In Rio, they are still firing musicians

In Rio, they are still firing musicians


norman lebrecht

November 04, 2011

It had gone quiet for a couple of months after the Brazil Symphony Orchestra agreed, in the face of a worldwide boycott, not to replace its players with East European mercenaries. The deal they struck was that senior musicians would join a secondary orchestra, performing community work.

But not everyone bought the deal, and dissenters are being progressively fired. Yesterday, Antonio J Augusto, professor at the federal university and OSB horn player for 23 years, posted the following statement:

Today, November 3, 2011, I was officially fired from OSB after 23 years of an intense and passionate dedication.
The only ones present were me, the Union’s lawyer, the head of HR and her assistant. No thanks, no farewell, no word.
But I publicly thank all that OSB has given to me over the years and would say that I would do all over again with the same dedication and respect that I have always cultivated for this great orchestra.
I hope the orchestra’s “new era” will be worthy to the history and social responsibility that this institution built. After all, they were primarily and essentially built upon love and dedication of its musicians.

Antonio J Augusto

In a personal mail to me, Professor Augusto adds: I was demised because I did not accept to come back to other orchestra than the real OSB. I was sacked from my chair and I understand I should be allowed to come back to it, not to a smaller and “never existing” orchestra. So, in a certain way I pushed my dismissal. Although I have all respect to my colleagues’ decision, for me was impossible to accept this agreement. It is just a position of a silly person who insists on believing in old fashioned things like ideals, humanity and music. 

I have no close knowledge of the specific circumstances, but it appears that the OSB have treated a good musician with disrespect. The orchestra’s management keeps announcing that they want to be world class. First, however, they need to adopt international standards of workplace conduct.


  • Alberto Martinez says:

    I agree about international standards of workplace conduct . The management conduct is very unrespectful with the musicians . The way to make a world class orchestra is not to fire a good musician , just the opposite way

  • Isabel says:

    It’s unbelievable but in Brazil a very colonial idea persists: everything that comes from Europe is essentially better than the national options, no matter how good they are. By the action of replacing the Brazilian musician, OSB once more makes a terrible mistake, confirming that the only way for us to be good is to be as less Brazilian as possible.
    How sad is to live under such old ideals of civilization…

  • Guilherme Fontão says:

    The re-auditions, such as proposed by FOSB were not to evaluate anybody: moved by a mercenary spirit – that haunts it now – its managers simply betted that a lot of musicians would refuse to submit themselves to the farce and, therewith, the true intention would be camouflaged – to fire the recalcitrants and other musicians, even experienced ones, perhaps less wont about a more accurate technique. This statement is based on two facts. First, a test a posteriori never substitutes the everyday evaluations, either during rehearsals or during the concerts. Second, if I’m not wrong, the 2011 OSB season soon to be released, obviously because of the surreptitious intent to dismiss a mass of musicians. The FOSB didn’t proceed with enough dignity in admitting what is denounced now. Nevertheless, no one never can expect honorable conduct from who sees music as a merchandise object, mere instrument to reach social ascension and purulent swelling of the own ego. The FOSB “Company”, in its alleged eagerness for total quality – whether inexorably succumb to the most sordid and unfortunate neoliberal ideology – will transform the orchestra that upholds it into a machine able to produce sounds, perhaps better tuned (in accordance to which tuning system: the sufferable equal temperament?…) and, at most, according to often questionable dynamics (like disparate interpretations all around the world). But the great and true Art will not be achieved, because, besides refined technique, love for music is always required, as well as complicity among musicians (conductor included, of course, with or without spotlights…) and sensitive managers. Without these ingredients the FOSB runs the risk of assuming the contours of a corporation with its characteristic for-profit, transvestite of a surreptitiously philanthropic foundation. It’s regrettable, but one must not lose hope!…