An orchestra wears ribbons to reject its conductor

An orchestra wears ribbons to reject its conductor


norman lebrecht

October 26, 2014

These are musicians of the symphony orchestra of Seville.

They are wearing green ribbons to signify their rejection of the conductor Pedro Halffter, whose tenure was renewed by the political authorities against their expressed opinion.

But Halffter, who has led Seville for 10 years, has the political machine sewn up. He wins. The musicians lose.

All they can do is wear ribbons.

pedro halffter2


  • Max Grimm says:

    With all this news about lockouts, music directors being appointed or fired against the will of the musicians who will have to, respectively want to work with them, there really is something to be said for self-governing orchestras in the style of the Berlin Philharmonic or the Vienna Philharmonic. It would be interesting to see an orchestra that only allows its musician-members to hold any administrative and managerial positions.

  • Andrew says:

    It’s hard to understand what is so hard for administrators and other bureaucrats to grasp about an orchestra being it’s musicians and those musicians being central to any artistic decision.
    If this is so objectionable, why have an orchestra at all?

  • Dave T says:

    Gosh, what a great and inspirational idea! Monday morning I’m marching into the office with a green ribbon on my lapel, too. Ya see, I don’t much care for my boss either and besides, nobody asked me if it was OK to hire him neitha.

    Of course if you don’t see any more comments from me from Tuesday, on, it means I had to hock my computer cuz I got canned.

  • Edgar Brenninkmeyer says:

    I suggest the musicians pull a Haydn Abschiedssinfonie- style action: leaving the stage one by one… leaving the conductor alone.

  • Guillermo says:

    Halffter is not the new Artistic Director, there is nothing in the press nor in the official website of the orchestra or theatre to support that fact. The politicians could not agree to appoint an AD, as more than one reader has stated and which has been published in more than one newspaper

    What the musicians were protesting about was the fact that they don’t want Halffter in the future, they want a new future without him and they want the process to finally end so the planning of future seasons can begin. All of Seville knows Halffter is the reason why a new conductor has not been appointed because he continues to get politicians to block it even though he knows his own future is bleak.

    That is different to claiming he is the new AD and I would kindly urge Mr Lebrecht to correct his article. thank you.

  • Musician of the ROSS says:

    The green ribbon represents hope for a change for the ROSS. Pedro Halffter still has not been officially appointed as our conductor. The decision should have been made by the 31st august this year but the politicians are still fighting amongst themselves (without listening to the musicians point of view – over 90% would like a change) about who should be in the position : Pedro Halffter who has already worked with us for 10 years or someone new and different.

  • Musician of the ROSS says:

    Please see the musicians blog for updates :

  • Dave Assemany says:

    Dave T: The conductor is not the musician’s boss. Your analogy does not work.

  • Jaime Herrera says:

    It is somewhat obvious that these musicians know little about politics. What they need to do is give the politicians enough reason (pretext) to fire Maestro Hallfter. The politicians are trying hard not to be the bad guy. Study the case in Philadelphia regarding Christoph Eschenbach. Maybe that will help. Of course, Maestro Hallfter cannot be let go without fair compensation. That is another bridge to be crossed. It’s not rocket science.

    • MWnyc says:

      Eschenbach in Philadelphia is not a valid analogue. The Philadelphia Orchestra is a private institution and Eschenbach was not a government employee, so politicians had no say in his continued employment.

  • Charles L. says:

    Such a valid comment — I’ve been wondering quite a bit lately about this, too. I think that some boards and administrations lose sight of the idea that the orchestra IS the orchestra. The musicians become commoditized and replaceable in their eyes. My suspicion is that the problem stems from a lack of contact between parties. The board and administration spend a lot of time face-to-face with the conductor, and learn his or her point of view. But the musicians rarely have any significant face time with the board and administration, and therefore they don’t understand each other. Soon the musicians are forgotten or ignored in the planning process, and the brand becomes the orchestra.

    It reminds me of Jerry Seinfeld’s bit about athletic teams. “You’re actually rooting for the clothes.”

  • Theodore McGuiver says:

    I’d be happy to encourage a continuation of SDReader’s request on this thread: Just why is Pedro Halffter meant to be so bad? After all, he’s good-looking and owns a baton, so what could possibly go wrong? Lacking the old site’s ‘Most Recent Comments’ feature, few people will now refer to previous threads on this subject, so it behoves us to keep the debate up-to-date.

  • Don Quixote says:

    To McGuiver: I tend to side with you. OK, let me be the one here to suggest that the Emperor has no clothes, but inverting the analogy. Is there really something that bad
    about Halffter’s conducting or is it that people just don’t like him and how he aquired his position and are seeing what they choose to see in him as a conductor?

    Every conductor, every musician, has flaws or points which can be held up for criticism.
    If you look for them they are there. I’ve worked with Halffter and I can tell you that there are far worse.

    I also have tried to understand specifically what the ROSS musicians are objecting to about his conducting. I remember 2 or 3 yrs. ago the musicians made some kind of official complaint about Halffter which ended up in the news. They tried to cite actual
    musical problems with the guy, but they all sounded pretty lame to me. Business as usual with most conductors on the circuit at that level.

    The ROSS musicians have valid complaints about him – good grief, who wants a music director who earns 3 times the Prez of Andalucia while you and your colleagues are having pay cuts? Nobody wants a political appointee either. He’s kind of a boring person. He’s absent a lot from Sevilla. He feels entitled. He’s really rich and privileged. Probably arrogant as hell. But why not call a spade a spade and just say you don’t like the guy instead of trying to slam his conducting? With all due respect – and please correct me with details about what he does that’s so wrong as a conductor – I really don’t think his conducting is the issue here.

    It’s a very Spanish tendency to jump on the bandwagon saying “horible, horible” at every little flaw. I think this is actually a way of feeling superior, which is a high priority in this culture. And once someone does it, it snowballs, like the Spanish Inquisition. If you don’t say “he’s a bad conductor” too people might suspect you of being a bad musician. But if you join in the “horible” bandwagon you’re one of the crowd, one of the good musicians and people accept you. It’s a gangbang mentality. Valencians are especially good at this.

    In Halffter’s case, it also serves a good purpose – a legit means of trying to end his political stranglehold on the orchestra. But after the smoke clears, no one can actually
    cite anything glaringly wrong with his conducting. This is what a number have people have repeatedly been asking on this blog. No one has answered. Because probably the criticisms of his conducting are like the Emperor’s New Clothes – you see the problems only if you believe they are there.

    I totally side with the ROSS musicians in this situation. They must have a choice. It’s time for a change. Hallfter is not a good fit for ROSS, end of story. But if no one can come forward with any specific heinous acts he’s comitted as a conductor, don’t be doing this
    Spanish Inquisition gangbang shit on him professionally. Just say you don’t like the guy, you want someone else, say who it is and fight for that. It’s an uphill battle no matter how you go, but at least have some integrity.