras and grand traditions 

With the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, she experienced an inspiring pioneering spirit. “In the initial phase, everyone gave five hundred percent without regard for rehearsal times or financial conditions,” says Zietzschmann. The democratic structure of the young orchestra, with the members sharing artistic and organisational decisions, was also exciting. Over the next stages of her career, she then gained complementary experiences that were subsequently all the more valuable. As the orchestra manager and head of music at Hessischer Rundfunk, and later as manager of the NDR orchestras and concert series, she worked with orchestras and choirs with long histories, embedded in complex organisations. 

A readiness to push limits

In the 2017/2018 season, Andrea Zietzschmann takes over the post of general manager of the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation which principally brings together all her previous career experience. She is just as familiar with the democratic decision-making processes of an orchestra as with working with organisational bodies, she understands personnel management, strategic concert planning and the media market. Plus she knows the importance of tradition for artistic institutions. And then there is a characteristic feature of the Berliner Philharmoniker which reminds Andrea Zietzschmann of the early days of her career: “Everyone in the orchestra is not only an excellent musician – everyone is also ready to push themselves to reach that certain point where great art is created.”

Dawn of a new Philharmoniker era

When asked whether the Berliner Philharmoniker is her favourite orchestra, Andrea Zietzschmann answers with a quick, concise “Yes”. Even while a student in Berlin, she hardly ever missed a concert, and many musicians of the orchestra have worked together as soloists and tutors with the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. She takes over the management of the Philharmoniker during a period of change, something which she sees as having very positive aspects. “First of all, I’m delighted to be working with Simon Rattle for another season, because I’m sure I can benefit a lot from his incredible experience. After that, we have a season without a chief conductor, but this provides us with the wonderful opportunity to invite many different guests. At the same time, we have the chance to plan Kirill Petrenko’s tenure with a good lead time.” 

An open concert hall for the 21st century

In addition to the concrete concert planning, the new general manager is of course also pursuing longer-term goals. First of all, however, she would like to make a systematic appraisal in order to set the right course for the further development of the orchestra and the concert hall. She believes there is a lot of potential: “The Philharmonie has a fantastic location right in the centre of Berlin,” says Andrea Zietzschmann, “and it can and should ideally also be the focus of attention. As an open, high-profile concert hall for the 21st century that people wish they could visit every day.” 

Andrea Zietzschmann Signing the contract with Michael Müller, Governing Mayor of Berlin With chief conductor designate, Kirill Petrenko