Saturday, July 21, 2012

Twinkle Toes Tiddly Pooh: The Elaborate Can-Can

A visitor from Sutton Coldfield, United Kingdom, entered a comment on an earlier post that deserves its own special recognition.

We are up at the lake this weekend—it is the first of three consecutive weekends we shall spend at the lake—and we are sitting out on the deck that overlooks the water, playing with our laptops (there is no television at the lake house).

It is dark, the kids are in bed, asleep, and the dog is snoozing—or at least he was until a very short time ago, when we all began laughing ourselves silly.

The comment I reproduce is hilarious. We are all howling, trying to keep the volume down so as not to wake the kids. The dog is excited, seeing that we are having fun, but he cannot understand what the fuss is about.

Even Andrew’s mother, the world’s most graceful and elegant and refined woman, is beside herself, joking that she may need to be hospitalized if she cannot stop herself laughing soon.

Lizbeth, a psychiatrist, is prepared heartily to affirm the commenter’s diagnosis at the end of his remarks.


I have a great story to tell. I think you’ll like it.

My wife and I live in Birmingham. In December, we went to hear CBSO play Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony.

Nikolaj Znaider was called in to conduct as last-minute replacement. In the UK, Znaider is always the conductor called in at the last minute because his engagement book is never filled. He is always available. Halle, Liverpool, Birmingham: all can call him at the last minute, knowing he is free and his fee is low.

We bought our tickets before Znaider was booked as replacement conductor. With some reluctance, and no enthusiasm, we attended the concert.

I would not have missed the concert for the world.

Znaider came onstage and started flashing his jacket to show the audience that its linings were bright red. He played with the flaps for two minutes, maybe three, swishing around repeatedly, to show everyone the sparkly red. It was as if he were a contestant in a beauty contest. Only when Znaider was done flashing and swishing was the concert allowed to start.

The first half of the concert was a new organ symphony. Was the performance good? I have no idea. It was a new work.

The second half of the concert was Bruckner.

Znaider came out after the interval and stood on the podium. With swashbuckling showmanship and sweeping motions, he raised his arms as if to begin. The musicians raised their instruments.

Then, with great ostentation, Znaider picked up the conductor’s music stand and made a soaring, storklike, excessively dramatic waving gesture. Two musicians had to rise, take the music stand from him, and place it behind him.

Naturally, all this had been arranged in advance. Znaider obviously knew he was going to conduct without a score, but nevertheless had insisted that a music stand be present so that it could be dramatically and ostentatiously removed in full view of the audience.

Need I mention that once he lifted the music stand, Znaider could easily have moved it himself, and placed it anywhere he wanted? He could have simply turned around and placed the stand behind him. Instead, he had to have two musicians do it for him, with much ceremony and fanfare, so that no one in the hall could possibly miss his pretentiousness.

It gets better.

During the Bruckner, in addition to flashing his jacket so that the audience could continue to see the sparkly red, Znaider started swishing around and playing with his feet so that he could constantly show the soles of his shoes to the audience.

The soles of his shoes were bright red.

He would display his soles to the right, and then to the left, and then straight behind. Then he would start all over again. He made sure that every single person in the hall knew he was wearing shoes with bright red soles. This elaborate can-can went on for 70 minutes, the duration of the symphony.

It was all we could do to keep from devolving into hysteria. People all around us were suppressing giggles, stuffing handkerchiefs down their throats, while watching Twinkle Toes Tiddly Pooh manhandle Bruckner, more concerned with flashing his jacket and flashing his shoes than holding a performance together.

In more than thirty years of concerts, I have never seen anything like it. It was Monty Pythonesque.

Need I add that the performance of the Bruckner was incomparably incompetent?

Znaider quite clearly has numerous psychiatric issues to address.

And I’m qualified to make that diagnosis. I work at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Psychiatric Hospital.


  1. I probably should point out, for those that do not know, that Nikolaj Znaider is 37 years old, and 6'3" tall.

    This information makes the vision described by the concert-goer in Birmingham even more hilarious.

  2. Awesome. Just awesome.

  3. Znaider is gay. What do you expect?

    He is a TERRIBLE conductor. Not much of a violinist, either.

    Vibeke Sveen

    1. Nikolaj Znaider isn't gay. He just likes to have sex with men. And 11-year-old boys. But he's not gay. Definitely not.

      He's not Jewish, either.

      And he's never touched a violin.

  4. Actually, the only way I could make it through a Bruckner symphony is if some oversized storklike dork got all tarted up, red soles and all, and put on a tutti-frutti can-can show while conducting. That I might be able to sit through.

    And it sounds like the audience certainly got its money’s worth, even if it wasn’t what they were expecting.

    Funny story, though, and well told. I sorta wish I’d been there.

  5. Znaider is weird, as weird as anyone in the classical business, perhaps the weirdest of all. He only hangs around other weird people, which reinforces his weirdness. On the other hand, only weird people hang around him. Others avoid him. Vicious circle.

