Brazil – now the conductor gets dumped by his mentor

Brazil – now the conductor gets dumped by his mentor


norman lebrecht

April 12, 2011

The eminent Brazilian composer Marlos Nobre has published an open letter to the conductor of the national symphony orchestra, refusing him permission to perform his works in protest at the sacking of half its musicians. The gesture is the more poignant since, as Nobre specifies, he has known the conductor since he was a child and presented him with his first professional instrument. I publish the letter verbatim, as received.

Marlos Nobre with his daughter, Karina

Open letter to Roberto Minczuk

Roberto, I am anxious to write this letter seeing how you got involved in this embarrassing and sad situation. 

Did you, Roberto, have no one close to open your eyes to the immense folly that was the whole situation created in the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra?

I write you as a conductor and composer who knew a Roberto still 10 to 12 years old participating in the “Young Instrumentalists Competition” I organized back in 1974 on the “Concert for Youth” on Globo and Radio MEC. In this competition, you emerged as a young talent, promising enough that I gave you as a gift a brand new horn (yours at that time was impracticable). I remember years later, in your concert debut as conductor of the OSB in Rio, I was approached by your old and honored father, in tears, telling me that the horn was kept in a glass enclosure, framing the living room of your paternal home. It was extremely moving see your father so visibly happy watching your debut as conductor of the large and prestigious Brazilian Symphony Orchestra. Among other works, you conducted the Symphony “Eroica” by Beethoven. And our OSB responded to your gestures, giving at the occasion a memorable Interpretation of the work. These same musicians who are now beeing, with absolutely incomprehensible anger, relentless harassed for you as director of OSB.

Well, Robert, like your father, an old and honored musician, I learned that you can only make music with the light spirit open, connected only with the higher duty that the interpreter have that is to reveal the great message of love, universal understanding and mutual respect that emanates from every major musical work. It’s not possible to the musicians yield the most of their qualities, against the arrogance, the disrespect, t
he imposition, the inhumanit
y, human ineptitude of those who are imposing and are not giving them the conditions to create the wonderful message of music.

Roberto, that boy I gave a horn is now a source of major disappointment I ever had in my life. A deep and irreversible disappointment. You and only 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 excuse of higher musical quality would be justification for such a high degree of human, artistic and personal aggression that you impose our OSB musicians. You do not respect age, services provided, idealism nor humanity. All these core values in human relations and art disappear in your hands at this sad moment in music history in Brazil.

The ideals that have always been the great strength of the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra, Roberto, you cannot destroy. Moreover, I see with sadness that you’re getting a way to destroy yourself so perfectly, so definitely, so vehemently as his greatest enemy ever could, nor would have such a degree of destructive imagination.

Your selfdestruction shocks me because it seems that you, Roberto, came into this negative process, without returns or detours, unaware that anywhere in the world where you go up on stage to direct anorchestra you will have an answer of contempt and disapproval from the public and the musical world.

As a composer, it’s not my desire to see my work performed by this leftover Symphony Orchestra directed by you (which I refuse to call the OSB because it was irresponsibly destroyed by you).

I do not consent to have my work performed unless for the real BRAZILIAN SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA that we have learned to love, to revere and protect from any desperation passenger abuses, aggressionand moral disrespect.

Marlos Nobre


  • Ignatius Wapenaar says:

    Well said Maestro!As a conductor I fully share
    your sentiments.

  • Ana Clara says:

    The best letter written about all this mess untill now! The feelings are perfectly described!
    Bravo Maestro Nobre!

  • george brown says:

    Not the smartest idea in the world: trying to build a world class orchestra by running it like a banana republic.

  • Abraham Barata says:

    Mr. Nobre,
    Reading your letter to Maestro Minczuk I feel truly disgusted. And you are certainly surprised to know that I am not disgusted by Minczuk but it is YOU I find appalling.
    You speak of idealism, humanity, human relations. I pray that the friends and mentors I have in my life never turn on me the way you turned on your friend. I pray that my friends and mentors would come to me in person and talk to me in times of struggle before denouncing me to the readers of an online news post. I can only assume that your mentorship of the young Minczuk was superficial at best because what person who is close to another turns to the press rather than talk to them face to face? I wonder what will be happening in your life when someone does the same to you.
    I hear all about the boycotters, I hear all about the musicians walking off stage. What do I NOT hear? Where are the members of the Board of the OSB who helped make this decision. Where are the other musicians of the OSB who took the evaluation in stride and received generous pay raises. Where are the audience members in these youtube clips that stood and applauded their Maestro and their musicians? Where are the supporting comments from the musicians of OSB who are now among the best paid musicians of their country.
    It does not take courage to spew letters of disappointment and rage on a website. It does not take courage to write letters of threat towards Minczuk and the musicians who show up to audition for a job in the OSB. So who are you all to talk of your hatred and your threats?
    In the world I live in if you get paid a salary weather it be a big or smaller one it is called a job, and when you have a job you have evaluations sometimes. Minczuk is not their father he is their music director and was doing what any director in any job has the right to do – to ask for a review. In my job in the United States if I were to refuse to attend an evaluation and I quit I would be the fool – NOT MY BOSSES. What world do you all live in?
    The fools are the ones who spout their rage from behind anonymous computer screens. I hope that Minczuk comes out of this as the intelligent man I think he is. At least he tried to make things better for the organization and has the courage to stand in the face of this situation when nobody seems interested in printing or even KNOWNING the truth anymore.

  • Raymond Horton says:

    Beautifully stated, maestro.

  • Nicole says:

    I will keep my own opinions and speculation to myself; for now, suffice it to say, it’s an awful situation no matter how you slice it and I feel deeply sad for everyone involved.

  • Carlos Jose Pera says:

    Dear Mr. Nobre, you should be ashamed of your self posting this letter here.
    Just want to make notice that not only me but many are really sad with your declarations, you disappointed a big number of musicians in Brazil.
    You forgot that Brazil does not have only 35 musicians, we have many and YOU never came forward to help no one. Recently a whole orchestra was fired in São José dos Campos, São Paulo and where were you? We did not hear a word of support from you.
    Instead of stepping to help the situation in Rio you showed that you do not want to see anything solved.
    You should regret for this disgusting declaration, shame on you, Senhor Nobre.