A report from the edge

A report from the edge


norman lebrecht

October 12, 2007

Here’s a reality check from a western musician now living in the Slovak capital, Bratislava:
The decline in state contributions (sponsors do exist, but not fully interested in performing arts) musicians have perhaps grim prospects. An orchestra member of the national no.1 orchestra the Slovak Philharmonic earns only one third of the average income. Just above the minimum wage (of course he still teaches in the afternoon, etc). But they compare themselves to their colleagues in Vienna, half an hour’s drive away. It can be understood this can lead to losing motivation.
Yes, real good musicians are still here, but suffering financial cuts (especially the excellent chamber orchestra Musica Aeterna). At the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra a Damocles’ sword is hanging – a wild plan proclaimed that 30% of the orchestra is to be fired. A plan, which till now is on the verge of being effectuated. In the meantime, the manager skips ship to the National Opera, leaving behind a managerial chaos and uncertainty.
Old professors control … a fairly elitist circle. Young 2nd year college conductors, who have absolutely nothing to offer, are getting plenty chances to lead operas and ballets, while the good (already graduated) ones lose patience and leave the country.
Concurrently, the music fund owns some interesting and unique instruments. None of the gifted musicians (or students) has the opportunity to play them. They are simply kept in a safe to accumulate dust, and lose their quality. Meanwhile, gifted students cannot afford real grand instruments for obvious financial reasons.
Yet I feel, that somehow this stagnation is soon coming to move. Almost like an Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Music Culture.
Your comments, please.