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LA Phil picks major European principal

November 1, 2017 by norman lebrecht

72 comments.


We hear that the Los Angeles Philharmonic has offered its principal oboe position to Ramon Ortega, principal of Bayerischer Rundfunk in Munich for the past nine years.

If he accepts, he will be the first player from a European orchestra to take a principal oboe seat in a major US orch.

Ramon, 29, originally from Granada, has asked for time to decide.

His dilemmas:

Jansons or Dudamel?

Skiing or surfing?

Sauerkraut or sushi?

No habla espanol or habla plenty?

Hochschule teaching or Hollywood?

Tough call.

 


Comments (72)

  1. Phil McKenzie says:

    Not exactly the first European. Labate, Gillet, Tabuteau (NY, Boston, and Philadelphia) come to mind. But it has been quite awhile certainly.

    1. Ferenc Gabor says:

      What about Erez Ofer as concertmaster of Philadelphia? He was previously also 1concertmaster of BR München!

      1. norman lebrecht says:

        I specified: principal oboe.

    2. Malcolm James says:

      The American oboe sound is quite different from the European sound and an American oboe reed is, to our way of thinking, a very peculiar animal. Historically, British and European principal oboes have had to put up with some quite cutting remarks from American critics and vice versa. Either he will have to drastically change the way he plays or the preferred sound in America is changing.

      1. Arundo Donax says:

        I was shouted down on a previous oboe thread for daring to express a preference for European oboe tone, exemplified by Holliger or Goossens, compared to Richard Woodhams’s which was extolled as the most beautiful tone ever.

        1. NYMike says:

          As a European?, you have a right to express your preference for the European oboe sound. As an American, I have the same right. However, calling one oboist’s sound or another’s as the most beautiful in the world (as you’ve done) is a stretch indeed.

          1. Arundo Donax says:

            It was Richard Woodhams’s sound that was extolled as ” the most beautiful tone ever” by an American poster on the other thread.

            I never claimed that status for Holliger but purely expressed a preference. Please re-read what I actually wrote.

    3. NYMike says:

      As noted previously, Tabuteau became the founder of the American oboe school through his teaching @ Curtis. I can’t think of any major American orchestra today with a principal oboe, not in that lineage.

      1. Blair Tindall says:

        NY Mike is correct. This is a notable appointment for oboe positions in US orchestras, all of whom are descendants of the American school founded by Tabuteau. I believe the other finalist was the remarkable Met proncipal Nathan Hughes — a phenomenal American oboist — so this is a big development.

      2. William Safford says:

        I can’t think of one either. Ray Still is the only one who comes to mind, who was in a major orchestra in the last fifty or more years without being in the Tabuteau lineage.

        1. Reed says:

          He was in the lineage of Tabuteau. He studied with Robert Bloom, a Tabuteau student, at Julliard. On a separate note, he was the first American school oboe principal who didn’t study with Tabuteau himself.

        2. Anonymous says:

          Ray Still studied with Robert Bloom, who studied with Marcel Tabuteau. Still’s style was very much in line with the Tabuteau school, even though it had a “darker” quality than what we associate with the so-called “Philadelphia” oboe sound.

          1. Reed says:

            Hm… Personally, I find Ray Still’s tone much thinner and nasal, as opposed to darker than many other Philadelphian oboists like that of Richard Woodhams.

  2. Rodrigo says:

    And he would be the 2nd Spaniard to join the LA Phil as a Principal. David Rejano, Principal Trombone, hails from Badajoz, Spain! https://www.laphil.com/philpedia/david-rejano

  3. MacroV says:

    He’s a great player. I know the LA Phil is a great orchestra, and it may pay better than the BRSO, but LA vs. Munich? Jansons vs. Dudamel is now; Munich is forever.

    1. Max Grimm says:

      The LA Phil pays better, be you a principal or section player, no question about it.
      The monthly salary – which is not individually negotiable – for a 1st principal position in the BRSO winds starts at just over €7.100* for the first twelve years and caps out at just under €7.700* after nineteen or more years with the orchestra.

      *monthly salary does not include possible supplemental earnings (ie. extra services, audio-/video recordings, etc.)

      1. Andreas B. says:

        AFAIK the figures are slightly higher than that, according to the agreement starting from June 2016: around 7400,- and 7900,- respectively.
        also, salaries are freely negotiable for concertmasters and “comparable soloists” .

