Orchestra cancels concert for lack of one musician

Orchestra cancels concert for lack of one musician


norman lebrecht

October 20, 2013

It’s a familiar scenario.A player is taken ill just before a concert. An announcement is made to the audience while upstairs everyone hits the phones to call in a substitute. After an hour or so, the concert commences.

Not in the Malaysian Philharmonic. The orchestra has been so depleted by unfair dismissals of European and American players that, when one of its players fell sick on his way to a Claus Peter Flor concert, no substitute of equal standard was to be found in the entire country. We have not yet been informed which instrument was vacan.

We warned that Malaysia was on the verge of becoming a sick musical joke. Here’s the proof.

The audience, by the way, were not offered full refund for the cancelled event, just free tickets for the next concert.




  • Howard says:

    Wait a minute… who decided that “no substitute of equal standard was to be found in the entire country”? What instrument did the missing musician play?

  • Lim says:

    Every single one makes sense.

    the equal standard player can be found but the previous rehearsal can not be experienced.


  • Offended Malaysian says:

    I think some rewording is needed here. Are european and americans the only people capable in classical music?

  • Bryan says:


  • NSP says:

    Let me assure you that they are subs in the country of equal standard, the problem is they are always made to feel inferior by some…

  • Brian says:

    2nd trombone. Legitimate illness – collapsed on the train in. could be serious. But – yes – you’re correct. It’s a disgrace to cancel due to the orchestra’s inability to keep serious musicians here. BTW it was for Dvorak New World Symphony. A piece Flor has programmed over, and over, and over… and toured…. and will tour again to Vietnam , and re-programmed in place of Rachmaninoff Symphonic Dances the week previous Directory, Kees Bekels was unceremoniously kicked out. (Can he conduct anything else? or even that piece? (read the Japanese reviews comparing it to a “youth-orchestra performance”) )

  • YL says:

    I second Howard’s motion. Whoever made the decision most likely also felt that the audience in Malaysia knows nothing about music and they wouldn’t mind attending other concerts for the sake of proving their status.

  • Dottie says:

    The day when this whole story is finally told can’t come soon enough….

  • Musician says:

    The 1st half was Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony and the orchestra only found out in the interval that the 2nd trombone for Dvorak 9 had collapsed and had been taken to hospital.

    Today’s concert was performed in full using a substitute 2nd trombone from within the country.

    The audience received an apology from the general manager and the offer to exchange their tickets for any future concert in the 13/14 season.

    Honestly Norman, with such little information in your possession, is it really necessary to publish such a dramatic post?

    • Anonymous says:

      “Print first, retract later”

    • Malcolm James says:

      More accurately there was presumably no-one of a suitable standard;

      1. who was available at pretty well no notice; and/or

      2. lived close enough to KL to make it in time to give the New World without an unconscionably long wait.

      Also pretty all the players listed in the wind and brass of the MPO are Westerners, whereas there are a number of Maslaysians in the strings. I would imagine that Eurpean and American trombomists do not move to Malaysia unless they are playing for the MPO and it would appear that the Malaysians tend to play string instruments. I don’t know who the replacement was for the following day, but they could have been flown in from Singapore or evewn HK.

  • A. Penner says:

    “We warned that Malaysia was on the verge of becoming a sick musical joke. Here’s the proof.”

    Who’s “we,” and how is it “a sick musical joke?” It’s their orchestra, they can do what they want. If you don’t agree with their practices and policies, don’t attend.

  • MPOinside says:

    And the sad story continues. With ca 40 vacancies and plenty of “subs” for each concert it was only a matter of time until such a thing had to happen.

    Not the whole concert was canceled but only Dvorak 9 and the sick leave happened in one of the sections affected by recent dismissals

  • Una says:

    What a disgrace! It wasn’t the triangle player, was it ? 🙂

  • Lawrence says:

    I’m not sure whether it is true they couldn’t get an equal standard trombonist in the entire country, but even if there was, how could people make it last minute? Maybe not free at that moment?

  • Clare says:

    Trombone 2 player

  • Anonymous says:

    There are many attempts to make this issue larger than it is. The MPO currently carries three trombone, the same number as NY Phil, Pittsburgh, Houston, Boston, etc. Trying to connect this Dvorak cancellation to past events is simply inaccurate.

    Those of us in the orchestra had great concern for our friend and colleague as he was in the hospital Saturday evening. It is unfair that this posting has already circulated so widely here and on FaceBook. This article is a cheap shot at us, and I wish Mr Lebrecht had gathered more facts before writing this up.

  • Audience says:

    More rumours for our fellow readers out there, can someone verify this? – A Malaysian trombone player who has substituted in the MPO more than a dozen times was called for the job (it was extremely last minute on the 1st day so no one could have made it, but why… cancel????). So this Malaysian was prep to play in the 2nd day. *drum roll* Mr. Flor requests for an AUDITION. The Malaysian was so offended he pulled out. A 2nd Malaysian was called and he agreed to an audition hours before the concert on Sunday and Mr. Director decided at the last minute to not audition him but instead to let the trombone section make the decision (the trombone section was not aware that this man was asked to play, a decision that they did not agree with when informed by the management earlier). They held the decision until the end of the 1st movement of the Mendelssohn. The rest is history…

    • Malaysian says:

      I know who the Malaysian trombonist. Too bad his ego is too big for him to accept audition for the job when other Msian musicians would kill for the chance.

      • Audience says:

        But why does he have to audition??

        1. He HAS auditioned a dozen times, is in the list of substitutes and have worked a dozen times with the orchestra for the past ten years.

        2. The orchestra is desperate for the concert to go on. Obviously, the director would not carry on the concert without a 2nd trombone (would any other orchestras in the world do that by the way? although i understand that artistic intergrity is important, but… really? is there so much money to throw away? i guess in this case it is a yes….), so the management would be in pressure to get someone to play in any case…

        3. And it is literally hours before the concert. Is it normal procedure to inform a substitute candidate about an audition a day/hours before a concert? For people coming in to audition for a position, this is perfectly normal… but in this case?

        4. Would any other professional accept an audition at such last minute? Does this mean that if someone is called from a foreign country and orchestra this person would also be subjected to an audition hours before the concert?

        It is not so much the cancellation of the concert that bothers me but how Malaysian musicians are treated in this context. I received another tip off yesterday saying that the 2nd Malaysian trombone player (who is generally viewed as being a student by members of the orchestra) who accepted the audition and played the concert, was thoroughly humiliated by some anonymous member of the orchestra for being “unprepared”. Of course, the rest of the orchestra was extremely thankful that he played, which is totally understandable, because…

        What is more important?

        1. The artistic integrity of the orchestra which was compromised because there was one student member??? (who agreed to be abused by the odds and travelled in from another rehearsal in the morning to be auditioned and helped make the the concert happen.)

        2. Or that the concert went on? (because there was a student who despite the odds and knowing that there was arrogance surrounding the orchestra took the job anyways)

  • Malcolm says:

    Stunningly beautiful concert hall…I hope the acoustics are as nice as nice as the hall looks