Brazil orchestra crisis: the latest international protest

Brazil orchestra crisis: the latest international protest


norman lebrecht

June 07, 2011

The BBC National Orchestra of Wales are being required to play a concert with Roberto Minczuk, the conductor who has dismissed half the members of the Brazil Symphony Orchestra and has been boycotted in consequence by leading soloists.

Like the players in Liverpool and Odense, the Welsh musicians are going about their business as true professionals. But before they sat down to play, they sent the following letter to their colleagues in Brazil.




To the Musicians of the Orquestra Sinfonica Brasileira,


Roberto Minczuk is this week appearing with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales as guest conductor.


We, the Musicians’ Union members in the orchestra, have given a letter to him expressing our feelings on the way he has treated you and urging him and the OSB management to enter into negotiations with you and SINDMUSI.


We write to you now to offer our support in this difficult time. The miles and oceans that separate us do not diminish the concern we have for you in this situation.


We will continue to monitor events in Rio and hope that the efforts of our own Musicians’ Union, FIM, SINDMUSI and others in the international musical community will bring about a satisfactory resolution to this dispute.


We must stress that the views we express are ours alone and should not be construed as in any way representing BBC policy.


With best wishes,


Ian Fisher

Chairman of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales Players’ Committee




  • George N. Brown says:

    It would be intriguing to know if BBC/Wales Orchestra Management was solely behind requiring them to play for Minczuk, or if the Music Director had weighed in on this, either way, at all.

  • Gena Kupperheimer says:

    Intriguing thing is to see how misinformed these Europeans unions are or someone is feeding them with lies, litigious, wrong and controversial information. The impression is that they are buying anything that they hear and going ahead with these ridiculous letters of support. Support to what and who?

    Who wants to talk and go back to work always had the chance and still have it but they vehemently refuse to do so. Question for those unions and musicians reps, from WHO you are getting this information that there is no negotiations and the conductor and the FBSO do not want to talk?

    Just this last week, recently, two cellists (two twin brothers) decided to reopen negotiations separated from the union talking directly with the conductor. It seems that he is open to talk and always was because the two well known musicians are in the process to re-join the orchestra (BSO), may be re-joined by now. This proves again that there is room for those willing to talk, negotiate and go back to work. This is not my invention and was all over the papers in Rio de Janeiro.

    Perhaps they (the authors of this shameful letter of support) should also know what is going on with those that are willing to work with the BSO. Here is what is happening, they are suffering a terrible harassment from the dissidents, or dismissed you name it. This is the case of a trumpet player, you can see what some musicians from the Petrobras Orchestra did following this link:

    It looks like the turmoil that this SINDMUS and their affiliates are creating to other musicians has been ignored by the so call unions and musicians associations in Europe.

    • Luiz Benedini says:

      Support to what and whom? Support for a cause that repudiates a practice that was common in the past, one conductors used to frighten musicians they disliked. This practice, in the present moment, is unheard of. The real purpose of the auditions this time was to get rid of musicians who have been asking for Minczuk’s ousting for the last four years. Proof of it is that several musicians who refused to audition were not dismissed. A few “liked” ones presented themselves for the auditions and just signed in,but did not have to play. This is not fair nor legal practice. Everyone must be treated equal. What nobody seems to ask is what has been done in the past six years. Did the conductor find out that the orquestra was no good only in his sexth year of tenure? Does he need auditions to evaluate musicians he should be listening to for the last six years? It is even funny when people say that OSB’s budget has tripled during Minczuk’s tenure. It is true, but has nothing to do with him. That money was obtaind through negotiations which Mr. Minczuk do not even know about – that was so in the case of the three major sponsors, VALE, BNDES and Rio’s Mayor. He was not either involved nor aware of negotiations with those sponsors. In the case of VALE and BNDES, both declared publicly in the media that they could not care less about who was the music director of the orquestra, because they supported institutions, not people. It is obvious that eventually musicians must be replaced. Age is cruel. But you cannot simply kick out someone who has been faithfully and diligently working for 35 or more years without fair compensation or dignifying retirement .OSB has no retirement plan. Had it used for such purpose some of the money it spends on Minczuk’s publicity, there would be one. Hope I have answered some of your concerns.