        1. Max Grimm says:

          Thanks for the updated numbers Andreas.
          As far as I know, 1st Principal positions in the winds don’t fall under the “comparable soloist” clause. Even if they did, the BR (or any other German orchestra) could/would never match the salaries paid to principals in the biggest American orchestras.

          1. Andreas B. says:

            I agree, the Big 5(+X) pay sums not matched by German orchestras.
            there also is, of course, the question of living costs and quality of life …

            regarding the “comparable soloists” clause: I believe to have heard that at least one principal wind player of the BRSO has indeed such a freely negotiated contract.

          2. Max Grimm says:

            One of the senior players, such as Mr. Schilli or Mr. Boucly perhaps?

  4. herrera says:

    It just speaks to the universalization of the orchestral sound. Every orchestra sounds like every other orchestra and its players are interchangeable.

    What used to really distinguish one national sound from another was the woodwinds, particularly the clarinets and the oboes, to such a degree that a German clarinet would sound out of place in an Austrian orchestra, and vice versa, and the Concertgebouw had the distinction of playing on hybrid French and German clarinets.

    I think only French orchestras are still managing to keep the French sound.

    1. Bruce says:

      What really used to differentiate orchestras from one another, or one country’s from another’s, was usually the different ways in which they were bad: Scratchy strings (English), out-of-tune woodwinds (French), tubby brass (German), and so on. (These are stereotypes, dating back to the early days of recording, and of course every country had orchestras that transcended them — or fit the stereotypes of other countries 🙂 )

      As standards have risen across the orchestral world — intonation, ensemble, blend of sound — now the chief complaint is blandness & uniformity. Plus ça change…

    2. William Safford says:

      Not to mention French bassoons vs. German bassoons.

      An oddity of America: about eighty or so years ago, we standardized on French flutes, French clarinets, French oboes with a reed distinctive to America, and German bassoons.

  5. Mike says:

    He’s probably the best oboist in the world at the moment. He’s a level above being a principal in a symphony orchestra and should concentrate on playing concerto’s around the world and playing chamber music.

    1. Max Grimm says:

      “He’s probably the best oboist in the world at the moment”

      While tastes will vary, have you ever heard of Albrecht Mayer, to name but another outstanding oboist?

    2. Bruce says:

      A matter of temperament, probably. Some people prefer to be part of a team, live in one place all the time, etc.

    3. MacroV says:

      I feel compelled to take issue with the notion that soloists are better players than orchestral musicians, especially among wind players but perhaps string players, too; former Berlin CM Guy Braunstein (who then left to be a soloist) is as fine a player as any big-name violin soloist I’ve heard. There is no solo flutist I can think of who could be deemed superior to any number of orchestral principals (and the most famous modern-day flute soloist is probably Berlin’s Emmanuel Pahud), and I doubt any solo trumpet player ever considered him/herself superior to the likes of Bud Herseth or Phil Smith. Before his physical difficulties few Alex Klein was probably the best oboist in the world, and he clearly saw the best place to make music was the Chicago Symphony. The best oboist I’ve heard in recent years is Francoix Lelieux, who used to be in the BRSO (Ortega’s predecessor, I’m guessing).

      Richard Stoltzman has said he became a soloist because he couldn’t win an orchestra audition – and said he did many.

  6. Rodrigo says:

    In response to the opposition expressed on Norman’s facebook page about posting this before Ramon has decided if he’ll take the job – this is the thing:

    Ramon won the audition. That is a fact. That’s what other LA Phil members are posting. “Congratulations for winning the audition”. Seems perfectly fine to me to be posting that, whether or not he accepts.

  7. Malcolm James says:

    Another difference is that in Munich he is one of two joint principals, who are equals and do half the work each. This gives him plenty of time to do freelance work, such as concertos and recordings.
    In LA, as in other orchestras in the US, he is the principal and has an associate principal, who is a no. 2. Whilst he can pull rank in LA in a way he can’t in Munich, he will presumably be expected to do major gigs, unless there is a good reason and I think that someone wrote hear that the associate principal tends to do the first half of the concert as a sort of warm-up act and the principal comes on fresh for the major work in the 2nd half. This means that the workload in LA may be more than in Munich and he may possibly prefer the flexibility of life in Munich.

    1. MacroV says:

      You are correct. LA used to be unique among US orchestras in having a few co-principals (Michelle Zukovsky and Lorin Levee on clarinet; various combinations on flute), but now seems to have adapted to the standard US model of a single principal.

