Ethnic cleansing continues as Malaysia sacks two more foreign players

Ethnic cleansing continues as Malaysia sacks two more foreign players


norman lebrecht

December 17, 2013

In addition to the nine foreigners dismissed amid uproar almost two years ago, we understand that the Malaysian Philharmonic has recently terminated two more stalwarts:

Daniella Rodnite, principal 2nd violin, founding player since 1998, was sacked, ostensibly for giving private violin lessons to young people.

daniella rodnite

Zhenghong Jin, principal viola, in the orchestra since 2002, was sacked for giving at a charity concert in China during a week that he wasn’t required onstage with MPO.

The MPO is courting Milwaukee’s Edo de Waart to be its next music director. He would be wise to avoid the troubled band. The MPO us under an international musicians’ boycott.


  • Stewie says:

    One of them sacked for giving private lessons. Just speaks how ****ed up MPO management is when the orchestra is responsible for raising standards of Malaysian classical music scene. Apparently Malaysians now have to be members under Encounter flagship orchestras; Malaysian Philharmonic Youth and Encounter Training Ensemble to have lessons with players when it was used to be open to public. Since inception, still only 5% members until now are local bred musicians. In South East Asia the fact is standard of Malaysian musicians are bottom of food chain compared with Vietnamese, Thailand, Indonesian and Singaporean musicians. Shame on such bloody collosal waste of money and talent!

    • Ridiculous Comments says:

      “In South East Asia the fact is standard of Malaysian musicians are bottom of food chain compared with Vietnamese, Thailand, Indonesian and Singaporean musicians. Shame on such bloody collosal waste of money and talent!”

      And who are you to judge that Malaysians music standards are low? What proof do you have of such a claim?

  • Stereo says:

    They will probably employ Michael Henson as CEO when he gets the sack from Minnesota

    • R. Aina says:

      No way. The CEO gotta be a Malaysian from Petronas staff. Only requirement : zero experience in the music industry!

  • insiderMPO says:

    The cases of the 9 players terminated mid 2012 (non-renewal of their contracts without any reason given) and the 2 players now could not be more different.

    Mrs. Rodnite’s resume showed up on the website of an international school in Kuala Lumpur, a listing of teachers, she even got a personalized email address at the school server.

    Having secondary jobs might be ok in the rest of the world but in Malaysia it is a clear breach of contract with the MPO and beside this a violation of immigration rules. Greed eats brain.

    Mr Jin Zhenghong apparently took leave to get treatment for his medical problems in China (there is no such thing like “not required on stage” in MPO. You are always on call and expected to show up for work or even meetings on short notice unless you are on official leave) .

    Short time after a clip surfaced on youtube , showing him doing a quartet gig during this period. I don’t think any management in the world would take this kind of thing kindly.

    Both musicians above belonged to the inner circle of Maestro Flor, heavily involved in the events of 2010, leading to Flor’s controversial renewal as MD and the dismissal of the above mentioned 9 musicians.

    Now, after the non-renewal of Maestro Flor as music director their “untouchable” status obviously expired.

    Considering the fact that for instance Maestro Flor promoted Mr. Jin Zhenghong from tutti viola to principal in two steps, both times without the consent of the section or the orchestra, its little surprise that there are no tears shed about his sacking.

    For the sake of the orchestra you only can hope that management will take action against the rest of the Flor mafia , undoing his corrupt promotions and re-assessing the players he brought in without valid audition procedure against the will of the orchestra.

    No question, whoever will be the future music director of the MPO will face a very difficult situation.

    It’s an orchestra with about 40 vacancies, a terrible international reputation recently and working for a malicious and musician-hostile management which in the last few years showed only interest in scaling down.

    Recent pay cuts combined with zero job security won’t make it easy to find good and experienced international players.

    • another orchestra musician says:

      Unquestionably, the people tasked with running the MPO deserve brickbats for their sometimes inconsistent and frequently myopic administrative decisions. At times they have fairly outdone themselves scoring own-goals. But not all the MPO’s woes owe to poor leadership. The musicians, too, are sometimes at fault. And the breach of contract cited in the cases of Ms. Rodnite and Mr. Jin could legitimately have been cited in the cases of at least a few of the musicians dismissed in mid-2012.

      Credit is due InsiderMPO for setting the record straight on this most recent event.

    • sdReader says:

      An interesting and helpful post! You do show that Malaysia is an unusual place with odd work rules.

    • anonymusician says:

      Completely agree. Expats in a foreign country -not just Malaysia- are usually dependent on the work visa provided by the company, which stipulates that any work for an employer other than that stated on the visa is against immigration law, naturally. For this, these recent sackings are fundamentally different to the previous nine – far from ethnic cleansing, we see an employer following through with terms of their employee’s contract.

      However, I do not believe that Ms Rodnite deserves to be singled out and her profile photo pasted for all to see, as a result of an ill-informed article. She may have made a bad decision but should this be broadcast to the international community in this fashion? She should be allowed some dignity and her photo removed.

  • Barbara says:

    Ethnic cleansing is usually used when groups are being killed because of their ethnicity. I know that strictly speaking your headline is correct re the orchestra but a different phrase might have been better?

  • Anonymous says:

    This is a completely different situation.In this situation these players missed rehearsals and/or concerts to take other work. Calling in sick when principal of a section and going elsewhere to teach is not professional. No one in the orchestra was surprised by this outcome. However, Norman, you have a small but extremely vocal minority of people who continue to feed you information to fit a narrative that doesn’t exist.

    I implore you, Norman–please verify your information before you purport to speak on anyone’s behalf.

  • Luciano says:

    If there’s anyone who can sort out an orchestra like the MPO, it’s Edo de Waart.

    • disillusioned says:

      With highest respect for Maestro de Waart … the problems are far more fundamental than something any new MD could magically fix. It’s certainly excellent that Maestro de Waart, unlike Maestro Flor, can actually tune a chord but the main problems are not in the orchestra (if it still fits the description at all with that insane amount of vacancies and substitutes playing every week, it’s more like a pickup band) .

      Sadly politics changed a lot and the main question is if Petronas still wants to sustain a world class Philharmonic Orchestra and is willing to keep the amount of money flowing needed to keep an international top level?

      Only Petronas can ‘fix’ the MPO. If they want… What I doubt…

      The what-to-do list is not too long or complicated:

      Undo the disastrous mistakes of the last 3-4 years.

      Offer fair, reasonable contracts again, with salaries high enough to attract top players internationally.

      More than that: Offer secure long term jobs for foreigners! (permanent resident status for seasoned players would be a good incentive.)

      Reinstate the key players fired under Flor.

      (His time as MD…What a disaster for the international reputation, the quality and the employee morale of the orchestra.)

      Send a message to the rest of the world that you are willing and capable to be a respected member of the international orchestra- and musician’s community once again.

      Can not lah?

      That’s what I thought.