      • Gena Kupperheimer says:

        Mr. Benedini was part of the FBSO for many years, I probably understand why he is trowing a wrench on everything now, he was fired from that Foundation few years ago due to a public unknown issue, for sure he was making a very good amount of money at the time as he was not a volunteer. Now that he is out he is against the system, curious thing. His words are a BS of a large scale and has probably no credit.

        • Segio says:

          Bravo Gena!
          I thing that every body wants to take your piece of the cake. A lot of money!

          • Mario Crespo says:

            Benedini had his hands full of this cake, that’s all I can say. Besides that he was (is) a lousy piano player, right notes but very bad and poor interpretation.

            As he was the executive director he was always scheduling concerts for him to play as a soloist.

            That did not work well and did not last, it could be this reason why he left, or due to much cake in his hands???? Really strange that he is showing up here with “a word to say”.

        • Luiz Benedini says:

          Please correct: I was not fired, I quit on my own volition.; Check it with the president of the foundation. Secondly, I never took any commissions from any revenues, ever. Your aggressive attitude simply shows who you are and the type of person who tries to support what is happening in the OSB. Further correction: the system was not the same as when I was there, Minczuk always wanted to fire the older musicians, just for their age, but i am proud to say that my advice to the president of the foundation prevented him to do so at the time. I would not wish to get into details, because they would be extremely detrmental for what you call “the system”. Furthermore, who are you? I am quite sure that my words have more credibility than yours. Please identify yourself and tell who instructs you to write. Without such information, I can assure you, people will certainly think you are probably being paid to write your nonsense. And mind you, I did not say bs as you did, because i have an education.

          • Genna Kupperheimer says:

            Oh yes, I am sorry, you were not fired may be you were forced to quit and leave for the sake of all.

            Nobody knows exactly what went wrong, definitely it was a conspiracy against you, as always, we understand that.

            The truth or the situation is probably that, people could not cope with you anymore at the FOSB so you quit it. Your posting is showing how you are so disrespectful to a foundation that once employed you, now of course, you are throwing a wrench there, as you say in Brazil “spiting in the plate that you once ate”.

            Perhaps Minczuk (everybody knows you never got along with him) always wanted to fire you but you then resigned first, who knows. Your words and attitudes are very aggressive as well so do not expect honey and milk as a response.

            Who am I? Gennady Kupperheimer, why are you so concerned who I am, is that a threat? Or you think that everybody that do not agree with you and/or what the SINDMUS and their affiliates did is someone teleguided by some one else. For your knowledge there are many, a humongous number of people that disagree with all these actions promoted by the SINDMUS and their partisans.

            May be we should include your BIO in that list above so people could learn a bit more about, your great works for the Brazilian tax payers and so on.

            We know you have an education and so do I, bitter words will always result in bitter words.

          • Sergio Filho says:

            Indeed, Mr. Benedini, you were forced out of OSB by imposition of the BNDES, because they could not release the funds (public money) for the FOBS when you was there. The reason: you were being sued by buying an apartment in New York with public money, in the time that Mr. Benedini was a diplomat in the U.S.. The process has prescribed without being judged the merits.

          • Luiz Benedini says:

            Well, Ms Kupperheimer and Mr Filho:
            You still do not say who you are..
            Anyhow, my response, again, is that I was not forced out, I left both for personal reasons and because I did not want to make the foundation wait for the funds to be released by the BNDES. Funds, by the way, negotiated by me alone, in a contract unheard of in the OSB, because no cocktails or other futilities in return were required. That shows how much I cared – and still do – for the foundation.
            I am not “spitting on the plate” as you say. My position now is absolutely consistent with the positions I took as executive director of the foundation. I always fought for the artistic improvement of the orquestra and for the just and humane treatment of musicians and staff.
            It is interesting that you still do not say who you are and whom you are speaking for.Certainly, the general public do not have the information you do and therefore you are speaking for someone who has not the courage to step forward or you are that same someone who hides behind a false name.
            Regarding my legal situation, I have been acquitted by the second highest court in the nation and – for your information – my lawyers have a seat in the foundation’s council. Therefore, the council was always well aware of any situation I might be involved with. The legal suit did not precribe, I won it. The alllegation I bought an apartment in NY with public money is simply ludicrous. I never had an apartment in that city. This is easy to check, public information. Whoever informs you, and I have an inkling it is the same person who takes commissions and overprices services, did a poor job.
            And – Gennady Kupperheimer – it is not a threat to ask one to qualify oneself. It may be a threat to you, who obviously speak with no authority at all. I speak with the authority of someone who paid all the foundation bills in arrears in my first two years of tenure, negotiated the contracts with VALE, the Rio Prefeitura and B NDES, guess, the three more important sponsors of the foundation. I did make one mistake: I trusted people whom I would soon learn to be dishonest. The mistake was corrected and well, I did become hard to cope with. Continuing, with the authority of someone who knew everything that was going on in the foundation. Who did not let millions be spent in useless and personalized publicity, who would not let people indulge in lavish dinners at the expense of the foundation, who devised means to make possible a dramatic improvement in the musicians salary, who supervised production of events and all the financial operation. Who was the first administrator ever in the history of the foundation to hire an independent audit and secure a positive evaluation. The first one ever in the last 20 years to step into the SINDMUSI and talk and understand the musicians’ reasons and requests. And mind you, I did not always agree with them, but the discussions were always respectful, transparent and sincere. Democratic, if the word does nof offend you.
            Anyhow, I guess I just qualified my credibility. I do not think either of you has ever done anything for the foundation as I did and I assure you whatever I do now is also to my belief, for the welfare of the foundation. I thought it quite illustrative when you mention in your comments that “everyone wants a piece of the cake”. So you do recognize there is a cake and someone has it and wants to keep it – just for himself.. As I said before, I never took any commissions from any revenue of the foundation.
            I have spoken my mind and I have no more time the spare in this argument that has, unfortunately, become personal. I will continue to fight for what I think right and will come forward whenever requested by the proper authorities, always in the benefit of the foundation and not for this or that person.
            And, Mr Crespo, thank you so much for your authorative review of my piano playing. I am sorry to say, though, you were tremendously misinformed about my scheduling any concerts with myself as soloist. I did not do nor need it.
            So, this concludes our exchange. Unless you show you have some qualification to comment on the matters of the foundation. Or, who knows, come forward with you real name. Until then, be wise to mind your own business. Get a life.

  • Kenneth Burward-Hoy says:

    I have been following this boycott with disgust from musicians who are supporting 36 musicians who refuse to re-audition. 50 other members of the orchestra auditioned and were rehired. What is the problem.?
    In 1970 I was associate principal violist with the Dallas Symphony USA. Anshel Brusilov was appointed the new conductor and required all non tenured players to re-audition. We all did, no one was fired and no opposition from the union. We all were qualified in the first place. Auditioning is the accepted process for employment. If you can’t audition why the hell are you sitting in an orchestra where performing in public is your job. If you auditioned once way back does that mean you have a job for life?. Maybe in the old Soviet Union. Good on the Brazilian management and their conductor to try and improve the standard of their orchestra with recent funds given them. It is called ” Progress.”
    Kenneth Burward-Hoy
    Former Principal Violist with
    Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and a Principal violist in New York.

  • Ademir dos Anjos says:

    The musicians who made the reaudition are only 35, of wich some 15 are foreigners and had to do it, otherwise will lose the rights to stay in Brazil. From the 47 (!) wich refuse, 36 had been sacked, 11 was not (nobody knows why), but will not come back to play under the circunstances. From the ones who did the test, two had presented a statment refusing to work.
    In the Dallas case, the conductor arrived and asked for tests. In Rio, the conductor is already there for five years and had been asked out by the musicians in 2008. The tests are an attempt to sack musicians that he dislikes, because they made very clear then that the maestro was wanted no more.
    And, Gena, I know someone who meet one of the cellists you mention. He was crying and begs for pardon, but he do not have any condition of continue to fight FOSB. He was out of money, and with a sick father. He needs the job… If the managers had been capable of talk, the situation never was to reach that point.
    The first moment the administration come to talk was last week, when the public ministry (an republican instancy at wich, here in Brazil, nobody can say no) calls the FOSB president to respond on suspect aspects of this whole process.
    The europeans unions worldwide know precisely what they are doing, when they take position the way they do: They are protecting the musicians against authoritary administration!

    • Genna Kupperheimer says:

      I do not know where you got that, so far, they did not beg for pardon or anything. They simply went and talked to the conductor, I do not know the details of their conversation, may be you know and could post here for us, as you always knows everything.

      Simply like that, they got the job back and it seems that these was their decision. This is what was in the papers and I am not making anything up.