  8. Gerhard says:

    Certainly there are a few good oboe concerti and sonatas, but the body of this repertoire is no match to the clarinet or horn repertoire, let alone to the one for cello, violin, or piano. So being solely an oboe soloist is probably not an attractive proposition to somebody who holds a major principle oboe position and has already plenty of opportunities to appear as a soloist. After all, musically speaking the real top oboe repertoire is all orchestra music. In any case, congratulations to Ramón for winning the LA audition! Whether he really will go there, I expect, will depend greatly on the effort the BR Symphony administration will be ready to make. Since I’m much closer to Munich than to LA, I would be very sorry if they would fail to keep him here.

  9. Thomasina says:

    I hope his success, but l remember Mr.Fora Baltacigil who had left the section of double bass in the Berlin Phil. for the position of Principal in the NYP. He returned to Germany after just one(two?) season to join the Munich Phil. as Principal. (I really love his Rachmaninoff; Romance. The double bass absolutely romantic.)

    1. Max Grimm says:

      If I recall correctly Mr. Baltacıgil is on record, having stated that he left the NY Phil because the bass section lacked “harmony and peace”, something he had found and come to appreciate in the orchestras he had played in before NY.

      1. Thomasina says:

        It seems that he found ” harmony and peace ” again in Munich? (and you can spell his name correctly! I wanted to do it, but I couldn’t with my phone…)

  10. Carmen says:

    Having worked briefly with Mr. Ortega, he struck me as a consummate young European gentleman in his demeanor. Elegant, reserved but quite pleasant, with lovely manners. He had been living in Germany just a few years and he seemed more like a German artistocrat than a Spaniard from Granada. He’d assimilated perfectly to his new country.

    I am trying to imagine him in LA. I know he’d fit in beautifully with the orch. – Denis Bouriakov, Princ. Flute, is another refined European gentleman – but I just wonder about him living in LA – loud, boisterous unrestrained LA Would he be happy there?

    This will all certainly be a hot topic for the LA Phil blog “All Is Yar”. Can’t wait to see what CK Dexter Haven has to say!

    1. Ravi Narasimhan says:

      “– but I just wonder about him living in LA – loud, boisterous unrestrained LA Would he be happy there”

      Yes, we are a simple and innocent people but remember he will be able to afford a quiet neighborhood and will be well protected from us commoners by the people he will also be able to afford. He may also be pleasantly surprised by the large number of paved streets and the availability of indoor plumbing in many of our buildings and homes.

  11. Anonymous says:

    The more interesting questions are about the identity that Los Angeles is seeking to develop. No doubt Ramon Ortega is a great player. But he plays in the German style. Will it be possible to create a unified sound within the oboe section and with the rest of the woodwinds in Los Angeles with this principal oboist? Will he change his reedmaking and approach to sound to match the style of the American school founded by Marcel Tabuteau? Does Los Angeles care? Are they going for something else entirely?

  12. harold braun says:

    Mr.Ortega is a fine player,and LAPO is a great orchestra.My question is,will he fit in an american orchestra?I personally prefer the American school of oboe playing,John deLancie and Richard Woodhams in Philly were my favourites.In LA,i loved David Weiss and,particularly,Barbara Winters in the 60s,70s,and early 80s,and Arianna Ghez,Mr.Ortega´s precedessor.But today,the differences are less marked,and quite some players perform a mixture from both styles.Ortega is way better than Mr.Schilli in Munich,his joint principal,whose vibrato heavy sound i never really liked,.

  13. Doug says:

    His dilemmas (continued):

    A= 441 or 445?

    Long scrape or short scrape?

    American or European gouge?

    Marigaux or Loree?

    Bell down or up in the air?

    Ignore the conductor and confuse other players with your exaggerated conductor like body movements, or do your duty and remain relatively still?

    Only oboists would get most of this.

    1. CutestFlutist says:

      Actually I’m a flute player & I know exactly what you mean, having had to work alongside both US & European oboists. There are huge differences, which you’ve named. Totally different styles.

      Bell in the air is what always gets me about the Europeans. It’s like having a permanent erection. What do they do when they finally get to Mahler and are SUPPOSED to have bells in the air?

      This whole situation, while Mr. Ortega is a fabulous & deserving player, is kind of a slap in the face to the distinguished US oboe tradition.

