Brazil – the oboist's tale

Brazil – the oboist's tale


norman lebrecht

March 11, 2011

Here’s the latest appeal from the heart of an orchestra that is being torn apart. The writer, a New Yorker, payed first in the Israel Philharmonic, then in Germany before he fell in love with Rio. The rest, is here.

Dear Norman Lebrecht : 
It is indeed wonderful that you have allowed so much space in your blog 
for the problems with the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra. What is currently happening here in Rio de Janeiro –where I have resided since 1973 and was the first oboe of the orchestra until 1997 or 24 years–resembles unsavoury procedures in the musical world in the 1930s. 

Meaning: firing/sacking musicians just because they have committed the 
“crime”of getting old or older, calling for re-auditions of veterans 
despite their long-time experience and survival in the orchestra and 
encouraging scabs to take the place of discarded musicians. 
What is the worst “crime”in my view,is Maestro Minczuk and the 
Brazilian Orchestra’s use of the Youth Orchestra to replace the 
“ÖSB”(Brazilian Symphony) for the first three months of season with 
some members of the orchestra–who are not rebelling vs. 
Minzcuk–playing in he first stands of the youth orchestra. 
In the UK and USA ,a court order would probably bar the younth 
orchestra from taking over the initial part of the season from the 
professionals. In Rio de Janeiro however(and not necessarily Brazil) 
anything goes(unfortunately). 

Today,Friday,as I write you Rio’s major newspaper O Globo hasa picture 
of the musicians who refuse to take the audition awaiting in the front 
of the Labour Ministry for a reconciliation hearing–which never 
occurred because neither the Maestro or administration appeared. 
We are living in the epoch of internet which has overthrown 
dictatorships in the Arab world and hopefully via this same magical 
communication ,Maestro Minzcuk and his cohorts will receive their 
proper due if these 58 musicians are sacked. 

Can the unions in the UK, USA, Canada,etc bar Minzcuk from conducting and 
holding auditions? Can other measures be taken? Our fears here in Brazil 
are that  the draconian measures which have begun in the Brazilian 
Symphony will spread to all the 56 orchestras in this growing 
nation,threatening thelivelihood of local musicians. 
Best wishes, 

Harold Emert 
Brazilian National Orchestra 


  • Dean Frey says:

    There’s an online petition against the #OSB here: – English trans:
    Note that the Slipped Disc posts are mentioned. Thanks for your coverage of this story, Norman!
    On Twitter, follow @lucrjviola Petição para salvar a OSB
    – Dean

  • Anonymous soloist says:

    I am sorry that I can’t use my real name for this comment . I am affraid of retaliations just like anybody else – from musician’s union. I had a privilege to be a soloist with OSB and Maestro Minzcuk several times.I also worked with maestroaround the globe and I know and have ahuge respect forhis work ethic.He is a perfectionist and demands the same from all participants.While over last several years he worked hard to make OSB a world-class orchestra , several things are impossible to overcome without desperate measures.Like a rotten egg than can spoil a whole cake – there are few musicians entrenched in their cosy positions and seniority. Age has nothing to do with it but attitude does. They came to expect a relaxed retirement,instead they are being pushed to work hard and keep up with ambitious youngsters. Believe me, some passages and notes coming from those esteemed seniors at concerts can make even a hearing-impaired person cringe in disgust. What they lack in performing skills though they fully recoup in their arrogant attitude, with rehearsals veering towards a shouting match.
    There is no way to make OSB a good orchestra without addressing this problem. Maestro did right to invite outsiders to judge the auditions – in normal situation it would be sufficient to guarantee a fair game.Intimidating jury members is not a normal situation. All those well-wishers who “feel the pain” of incapable orchestra players should stop and ask if they would like to fly an aircraft with senior pilots . Let’s talk about being unfair – the pilots have to undergo re-auditions despite flying for 20-30 years. Or, how about denying senior citizens right to drive their cars ? Hey,this is unfair – they were doing it all their life , why test them ? Let them jsut keep dirving around, even on sidewalks.If they kill afew bystanders – is it OK ? know, I know – music is not as dangerous . But why does the audience have to suffer and be disspointed, why does music have to suffer?

    • Tlane says:

      There are two sides of the story and no easy answers. But I must say, I will not pay money for a bad product.
      An audition does not or should not mean musicians will be let go. They should be video taped and be reviewed by an impartial panel. I’m 57 and had to audition for my orchestra position. I practiced hard, played the audition (I think well) and continue to do what I love, make music. When I can no longer keep up with with necessary performance standards, then it’s time to move on to other areas I am qualified in. Teaching perhaps!
      The performing arts can not be compared to every day jobs.
      Businesses continue to prosper or fold based on their product!
      Let’s not be crule to people, but let’s use common sense.
      The product must sell. If it does not, good bye orchestra of the future.