      Why the other ones do not want to do the same? It is very disgusting, it is really clear that they did not want anything since the beginning.

      Also, allegations are allegations, if you do not prove them they still allegations and accusations. Remember that saying? You are innocent until proven guilty, so far nothing was proved against the FOSB, or was?

  • Ademir dos Anjos says:

    What the europeans unions do not know is wich kind of people the FOSB managers realy are. I beg for pardon from mr. Lebrecht for the very long quotation (and for the awkward english that comes from google translator) to post something very interesting that i’ve found on a blog, and that resumes very well the biography of those person:

    “The painful crisis is installed in the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra (OSB), which resulted in dismissal for “just cause” for 37 of its 82 musicians, drew attention to an intriguing aspect regarding the administration of the founding supporter of the orchestra. In fact, most leaders of the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra Foundation (FosB) consists of very high profile individuals in business and financial circles of the country, which played a decisive role in the insertion of the Brazilian economy in the context of “financial globalization” of the latest decades and at the same time, helped consolidate the environmental movement as a powerful element of influence on national public policies.

    This combination of financial and economic ultra-liberalism with radical environmentalists – not just in Brazil – is one of the main factors are stoking the systemic crisis that threatens to plunge the world into an economic depression worse than the 1930s. Moreover, these figures represent, in large measure, an exclusivist mentality and “internationalist” in which questionable criteria of “efficiency” and “productivity” have been applied to all sorts of activities, often with very dubious results.

    Infiltrates suspicious elements in our culture …

    The first aspect that catches the eyes of the advisers is the fact that many of them played important roles during the process of privatization of the Brazilian state companies during the government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso (himself being the current president of the Symphony Orchestra State of Sao Paulo). For example:

    Eleazar de Carvalho Filho – Current president of FosB, was senior director for companies such as banks UBS and Guarantee, the multinational Alcoa Aluminum and chaired the BNDES in the final phase of the Cardoso government.

    Roger Agnelli – Vice President of FosB and former president of the Valley.

    David Zylbersztajn – As Energy Secretary Mario Covas government, masterminded the plan of privatization of energy companies in the state of Sao Paulo, was one of the main coordinators of the Cardoso government’s campaign to break the monopoly of oil exploration by Petrobras and has been appointed the first director general of the National Petroleum Agency (ANP).

    Claudia Costin – was Minister of Federal Administration and State Reform, where he played a key role in the privatization program of the Cardoso government.

    Elena Landau – Former Director of BNDES for the privatization program, left the bank to become a member of the consortium Southern-AES-Opportunity, which acquired a substantial stake in state energy CEMIG.

    Luiz Ildefonso Simoes Lopes – senior director of the Canadian group Brascan (now chief executive of Brookfield, the group’s current name), who bought several companies that distribute electricity in the 1990s.

    Other figures linked to international NGOs

    Beside them are personalities closely linked to the environmental movement and, in particular, WWF-Brazil, the Brazilian branch of Greenpeace world’s most powerful, which comprise the board:

    José Roberto Marinho – Vice-president of Globo Organizations and president of the Roberto Marinho Foundation.

    Roberto Paulo Cezar de Andrade – Director of the Brascan Group.

    Francisco Antunes Maciel Müssnich – Lawyer and partner at the firm Barbosa, Müssnich & Aragão, which had among its clients the AES and the Opportunity Group, the latter distinguished themselves by financial scandals. The ex-wife Müssnich Veronica Dantas’s sister and business partner of Daniel Dantas.

    Beyond them, on the board of OSB businessman and former mayor of Rio de Janeiro (RJ), Israel Klabin, the current chairman of the board of trustees of the Brazilian Foundation for Sustainable Development (FBDS).

    It’s all in the same clique of radical environmentalists

    An interesting evidence of how these interests intersect is the fact that in the second half of the 1990s, AES was chaired by Roger W. Sant, who, in the same period, he chaired the U.S. branch of WWF. According to public statements of his successor in office, Katherine Fuller, Sant raised more than $ 200 million to “help” then-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso “to implement its promise to protect 100 million acres [420,000 km2] of Amazon forests” . The “promise” refers to the commitment made by Cardoso in 1997, with Prince Philip of Edinburgh, consort of Queen Elizabeth II of Britain and President Emeritus of WWF International, at which time the Brazilian president was awarded the title Knight the Order of the Bath.

