Competition director responds to complaints

The director of ‘A competition for conductors to avoid’ has written a response that attempts to rebut the main criticisms by young contestants who felt they were ripped off. Here is Raluca Chifane’s letter :

 

Dear Mr. Lebrecht,
I am the Director of the Festival and fortunately I have been informed about the existence of this blog.
I understand when somebody is not pleased or disappointed with things regarding organisation or methods of teaching. But I can´t accept when disgusting lies are part of a subjective report posted anonymously.
Please allow me to send the original informations to you.
We had planed to invite 36 participants for the competition. The possibility to participate to both competition and masterclass was open.
I received questions from many applicants such as: “Do I still have to send the recommandation letter and the DVD (as part of the documents for the competition application) if I come to the masterclass?” or : “I want to try also the competition. Is possible to apply for both?”
My answers were: Of course. It is possible as long as you´ll send the required documents and these will be accepted. The participation in the course will not change the terms & conditions of the competition.
The reason why we decided to accept more competitors (over the number of 36, which had been achieved long before the application deadline) was to give a chance, since many of them didn´t have the possibility to make a competition before.
Here I give the numbers of the invited participants (out of 252 applications): 27 masterclass participants, out of them 22 who took part in the competition. Alltogether 60 competitors (appeared 55).
If the author of the report has been thinking it would help to have a better chance in the competition by coming to the masterclass, this was really his interpretation and finally it was his decision to join both events.
The accusation of corruption and immorality is an outrageous allegation.
Regarding the chairmanship of the Maestro who as well led the mastercourse: this was from the very beginning mentioned on the site: “without voting”. We wanted to separate his functions very clearly.
Regarding the pedagogical part: He answered to all questions of the conductors within their podium time. Many questions came afterwords. The answers of course had to wait until the end of the colleagues´ podium times.
Then: the way how this participant is writting about a tired orchestra, about the prizes, even about the criteria of the jury is also very problematic. He mixes up numbers of competitors with numbers of masterclass participants and orchestra sessions. Why? The two orchestras have played in 8 sessions for the masterclass participants.
“overworked and exhausted orchestra that has been playing 7 full days with 59 different conductors” is rubbish.
In the competition the Radio Symphony Orchestra was engaged in two sessions, the string orchestra in one session.
And again strangely shown: “By then it was Wednesday. I was then informed that my 30 minutes with the radio orchestra would be until next Monday… 4 long days in Bucharest, 35 degrees celsius.”
Wednesday was the first competition day, no course, no announcement. On Thursday I was able to forward the information of an extra session with the Radio Symphony Orchestra for Monday afternoon. Coming for a mastercourse means to stay for the entire period following the course even when it is not your turn to conduct or to play. 35 degrees? Imagine that the orchestra was rehearsing in a hall and not outside.
Further there is a very big mistake which he wrote regarding the prizes: on the site was very clearly announced: “the 1rst prize is an engagement in the final concert of the next edition of the festival” (never this year). The final of the competition was not more or less than the final concert of the festival 2011.
Then there are again wrong presumptions regarding the money prizes. The jury decided to summarize the money prizes of the 2nd and 3rd prize for the 3 awarded finalists. As announced on the site, all finalists also did receive 150€ for travel costs.
In order to correct further comments:
– for the final decision the jury summed up the impressions of all rounds. The jury assessed the concrete work on technical skills, compository styles and their differences, esthetic messages and their ways of expression has still to be well structurated and implemented.
– everybody did get the same podium time.
– the “why” questions have been answerd to the finalists and of course because of discretion not to the audience.
– the special prize of the jury was awarded as encouragement to one semifinalist.
– since the audience of the opened rounds changed, it was not possible anymore to speak about an audience prize.
– the accomodation in the shared rooms (4-6 bed not 6 conductors!) was from the very beginnig announced on the site. Everybody could decide to make the reservation over there (the costs were 5€ bed&breakfast per day). Nobody was forced. I did several times remember about the status quo in my correspondance with the participants.
– the fees of similar events (very often with semi-professional orchestras) are much higher.
The main reason for me to organize this event was to inspire, encourage, support talented musicians. And I want to offer an exchange of artistic ideas based on the deeper truth of arts that we all should cultivate and promote.
The sense of the masterclass was from the very beginning to offer especially to young conductors a possibility of working with their intrument, as most of them finish their studies without practicing with a professional orchestra. Instrumentalists much more have the opportunity to play or practice on a very good instrument or to play in a renowned concert hall.
Even though we have had only 4 editions of these masterclasses, we got feedback from several participants who won competitions or post graduated study places because of working and playing at this Festival.
The competition especially is helping to achieve more psycological experience for the profession you´ve choosen. Increasing self-confidence allways will improve the career.
I hope I can rectify the misplaced statements.
By the way, I´m a romanian born and my team is working at this festival without getting any honoraries.