      1. Jane says:

        Yes, it is. And also, there are no major principal oboes playing for European orchestras from America either.

        1. Gerhard says:

          Not for the moment, as far as I know, but there was for instance Bob Eliscu, who was already principal oboe with Munich Phil in the Seventies, a time when national schools played a much greater role among European oboe players than now. In any case I must admit that I have some difficulties understanding a mindset to believe that one’s own national oboe school is superior to every other one, and at the same time to begrudge it if it happens just once that an outsider unexpectedly wins an audition.

          1. Mallory Jones says:

            Greetings, Gerhard- Bob Eliscu was a truly special musician, but he by no means played in the “American style”. Perhaps there’s a reason there are no proponents of the American school in major European positions? Or a reason every country on earth except the US has embraced the European style? I have been moved by American school oboists, but not by very many of them. Previous few seem to get beyond their obsession with making a sound like whichever American oboist is in their ear. Maybe it’s just more difficult?

          2. Gerhard says:

            Hi Mallory – I believe it has something to do with the fact that the mainstream American oboe school has decided that everything has to come directly from Tabuteau. He certainly was for good reasons that influential, but his heritage is for many still the only acceptable one, which excludes a lot of potentially fruitful other influences, and nothing of it must be questioned or altered. I do appreciate a lot of things about the American approach. But I think every dogmatism has a stifling effect, and maybe this is what happened in America. It just seems that every oboe player has to sound exactly the same to have a chance of landing an orchestra job. The few who don’t fit that mould to 100% have to create niches for themselves like the wonderful Allan Vogel, or work abroad as Bob Eliscu did.

            What I see standing in the way of many American oboists who seek a job elsewhere is the utterly “instrumental” sound production the American school emphasizes. There are very well planned and finely executed dynamic shadings coupled with a most homogenous and unchanging sound color. Of course there is nothing wrong with this approach, but it sometimes misses out on shadings the oboe could do, and which are perceived by many listeners as expressive and attractive. From a European perspective it seems that this musical language doesn’t like much to pronounce consonants and vowels. Strangely this is apparently an oboe speciality which is not shared by other American wind or string players. This might explain why there are more other American players in European orchestras than oboists.

          3. Reed says:

            “I believe it has something to do with the fact that the mainstream American oboe school has decided that everything has to come directly from Tabuteau. He certainly was for good reasons that influential, but his heritage is for many still the only acceptable one, which excludes a lot of potentially fruitful other influences, and nothing of it must be questioned or altered.”

            Food for thought: Would European school oboists ever accept the American heritage of oboe playing? Probably not.

            There are many different styles within the American school of oboe playing. (Philadelphia school, Cleveland school, to name some). Eugene Izotov of the San Francisco Symphony and Richard Woodhams of the Philadelphia Orchestra, both oboists of lineage from Tabuteau, don’t sound similar at all.

          4. Gerhard says:

            You are right, my formulation was not 100% accurate. I should have written: “It just seems that every oboe player has to use exactly the same general type of sound to have a chance of landing an orchestra job.” It just seemed overly complicated, sorry. But yes, I’m aware and I agree that Eugene Izotov and Richard Woodhams do not sound exactly the same. Yet I would maintain that they sound a lot more similar than for instance Albrecht Mayer and François Leleux (and on a side note let me say that I think that all four of them are great players!). Otherwise I believe it should be clear what I meant. But I have a feeling you underestimate the way in which the American school has influenced oboe playing in Europe, and you seem to believe that Europeans generally do not “accept the American heritage of oboe playing”.

            When I started to study in the Seventies the different national styles in Europe played a much bigger role than today. But there was something they all had in common: the oboe sound, whatever it was, was very prominent, and it usually stayed that way in harmony settings as well. The one kind of players who seemed to care most and appeared to be best equipped to blend really well with other instruments were the Americans, and often their intonation was better, too. I can’t make the claim that every European oboist picked up these things directly from America, but I certainly took it as a model from there. In any case these aspects of the American heritage have set a common standard for Europe, too.

            So I would say, yes, European oboists have accepted the American heritage, whether they are quite aware of it or not. What they have not done is adopting each and every detail of it, and questioning everything and everyone whether there is a sufficiently direct lineage back to Tabuteau. I also couldn’t imagine a similar outcry about not having the right pedigree, if an American player would happen to succeed Ramón Ortega or Albrecht Mayer. These are in my personal view the things we have and we have not in common.

