Spanish practices: Conductors are ripped off by Competition

Spanish practices: Conductors are ripped off by Competition


norman lebrecht

July 08, 2014

We have received the following disturbing report from Germán Clavijo, a viola player in one of the London orchestras, who is starting a career as a conductor. 


german clavijo

Germán took part in the II International Conducting Competition in Cordoba last weekend and reports grave irregularities in its procedures. Here is his report. We await a response from the authorities in Cordoba.


The rules of the competition are deliberately ambiguous. Rule 3.2 states that the panel will be formed by the Principal Conductor of the Cordoba Orchestra, the Orchestra as a whole and the Chief Conductor or Artistic Director of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Sevilla, Filarmónica de Málaga and Orquesta Ciudad de Granada who wish(?) to take part in the panel. This rule was totally ignored.

Seventeen contenders paid a fee of €750 (£600). The competition did NOT provide a panel last Saturday. Lorenzo Ramos, the principal conductor, was the only person there (apart from the orchestra). At 9am Mr Ramos explained how the competition would proceed. It was a total improvisation. He didn’t say how many votes we needed to get to the 2nd round, nor how many of us would conduct in the morning and how many in the afternoon. Although the 1st round of the competition was supposed to be 6 hours long (with two half hours breaks) Mr Ramos managed to get the job done in 3 hours and 45 minutes.


It was up to him to decide how long any person would conduct. There was no Jury, only Mr Ramos, no single member of any other Andalusian orchestra, nobody at all!  I personally could only run one of the two Overtures (less than 8′) and independently of how good or bad I might be,  there was clearly time -around 17′- for every participant to conduct both pieces (Forza del Destino by Verdi and Zigeunerbaron by Strauss).

In the afternoon session not a single person from the administration was there to supervise. One of the contenders protested in the morning after not been allowed to finish even one overtures and guess what! He was invited to come back in the afternoon and conduct the other piece. 

Although the competition took place in the Conservatoire of Cordoba, all the rooms where locked and no one had a room to practice, rest, concentrate. I am sure Fellini would have liked it as an idea for one of his surreal films. I felt robbed and humiliated by the lack of protocol and seriousness.

This abuse should not be tolerated, particularly serious in a public funded institution. This is not revanche because I didn’t get through the 2nd round, this is just not wanting any of my colleagues to have to go through this mediocre and dishonest process.

In any serious competition, all contestants should have the same time in front of the orchestra in order to be fairly evaluated. I paid seven hundred and fifty Euros to conduct 7 minutes, I still can’t believe it!

I have sent a formal complaint to the GM of the orchestra, and to the city Hall and to the Regional Government to record such irregularities, from which I haven’t received  any answer yet. Note that this orchestra in completely subsidised with Public funds.

I hope someone takes this claims seriously. Meanwhile let’s be brave and denounce this kind of situation. I will fight for an apology, the cancellation of the competition and the refund of the fees.


UPDATE: The orchestra’s defence can be read here.


  • Mark Mortimer says:

    Sounds appalling German- I’m so sorry.

    An international competition should have at least 3 judges to avoid bias and gain consensus. Just one is ridiculous.

    One wonders- if you had reached the later stages- what the slim benefits of this competition would offer. Sounds like it might have involved a chance to conduct an overture with The Orchestra of Cordoba to be stopped half-way through!

    Clearly not worth it- you should ask for your 600 Euro back.

    • German Clavijo says:

      Many thanks for your support! Luckly there are spaces like this one to let people know about this really doggy behaviours.
      Best wishes

  • May says:

    I wish conductors would simply boycott unserious competitions like this where there is an exorbitant entry fee. It doesn’t matter if it’s Spain or Romania: competitions like this only serve to make a few quid for the organizers.

  • sdReader says:

    He should put his wasted £600 behind him, get on the next plane for London, and participate only in properly organized competitions in future. Those Andalusian authorities will never get back to him.

    He could also form his own string orchestra with friends, say 20 players, put a business plan together, get minimal funding, line up some tour dates (say in China or Abu Dhabi), and prove he can conduct.

    • Greg Hlatky says:

      “If no one is going to give you an orchestra, you have to go out and make one.” – Thor Johnson

    • German Clavijo says:

      Thanks for your comments Sdreader. I have already formed my orchestra in London with many of the best students in London. It is called ALEPH Chamber Orchestra and we have great future plans!
      Best wishes and thanks again!

  • German Clavijo says:

    Thanks for your comments Sdreader. I have already formed my orchestra in London with many of the best students in London. It is called ALEPH Chamber Orchestra and we have great future plans!
    Best wishes and thanks again!


  • Doug says:

    Don’t fret too much, Germán. Once you get your first job and enter “The Club” you can proceed to run your own little Fiefdom and make your contribution towards running classical music into the ground, like all the other conductors.

    • German Clavijo says:

      I really don’t get your point. I am only trying to avoid these irregularities to happen again.

  • Anon says:

    Is Lorenzo Ramos related to the conductor Gloria Isabel Ramos Triano who preceded him as music director of Cordoba?

  • Vittorio Parisi says:

    As a matter of facts something went wrong in this competition. The final result could be the same (having not watched the competition I cannot have idea of this) but the way a jury is formed and works it is very important anyway. I have followed also the comments in Spanish and if it is really possible to understand that a young conductor is not enough good in a very short time it is also a form of respect for him and his financial and mental effort to give him enough time to be properly judged. Teaching conducting from almost 20 years in the Milano’s Conservatorio I also perfectly know that in an exam or a competition a conductor could need time to show his or her ability. A friend of mine told me recently about a conducting competition: “I feel sad I cannot give them a second chance”. Of cours this is not possible but a good form and way of respect can be found anyway, may be simply respecting the rules. Another point I care of: in this last year we could follow the Cadaques and Svetlanov competitions on streaming. Both competitions showed problems of selection. In Cadaques the young conductors coming from the preselection with orchestra were better than most of the conductors selected directly from CV. The Svetlanov had not a winner (and I agree with the result) but they selected 20 conductors by CV , video and else and I refuse to believe that from 520 applicants nobody could win this so important comptition. This should be matter of consideration and debate also.