 

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  • Dear Norman,

    Just a few days after the publication of the post “A competition for conductors to avoid”, I have the impression that the consequence has been positive. I guess one very important goal of a blog is to stimulate debate over certain issues and let the readers come to their own conclusions.

    As the author of the original text, hereby I would like to out clarify a couple of things contained in Mrs. Chifane’s letter:

    RCW “I can´t accept when disgusting lies are part of a subjective report posted anonymously.”

    RBZ
    There is not one single lie in the text, all the facts are stated as they occurred and further corroborated with other course members. It would be interesting to know what exactly of the text is what Mrs. Chifane considers a lie.
    ——
    RCW “The reason why we decided to accept more competitors (over the number of 36, which had been achieved long before the application deadline) was to give a chance, since many of them didn´t have the possibility to make a competition before.”

    RBZ
    As stated in the website, only 36 conductors would be allowed in the competition. In my opinion, It is hard to understand how a competition that pretends to have a minimum of quality and structure can suddenly allow almost twice the number of contestants with the argument of “to give a chance” and without notifying it to all participants. What are the rules for? What are then the criteria that rule the selection process?
    ——
    RCW “If the author of the report has been thinking it would help to have a better chance in the competition by coming to the masterclass, this was really his interpretation and finally it was his decision to join both events.”

    RBZ
    it seems that Mrs. Chifane did not read properly the original text. This is what I wrote:
    “Turns out that some of our colleagues who wanted to join exclusively the competition (at €150) were told by the Director of the festival: “Your chances of getting allowed into the competition are much bigger if you also join (and pay) for the master course”… Unbelievable.”


    RCW “Regarding the pedagogical part: He answered to all questions of the conductors within their podium time. Many questions came afterwords. The answers of course had to wait until the end of the colleagues´ podium times.”

    RBZ
    One student, totally frustrated decided to leave the podium though his time was not over. This happened in the first day of the course in front of at least 20 course participants. I guess Mr. Doerner should clarify himself this episode.


    RCW” He mixes up numbers of competitors with numbers of masterclass participants and orchestra sessions. Why? The two orchestras have played in 8 sessions for the masterclass participants.
    “overworked and exhausted orchestra that has been playing 7 full days with 59 different conductors” is rubbish. In the competition the Radio Symphony Orchestra was engaged in two sessions, the string orchestra in one session.”

    RBZ
    Indeed, my calculation was not correct. Hereby the corrected numbers:
    8 sessions for the masterclass. Out of those 8 sessions, 3 were done by the Royal Chamber Orchestra and the other 5 by the Radio Orchestra (what Mrs. Chifane calls “the string orchestra” is the Radio Orchestra itself). So, the Radio Orchestra participated in 5 mastercourse sessions, plus 4 more sessions for the competition, which makes a total of 9 4hr sessions for the Radio Orchestra alone all in four days with multiple conductors. In my opinion, the most elemental artistic planning could have anticipated the fact that the last two or three sessions of the orchestra would not be very productive. It seems that Mrs. Chifane missed several comments from the orchestra itself concerning the fact that they felt overworked.


    Till here, my response one by one to what I consider the most relevant things to clarify. The rest of the letter sent by Mrs. Chifane is in my opinion confusing and unclear, therefore impossible to discuss.
    Further, I find it a pitty to see that the main subject of my letter, namely the artistic quality of the master course and the podium time, are hardly mentioned in her letter.

    To finish my reply in a constructive way, I would like to add the following:
    Perhaps Mrs. Chifane did organize the course and competition with the best intentions; however, this does not justify the fact that the course’s quality was poor, the course’s organization deficient and the competition’s procedures at least faulty and unclear if not dishonest. The last mention to the fact that the course-competition team works without honoraries seems more like an excuse to their flaws than a relevant fact.

    With my best intentions, for any course-competition organizer I would suggest the following minimum things to take in account:

    1.- No matter what the price is, be clear on the specific amount of conducting time the participants will
    get.
    2.- Take in account the amount of hours the orchestra will have to work. An overworked, irritated and un-polite orchestra is a useless instrument to teach conducting. They have to be willing to be part of the learning process.
    3.- Of course, a good conducting teacher is indispensable.
    4.- If you set rules for a competition, stick to them.
    5.- Establish and make public a clear criteria and voting process for the jury.

    Of course, I could suggest hundreds of things more; I guess other young conductors reading this blog can add to this list. I am looking forward to read opinions on how conductor competitions and courses could improve and re-gain credibility.

    Thanks a lot Norman for the space to discuss this issue.
    Best regards,

    Roberto

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