    Incidentally, Sant also has musical interests, as a member of the board of trustees of the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington (USA).

    Although the participation of VIPs in the administration of orchestras is a constant in the world, the composition of the board of FosB with this particular group of people, perhaps, help to explain the disastrous way in which negotiations between developed direction of the orchestra and its professionals. Borrowing the symbol of the WWF, FosB is playing what could easily be called a “Symphony Panda” a real cacophony “globalist.””

    Found at:

  • Clarice Martins says:

    It seems that soon Mr. Eleazar de Carvalho Filho will be going to Brasília to give explanations about allegations of irregularities in the contract and at the transfer of public funds and tax exemptions from the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra…

    “Chamber of Deputies:
    54th Legislature – 1st Regular Legislative Session

    DAY 15/06/2011
    LOCATION: Annex II, Plenum 08
    HOURS: 14h

    A – Requirements:

    1 – APPLICATION No. 35/11 – Mr. Jean Wyllys – which “calls is invited Mr. Eleazar de Carvalho Filho, current president of the Foundation Board of Trustees Brazilian Symphony Orchestra, to provide information on allegations of irregularities in the contract and the transfer of public funds and tax exemptions from the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra. ”


    Official link from Brazilian Chamber of Deputies:

  • George N. Brown says:

    Wow, great bios & highly revealing.

    It bears repeating that for Minczuk and Carvalho to be telling the truth, probably a couple hundred people close to the situation in Rio have to be lying through their teeth. (Not too likely.)

  • Sergio Filho says:

    I think many forget that there are other musicians who made the contest and feel extremely poorly represented by SINDIMUSI in order that the President of the union is also a former musician of OSB and chooses not to assist those who made their ratings. I do not know how the rules work in Europe but I think infirm who would accept a permanent orchestra musician to sign two contracts with different orchestras and regular with two regular seasons. I know that in Brazil many years is actually attracting paying very little and the musicians had to work tirelessly to keep their families. I believe that in recent years this has changed somewhat. The fosB able to raise salaries as of July so that the musician is engaged with more dedication to his orchestra. Contrary to what is published, I find it sad that people with so much culture and tradition believe that here in Brazil we have no sense of democracy.
    The fosB keeps up to date, all doors open for the return of musicians apart, something that is easy to learn, because now three musicians have already returned and been reintegrated and others want and are being pressured by dismissed by politicians and advised by Sincalide the left not to accept offers of fosB, because the reason is purely political debate now are returning already been threatened in their careers, such as not having more room to work in Rio de Janeiro or destroying the integrity and character of same. The OSB has offered a voluntary severance program that was not accepted and dismissed without flexibility in negotiations and proposals, maintained the request for withdrawal of the music director and conductor of the orchestra. Then you realize that the problem began with assessments ended in resignation. From there the FosB then took his position in accordance with the Brazilian labor laws and ruled that the musicians did not return to assume his duties within the foundation. Cordially

    Sergio Filho

  • Ademir dos Anjos says:

    I really hope that all this crisis will bring some light to the head of the people who do not understand or pretend to ignore what are the rigths of the working class… If the sindicate find the audittions to be boycotted, then they will be. The representatives of the class has been voted to be there. They protect the class and it is that simple. They will support any audittion made on the right premises, as always had done.
    As for the alleged flexibility of FOSB, that was said to the wind in the newspapers, but never happens in fact. It is funny to mention that the owner of the newspaper is also at the board of OSB. As even the mineral world knows, you cannot trust a lot of stuff the brazilian midia present as ‘true’. Every day social movements are denied at midia here. Not so long ago, the same newspaper spread the idea that a dictatorship in Brasil never had been…

  • gildemaro says:

    Lots of dirt…

    And Mr. Gennady Kupperheimer (right so? happy now? ) continues as present himself als “sole owner of the truth” … Very disgustinratiog, principally taking in consideration that his “facts” are:

    1-Irrelevant to the case… It’s a MUSIC blog here, NOBODY is interested in the wrongdoings of certain Brazilian crooks.
    2-A lot of baloney, because of being … NOT TRUE …

    So simple…

  • Ademir dos Anjos says:

    The sacked musicians of OSB will do a concert with Edu Lobo, major star of bossa nova, who supports their movement. In the mean time, Eleazar de Carvalho has been called again to respond at the public ministery about OSB’s use of public money and Minczuk strange contract.