          5. Reed says:

            “But yes, I’m aware and I agree that Eugene Izotov and Richard Woodhams do not sound exactly the same. Yet I would maintain that they sound a lot more similar than for instance Albrecht Mayer and François Leleux (and on a side note let me say that I think that all four of them are great players!).”

            I feel that this is really a matter of perspective here. As a European not trained in the Tabuteau tradition, I am sure that there are many things that you overlook when comparing one oboist to the other. At the same time, as an American oboist not as familiar with European oboe playing, I can say that European players sound much more similar to each other than say, Eugene Izotov and Richard Woodhams.

            “There are very well planned and finely executed dynamic shadings coupled with a most homogenous and unchanging sound color. Of course there is nothing wrong with this approach, but it sometimes misses out on shadings the oboe could do, and which are perceived by many listeners as expressive and attractive. From a European perspective it seems that this musical language doesn’t like much to pronounce consonants and vowels.”

            From an American perspective, many European oboe players tend to play with very very exaggerated phrasing that can sound melodramatic at times.

            Really, I feel like everything is a matter of perspective. As artists, musicians are bound to have different prioritized tastes and goals.

          6. Gerhard says:

            “Really, I feel like everything is a matter of perspective. As artists, musicians are bound to have different prioritized tastes and goals.”

            I agree. What we don’t have on this side of the pond is one father figure who has left us directives how everything has to be done, and the feeling that there is an “us and they”. European oboists might agree that we are all actors in sound, and that therefore melodramatic music requires a melodramatic rendition. But we are quite unlikely to agree when exactly this is the case, and what the right degree of it would sound like. We just don’t have such a set of strong common believes. This leaves us with less security to do things the right way, but with more choices and less pressure to conform. The pressure to perform is already enough for us 😉

            In any case I want to thank you for this nice and civil exchange of different viewpoints. This is not a matter of course on this site, and I appreciate it a lot.

          7. Reed says:

            “What we don’t have on this side of the pond is one father figure who has left us directives how everything has to be done, and the feeling that there is an “us and they”.”

            I feel like a critical misconception among some European oboists is that American oboists worship Tabuteau.
            We generally don’t try to imitate Tabuteau’s sound. It is nearly impossible to know exactly how Tabuteau sounded like given the horrible quality of audio recording back in the day. Neither do we try to purposely try to go after the “perfect American sound”. As a American school oboe player myself, I have no idea what the “perfect American sound” is to this day.
            Many (perhaps most) American oboists do not use the exact phrasing patterns/methods that Tabuteau advocated, for example, Tabuteau’s numbering system. I’ve met oboists who don’t use it all, and personally, I use it in a relatively limited sense.
            I believe one of the lasting legacies of Tabuteau was the American/Philadelphian oboe reed, and the fundamental ideals behind it. The point of the American/Philadelphian oboe reed is to allow the player play up to pitch and with a decent tone while using minimal lip/jaw manipulation, so the player doesn’t have to focus on “fighting” his reed.

            On a separate note…
            It is definitely my pleasure to have this conversation with you!

    2. Gerhard says:

      I would be quite surprised if you could name a single European orchestra which tunes to A = 445 Hz these days. How about another question:
      Aiming for a more instrumental or a more vocal sound?

      1. NYMike says:

        Berlin Phil??

        1. Gerhard says:

          A = 443 Hz, already since the previous millenium 😉

    3. Max Grimm says:

      “A= 441 or 445?”

      The BRSO tunes to A = 443 Hz and according to the LA Phil, they tune to A = 442 Hz.

    4. Bratsche-scratcher says:

      I’m a viola player and I get it all…

  14. Rhondda May says:

    I’d venture to suggest that if the music director and other principals and audition committee of the LA Phil DIDN’T think that his sound would blend – or that theirs could blend with it – he’d not have won the audition. Musicians adjust their sounds all the time. The sound one has in one’s ear as one scrapes a reed changes subtly throughout one’s career. A lot of variables go into the mix.

    1. Malcolm James says:

      As an oboist i know this, but this will be a BIG change for him.

  15. Don Hohoho says:

    I refuse to believe there was no American qualified for the position. Unless we have reciprocity abroad, this should not be allowed, he should not get a visa.

