Brazil – chaos at the concert

Brazil – chaos at the concert


norman lebrecht

April 09, 2011

A Saturday concert in which a youth orchestra replaced the Brazil Symphony Orchestra, half of whose players were fired, was abandoned wothout a note being played when the conductor Roberto Minczuk was greeted with audience boos and applause.

A member of the youth orchestra then read a statement saying they refused to play in place of the dismissed musicians. The microphones were cut off, silencing his speech.
Full report here in O Globo (in Portuguese, with Google translate).
Earlier, the secretary of the British Musicians Union, John Smith, who is also president of the International Federation of Musicians (FIM) said his members would offer all support to the sacked Brazilians. Report here.
Minczuk is due to to conduct in Liverpool next month and to audition musicians in London. He may find the session unattended.
The situation at the OSB appears to be degenerating by the day into chaos.


  • Ole Bohn says:

    I am so proud of the Youth Orchestra. They did the absolute right thing. Not only has he dragged the youngster into the big musical tragedy in Rio de Janeiro, but he appears in the rehearsals with the Youth Orchestra with ARMED security! This is breaking Brazilian law!
    The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra has written Mr. Minczuk that he is no longer welcome to conduct the orchestra. More letters will be written. When will this man get the message ?
    Friends in Liverpool, be aware who will be visiting you soon, or perhaps you don’t want it to happen??

  • jdnrlopes says:

    letter from the composer marlos nobre:
    OPEN LETTER TO ROBERTO Roberto Minczuk, I am anxious to write this letter, a ruler to see how you involved in this embarrassing and sad. You, Robert, had no one close to you for you to open your eyes to the immense folly that was the whole situation created in the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra? I write as a conductor and composer who knew Roberto still only a 10 to 12 years old participating in the Competition for Young Instrumentalists in 1974 I organized the “Concert for Youth” on Globo and Radio MEC. In it, you emerged as young talent, promising enough that I gave away a brand new horn (his at that time was impractical). I remember years later, in his concert debut as conductor of the OSB in Rio, has been approached by his old and honored father, in tears, telling me that the tube was kept in a glass enclosure, framing the living room of the his paternal home. It was extremely moving so visibly happy to see his father watching his debut as conductor of the large and prestigious Brazilian Symphony Orchestra. Among other works then you went to the Symphony “Eroica” by Beethoven. And our OSB time to respond to his gestures, giving the occasion a memorable Interpretation of the work. These same musicians who are now suffering with relentless pursuit and will absolutely incomprehensible to you, as director of OSB. Well, Robert, like his father, an old and honored musician, I learned that you can not make music only with the light spirit, open, connected only at the higher duty that the interpreter is to reveal the great message of love, universal understanding and mutual respect that emanates from every major musical work. You can not surrender to the musicians the most of their qualities, compared to arrogance, disrespect, the imposition, the inhumanity of human ineptitude of who is imposing them and not to empower them to create the wonderful message of music. Roberto, who gave that boy a trumpet is still a source of major disappointment I ever had in my life. Decepão a profound and irreversible. You and you alone are responsible for an unprecedented situation in the symphonic music of Brazil, to submit a full orchestra at a public embarrassment by dismissing with cruelty and disrespect for their past, more than half of its components through the most unacceptable excuses possible. Neither the pretext of higher musical quality would be justification for such a high degree of human aggression, and artistic staff as victims of our musicians OSB. You do not respect age, bookmarking service rendered, nor idealism humanity. All these core values in human relations and art go into the air in your hands at this sad moment in music history in Brazil. The destruction of the ideals that have always been the great strength of the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra, Roberto, you can not. Incidentally I see with sadness that you’re getting is a way to destroy so perfect, so definitive, as vehement as his greatest enemy ever could, nor would such a degree of imagination destructive. His self-destruction shocks me because it seems that you, Roberto, came into this process without negative returns or return, because even he realizes that, not only in Brazil but anywhere in the world where you go on stage to direct an orchestra, will answer the contempt and disapproval of the public and world music. As a composer, not my desire that no work is ever performed by this remedy for Symphony Orchestra (which I refuse to call the OSB because it was irresponsibly destroyed by you), directed by you. Do not authorize any work until I played for real BRAZILIAN SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA’ve learned to love, to revere and protect passengers from possible excesses of hopelessness, aggression and moral disrespect. Marlos NOBLE
    By: Marios Nobre

  • elliot says:

    Mr. Lebrecht,
    you really should also have mentioned that the foundation seems close to reaching a deal with the musicians, as reported here…

  • musician says:

    I´m a musician for the Brazilian Symphonic Youth Orchestra and participated in this event. It is truly a sad situation that they put us in. I would have it no other way, today us youth musician are faced with this situation, many of us, myself included, need this money to live on, and are now faced with the possibility of beign asked to leave from the youth orchestra for leaving the stage today. But I wouldn´t have it anyother way, today I will rest my head on my pillow and know I did the right thing.

  • GREAAAAAAAAAT!!!!!!!!!!

  • This “maestro” became a liability to anyone associated with him. The OSB foundation needs to drop him as soon as possible and immediately start a search for a new conductor. Bravo to the Youth Orchestra musicians! They saved the day with a very brave act!

