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.
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.