    1. Rhondda May says:

      So, firstly, you have NO IDEA what his immigration status actually might be. For all you know he already possesses US work authorization. Secondly, he is probably eligible for a rather esoteric nonimmigrant visa (the same kind available to foreign actors and directors – even to Maestro Dudamel, for that matter, but presumably their creative presence in the US doesn’t bother you). And thirdly, “qualified” – w/r/t this job – means something very different from what you clearly think it means. There were probably a good hundred oboists who were *qualified* for this job. An audition like this is nothing like filling out a form at your local Home Despot. Unless YOU sat on the committee, you really have no room to talk on this point. And fourthly, there is a certain amount of reciprocity abroad for US citizens who can obtain an EU passport (usually through an immigrant parent or grandparent).

      Full disclosure: I used to be a professional oboist, but now I work in immigration law.

      1. Gustav says:

        To Rhonnda: “A certain amount of reciprocity abroad”. Hmm. That reciprocity is quite limited in the world of professional orchestras.

        Don Ho makes a very good point. There is NOT this type of reciprocity with European orchestras welcoming US players. There should be, but there is not. Every European player feels entitled to have a chance to work in the US but most European orchestras will always give preference to their own citizens.

        Now 5 zillion people are going to come forward saying “What about such and such American in this or that European orch.?” Yes there are some Americans working in European orchestras. I am one of them. But it is not an easy path, believe me. I came in at an easier time. Now it is nearly impossible.

        This is what kills me: every European nation thinks it’s so great when their citizens win a job in the US, that it’s their indelible right to be working in the US.But Don Ho is absolutely right. They are displacing qualified US musicians. When it comes time for those same European countries to consider a qualified American musician they so often pull the nationalism card and give preference to one of their own players.

        This isn’t right. Someone should be watching out for the interests of US players. It sure isn’t going to be Dudamel. I first started noticing his favoring of non US talent in the LA Phil conducting fellowship program. Very few US conductors-in-training are ever chosen. It’s almost all foreign talent, Dudamel’s choice.

        Similarly now with all the well qualified US born and trained orch. players why are the best paying jobs in the country going to foreign players?

        1. Gerhard says:

          Have you any numbers to back your claim that American orchestras hire more Europeans than the other way round? I’m asking because it contradicts my observations. Since I don’t know where in Europe you have spent your decades in orchestra jobs, I cannot really comment, but I’m very sorry that they have left you so bitter. Here in EU orchestras nationality seems hardly to be a concern anymore. Perhaps this may still trouble a few people with a similar attitude as yours, but it has been a very long time since last I’ve heard remarks about a candidate’s nationality in an audition, and I’m glad for it. This doesn’t go for EU citizens alone, but for other people as well. European orchestras have plenty of players from outside the EU, too. Americans as well as Canadians, Latin Americans, players from practically every Asian country, Australians, New Zealanders and players from Africa play here. The paperwork are the same for all of them, and in the end it seems to work out every time. Perhaps you noticed that Berlin Phil hired an American concertmaster fairly recently? The Concertgebouw Orkest Amsterdam now has two Russian principal oboists. So what? I personally am glad and proud to work in such an open and international community. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be stereotypes and clichés, but they are certainly nothing that Americans are singled out to suffer more than others. Don’t get paranoid!

        2. Anon says:

          Gustav, you are talking nonsense. There are many Americans hired by European orchestras. In my observation more than the other way around.

    2. MacroV says:

      As a one-time consular officer I can assure he will get a US visa, and he certainly wouldn’t be the first. I assume he would apply (via self-petition) for an E-1 immigrant visa for aliens of extraordinary merit. There is a checklist of about 10 criteria he would have to fulfill, but as a principal of a major European orchestra, prizewinner in international competitions, and winner of another international competition (the LAPO’s audition), he can demonstrate that he is one of the most outstanding persons in his field, and that he can earn a living in the US. I issued such visas to far less deserving people.

      I’m pretty sure an American seeking a job in an EU orchestra would be able to do the same thing. There are a couple Americans in the Berlin Philharmonic now, for starters.

      1. Gustav says:

        Macrov, no, it does not work that way for US players wanting to work in the EU. Americans, always idealistic, assume that it does – that the generosity we show in offering employment to EU citizens in our orchs. will be reciprocated. But it simply is not the case.

        If we are indeed able to win the job, to cut thru the red tape to be legal, we are not necessarily welcomed. Americans in Europe carry enormous baggage of stereotyping, high expectations professionally and more. Whatever a European player does at an audition or on the job, a US player must do “backwards and in high heels” and at a much higher level than any national in order to be accepted. And to counter all the stereotypes of loud, arrogant, overconfident Americans, an American trying to work in Europe must be understated, modest, extremely humble and always acquiesce to the way things are done locally.