  • Shenyeh says:

    I am astonished by the arrogance and ignorance demonstrated by two of musicians of ICSOM orchestras in the US to act as judges for this outrageous “audition”. They should be ashamed of themselves.

  • Vince Osmond says:

    Ole, do you have proof of that letter from the Vancouver Symphony? My contacts there have not confirmed it. If you could post it, that would be helpful.

  • Vince Osmond says:

    ‘Support for the sacked musicians’…
    I’m sorry, is this financial support, or moral support?

  • Eduardo Monteiro says:

    Letter from the Vancouver Symphony
    Hello everyone,
    You may have heard recently that Roberto Minczuk fired 44 musicians in Rio for refusing to submit to a mass reauditioning process. Both the AFM and OCSM have written Minczuk expressing their outrage with his tactics and have asked him to reconsider his actions.
    As you know, the Orchestra Committee has been discussing what the VSO can possibly do to show our solidarity with and support for our colleagues in Rio. We have spoken to VSO management about this, and Jeff has offered to write a letter and send it to Minczuk’s agent. The letter would convey that, though we have had great musical experiences with him over the years, we strongly object to his unethical treatment of the musicians of the OSB, and therefore will not be engaging him again.
    The committee would like to go ahead with this, with the hope that the letter will adequately represent the feelings of the orchestra. From what we have heard, It is also quite likely that other orchestras will do the same, and together, these actions could actually have some effect. Please let us know (as soon as possible) if you have any strong objections to this course of action. I’ve included the letter that was sent from OCSM to Minczuk below if anyone is interested.
    Thanks for your time!
    Christie / Orchestra Committee

  • Stefan says:

    I was recently asked to sub in for an orchestra concert that Minczuk guest-conducting, but couldn’t do it because I was already booked for something else. Now I desperately wish I had been able to do that gig just to see this guy in the flesh!

  • After this I just hope that the managements of the orchestras in New York, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Houston, Toronto, Ottawa, London, Oslo, Lyon, Barcelona and other cities will not be engaging Roberto Minczuk again.
    Bravo to the Youth Orchestra!
    Peter Machajdik
    – Composer

  • Thomas P says:

    I’m incredulous that any symphony board (much less the conductor) would allow this marmalade of an orchestra to go on stage. How far does one have to go to demonstrate pervasive and ongoing incompetence (on the part of the board)?
    And poor Roberto! What advice would the level-headed Masur give him, I wonder? I see he’s doing Mahler 2 (Why Mahler?) in Calgary next month. A very fine orchestra, but I couldn’t help giving Minczuk a resounding ‘boo’ when he takes the podium. Doubt he’ll find his resurrection there.
    Are the OSB board and Minczuk to betaken to the Hague for ‘performance evaluations’?
    Norman, I commend you for putting this matter on the world musical scene. I hope the board gets the message as to where the competence needs to be evaluated.

  • ZZ says:

    I am left wondering, as no one has said anything about it, just why the conductor felt the need to re-audition so many players? Is it perhaps because they were sloppy, disinterested, undisciplined, insufficient in technique or musicianship? No one has said a WORD about the quality of the playing. If it was at all justified, then he was doing the right thing to try to improve the orchestra, and this castigation should stop. Conductors are often taught to be Machiavellian in their handling of musicians, and who is to say when it is necessary or not? I have not heard this orchestra, so I would like to know from someone who has heard them regularly.

  • Dear Mr. Lebrecht,
    I have followed and admired your work for years and, in fact, introduced your books to symphony organizers and colleagues in Sao Paulo, Brazil many years ago.
    If you will permit, I wish to use your space to relay a message that may interest both Brazilians and others following events in Rio:
    To the coward from Rio de Janeiro who threatened my student for her participation with the Brazilian Symphony Youth Orchestra on April 9, 2011, your name and contact information has been forwarded to the proper authorities. Further, I truly urge calm for all those following the tumultuous situation surrounding Rio’s main professional ensemble (OSB).
    Thank you, Darrin C. Milling

  • I believe that orchestral musicians should be required to re audition for their position every 10 years. Pilots are continually being reaccessed and must retrain, study, learn new techniques etc….and are under constant pressure to show that they are up to the standard required of them. If they aren’t up to standard then they are likely to crash the plane thus being responsible for the death of hundreds of people. I have heard some pretty dodgy playing in some orchestras where musicians are allowed to remain in their position forever, regardless of their loss of proficiency. If I could die every time I heard one of these types of musicians performing, I would have died many times by now. Let the musicians be re auditioned but in a humane and musical way. Not behind a screen and not with the ridiculous 5 or less minutes to prove their quality which is how most auditions are run these days. Orchestral members should be asked to perform a 20-30 minute recital with repertoire of their own choice. It would be a lengthy process but would be fair. I am sure that the good musicians who deserve to keep their jobs would have no problem with giving a recital every ten years. If these musicians are unable to continue after many years of great professionalism, then a handsome pension should be awarded, a huge honour given, and someone new and deserving should have the chance for the job. Roberto Minczuk is one of the kindest, most generous and talented people I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Rio is very lucky to have him.