    He’s insecure, and tries too hard to compensate for his insecurity. It shows, just like the incident in Birmingham. No normal conductor would have performed the ridiculous music stand stunt he planned and carried out.

    Musicians in New York never go to his concerts, which should tell you something. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another musician at a Znaider concert in New York.

    However, if he were good, they would go, despite the weirdness. But he’s not very good, which gives musicians two reasons to stay away.

    I’m a lawyer in arts management.

  6. I should add that he is VERY good at posing. He’s one of the best posers in the business.

    Close your eyes, and open your ears, and his playing is not good enough to sustain a professional career, which is why he’s trying to move into conducting, without much success.

    I've never heard another violinist so much as mention his name, and yet the only thing violinists ever do is sit around and talk about other violinists.

  7. A telling anecdote, very revealing about his true character. He’s such a phony.

  8. Sounds like he has more than one screw loose.

  9. I’m sorry, but this is screamingly funny.

    And I’m sorry, but there is something WRONG with this man. There is something SERIOUSLY WRONG with this man.

    Look at pictures of him. I don’t know him, but anyone can tell from the pictures there is very definitely something SERIOUSLY, SERIOUSLY WRONG with this man.

  10. Sounds like some of you have had personal encounters with him, please elaborate further!

  11. I really do feel sorry for you all, who have nothing better to do with their time than to dig in other peoples lives. Give it a rest already, and do something useful.

  12. To visitor 91.157.127 from Finland, author of the last two comments, whose web address was captured and recorded by sitemeter:

    I can only speak for myself, but . . .

    No, I have nothing better to do.

    And neither, apparently, do you. You have spent more time on my weblog in the last two days than I, the author, have spent on my weblog in the last five years. In fact, you’ve taken up residence here.

    Things must be slow in Finland.

  13. Kris, I don’t mean to challenge you, but I’ve heard violinists talk about Znaider. Is it possible you meant you never hear violinists talk about Znaider in a positive way?

    Mutter thinks of Znaider as a joke, a blot on the violin world. Shaham thinks Znaider’s technique is deficient and his musicianship bad. Hilary Hahn does a wicked Znaider impersonation (which I have seen) that has people in stitches what with its outsize flourishes, excessive gay mannerisms, and hokey self-dramatics and self-indulgences. I once asked Tetzlaff what he thought of Znaider, and Tetzlaff’s face turned to stone. Kavakos loathes Znaider openly.

    My experience, at least, is that violinists are not silent when discussing Znaider. Far from it.

    I don’t mean to criticize another Kris!

    Chris (as in Christopher)

  14. The Red Shoes.

    If they ever do a remake of The Red Shoes, Znaider can do the Moira Shearer part. Maybe that’s what he was practicing for in Birmingham.

  15. Chris, I stand by what I stated. Znaider is in the same category as Tasmin Little and Daniel Hope: violinists that other violinists never talk about unless someone else brings up their names first. Violinists do not see Znaider as viable competition or as a major player. They see Znaider as outside the zone, unworthy of comment. He is in the same marginal subset as Little and Hope: beneath notice, playing down in the minor leagues. Kris

    1. Daniel Hope and Tasmin Little "beneath notice": As a violinist who has watched and listened to the three of them over the past ten years, I have to disagree. Especially on the subject of Daniel Hope.

  16. As a violinist, Znaider moved from promising to clichéd to parody in record time.

    Is it surprising that Znaider is a parody of conductor, too?

  17. I was at this concert!

    He was terrible! Terrible! Terrible!

    Znaider must be the worst conductor who ever picked up a baton.

  18. Nikolaj Znaider, a Jew and holder of an Israeli passport, gave concerts in Venezuela on July 20 and July 22 of this year. One of the concerts was a benefit for a Hugo Chavez charity.

    This week Znaider will appear at Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival.

    Informed people should take note: a Jewish artist was all too happy to aid the Chavez regime—yet is also delighted to make money off Israelis.

    Just sayin’.

    (As for me, I will never go hear Znaider again, even if I live to 100.)

  19. Dude I think you are full of shit.Find something else better to do with your life then to denigrate people whom you've never met and who probably don't even know you exist.Do you know why Mr Znaider is not wasting his time with blogs and petty gossip about other people? because he's too busy with his own freaking life.Which you should do too if you had any brains at all.Nasty people like you without integrity and professional ethics are bringing this world to an end.And that goes for everyone else in here. The day you will walk a month into Mr Znaider's shoes is the day you will all have the right to judge. Until then take a good look into the mirror each one of you and enjoy the view.Envy is a bitch.

  20. Thank you for your thoughts, Mr. Znaider.

    How many times do you plan to submit anonymous comments here, all from the same ISP address? If you don’t mind my asking?

    Sorry your reviews have been so bad of late. That Dutch critic really took you to the woodshed Friday morning! His words truly must have stung—almost as much as the Spanish critic writing from Prague, who called you “smug”.

    How’s that summer music academy thing in Denmark going? I’m all ears!