        The EU does not welcome non-EU workers in any profession. Unemployment is high and jobs are scarce. Non EU’s, especially Americans (actually Europeans love to point out that the term “American” is incorrect when referring to a US citizens. It’s one more way of making us feel smaller, less important.) are considered a threat to employment opportunites for EU citizens.

        EU orchestras will often limit initial auditions to EU residents or those who already have working papers. In the EU country I live in, if a non EU is accepted for a position, the orchestra becomes responsible for the fees, paperwork and all the complications of making the person legal. That makes hiring non EU’s, esp. Americans, a very unattractive option economically.

        And again, there is always this underlying paranoia by Europeans that every American is going to try and dominate any situation. I get so sick of this constant defensiveness. Often in social settings, we just say we’re Canadian to avoid conflict. Europeans, esp. in less sophisticated EU countries, seem obsessed with the fear that the US, and hence any American they encounter in a work situation is trying to achieve world domination.

        So, no. Americans are generally NOT welcomed into European orchestras. There are many exceptions to that rule and I am one of them. But speaking from decades of experience I can tell you the the reciprocity expected when the US grants orch jobs to Europeans – the expectation that US musicians will be given similar opportunities in EU orchestras – simply does not exist.

        1. Mallory Jones says:

          Gustav,
          Some theoretical American not being offered a job opportunity in Europe is not the LA Phil’s concern, nor should it be. They held an audition to pick the most qualified artist to fill their principal oboe position, and that artist ended up being Spanish. He was, by definition, more qualified than any American player, in the only opinion that mattered, the audition committee’s and Dudamel’s. Should they punish themselves and hire a lesser player because another country has some protectionist labor practires? Smells like jingoistic foolishness to me.

          1. Rhondda May says:

            Hear, hear. There may be 100 people “qualified” to be your spouse, but there’s really only one you want…

          2. Gustav says:

            Mallory, you’ve totally missed my point. Every point, in fact. It’s not “some theoretical American” it’s the entire species which, in principle, is not welcome in EU orchestras.

            And at the level we are discussing, it’s not about “being qualified’ for the job. Someone mentioned that a MET principal was one of the finalists. You seriously think that person is “less qualified” than Ramon?

            It’s about the best fit for the orch., musical style, the collective tastes of the committee and music director. It’s a subjective rather than an objective choice, and for that reason a candidate’s country of origin and training can and should be part of the conversation.

        2. Mallory Jones says:

          I’m afraid you’re the one missing the point, my friend. “Qualified” is, in this case, a term of art, so yes, we can unequivocally say the Met principal was less”qualified” for this job, if indeed he played the audition. It’s not a value judgement, it’s the simple reality that neither you, nor I, nor anyone else not on that committee has a vote in determining who’s”qualified” for that job.
          As to your other point, I’m absolutely sure that the candidate’s training (country of origin is nationalist and potentially racist, also irrelevant) was discussed, and deemed to be what they were looking for. Do you seriously think it’s some sort of nationalist conspiracy that keeps American oboists out of European orchestras? Of course not, it’s just a very different approach, which is out of favor in virtually every non- North American orchestra.

        3. Anon says:

          Gustav, it sounds like you need some therapy.

  16. Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

    Ramon should definitely stay! If not for the much better orchestra in München, then at least for the holy Weißwurst.

    Alles andere ist Wurst.

    1. Mallory Jones says:

      Much better orchestra? A naïve statement. Better at some repertoire, probably. Just as the LA Phil is better in some regards. But a musician at Ramon’s stage of career doesn’t take an audition for fun- he’s obviously looking for something different.
      And I’m afraid you’ve exposed yourself as completely clueless by suggesting that food of any sort is a good reason to pick Munich over Los Angeles, one of the great food cities of the world!

      1. Anon says:

        LA might be a great food city, but until you reached the restaurant, you usually have starved to death in traffic jams on the freeway.
        We don’t know if he is looking for something different. He might just have looked for an opportunity to negotiate a higher salary in Munich actually.

        1. Mallory Jones says:

          Very funny, anon! Ok, the traffic in LA is definitely a bummer:)
          I still contend that taking an audition on the other side of the world with the goal of squeezing the BRSO is a longshot. Time will tell…


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