“Afterward, his attacks piled up against me,” Mr. Hilgers said.
Mr. Barenboim said in an email, “The timpanist you mention had a beautiful sound and made beautiful colors,” but he had “rhythmic weaknesses, which is very problematic.” Mr. Barenboim added that the pair had “some disagreements,” but that is normal when musicians are trying to get the best results.
Leo Siberski, 49, is now the music director of the Plauen-Zwickau Theater in Germany, and played trumpet in the Staatskapelle under Mr. Barenboim from 1992 to 2003. He said he witnessed outbursts from Mr. Barenboim directed at musicians, and started experiencing them himself after asking for a sabbatical in 1996.
Mr. Barenboim refused the request, Mr. Siberski said. “He soon found a situation where he could humiliate me, also to make an example of me,” Mr. Siberski said. This behavior largely involved singling Mr. Siberski out, and making him repeat passages in front of the orchestra.
Mr. Barenboim said he didn’t remember any request for a sabbatical. He added it was “fair practice to ask musicians in a world-class orchestra to play their lines alone.”
Mr. Siberski said he eventually quit as the orchestra’s principal trumpet to “get out of the firing line.” Now a conductor himself, he said he has adopted a different approach with the musicians he works with.
“If a responsible artistic director wants to lead his ensemble to new levels of quality, this will always cause some pain,” he said. “But there is a huge abyss between pain like sore muscles, and deep mental wounds caused from attacking your very dignity.”
Mr. Barenboim acknowledged that the world is changing. “That is generally a good thing,” he said. But, he added, “an orchestra cannot function if every tempo, every dynamic is put up for a democratic vote. Somebody has to lead, take decisions and be ultimately responsible.”