Spanish practices: Maestro is reappointed over musicians’ opposition

Spanish practices: Maestro is reappointed over musicians’ opposition


norman lebrecht

October 08, 2014

Pedro Halffter has been reappointed in Sevilla.

Despite a fierce campaign by the musicians and their union, the well-connected Halffter has got to keep his job. He will resume as music director of Real Orquesta de Sevilla and Teatro Maestranza at an eye-watering salary.

Report here.

halffter pedro


  • Simon S. says:

    Actually, the report linked to does not say he has already been reappointed, but that the press conference to announce the new artistic director which had been scheduled for today has been cancelled.

    However, as sources consulted by the paper indicate, Halffter remains the front runner among the candidates. Apparently, no agreement has been reached in the meeting this morning. Halffter is said to be supported by the ministry of culture and by the city administration (both in the hands of the same party) and faces strong opposition by the regional government of Andalusia and by the orch’s works council. The favourite candidates of the latter are John Axelrod, György Rath and Marc Soustrot.

  • Micaela says:

    Actually, it WAS announced that Halffter had been reappointed. Here it is:

    The same publication corrected itself shortly after Norman’s post to explain the following:

    Looks like Codalario was either misinformed or misinterpreted the press release quoted in Norman’s post.

  • sdReader says:

    Pedro Halffter is excellent. His Strauss in Munich, at the moment, soars above the efforts of Kent Nagano in the same music (Die schweigsame Frau) four years ago and actually makes the score sound fuller and more dramatic than it really is. To be honest, it is hard to imagine why an artist of Halffter’s caliber wants to be in Sevilla, other than on vacation.

    • Gargamel says:

      Ok. I give you P.H. for free if you want him. He is a really disaster as a conductor. Ask people who work with him everyday. Maybe for some kind of composers his ideas works well but not for the operatic or classical music where he has a very poor conducting. I write you from the true knowledge about him

    • Judy says:

      He’s better than Kent Nagano? That’s a pretty low bar.

  • Anonymous says:

    Here’s the latest from El Pais, a reputable news source:

    It looks like Codalario, an online source contradicted themselves earlier today, 1st saying Halffter was appointed and then denying it when contacted by musicians’ reps.

    The reason probably being that the deciding parties have reached a seemingly insurmountable deadlock. By default, Halffter may indeed continue.

    It’s a highly charged political situation. The musicians, together with their union, have fought tooth and nail for Halffter’s dismissal. This is a Music Director who they proved earns at least 3 times as much as the President of Andalucia. Meanwhile, Sevilla’s musicians have taken repeated pay cuts.

    The Junta of Andalucia sides with the musicians and supports the American candidate John Axelrod. The Ayuntamiento of Sevilla, the local government, wants Halffter to continue. Both parties support the orchestra financially and coincidentally, represent opposing political parties: the Junta, PSOE, the Ayuntamiento the PP.

    Throw into this mix Ignacio Wert, Spain’s Minister of Culture, who also has a vote, and who is an ardent supporter of Pedro Halffter and presumably affiliated with the powerful Hallfter dynasty.

    A condition that all parties apparently agreed on previously was that the decision of the new Music Director for Sevilla and the Maestranza had to be unanimous. They are hopelessly divided with no resolution in sight, and for this reason the news source “Correo de Andalucia” predicted that Halffter was positioned to win by default.

    They could be right. A most unfortunate situation for the musicians of the orchestra. . .

    • sdReader says:

      “Ignacio Wert, Spain’s Minister of Culture, … is an ardent supporter of Pedro Halffter and presumably affiliated with the powerful Hallfter dynasty.”

      1. What is this powerful Halffter dynasty?

      2. Why can Wert’s affiliation be presumed?

  • Roberto says:

    In Seville most of the key players have conveniently kept quiet as to what has really happened. All six candidates needed to present a project for the next four years and a commission was set up to value and determine which was the best project. They would then present a report and the best candidate so they could then recommend to the authorities who was the winner of the “competition”. The same commission included a musician from the orchestra that acted as the orchestra’s representative. All of Seville knows that the winner of this competition was Chichon. It was a done deal already in late July, but since nothing happens in Spain in August as soon as Halffter saw he was out he spent the summer knocking Chichon’s project down through his contacts, press and what have you. The orchestra knows that Chichon was the winner but they don’t want to appear to be biased to one candidate until he is pronounced, at least not yet, depending who is finally appointed. The scandal will come if Chichon is not named Artistic Director – because this was a state public competition with clear rules and only one person met the requirements of that competition. Mark my words.

    • sdReader says:

      Karel Mark Chichon OBE, born 1971 in London to parents from Gibraltar, will be the Real Orquesta Sinfónica de Sevilla’s new Director Artístico, or else scandal, marking your words.

  • Roberto says:

    To SD reader – if Pedro Halffter is an excellent conductor then the music world has lost its head. Why don’t you ask any of the many English-speaking American and British musicians in the Seville Orchestra how excellent Halffter is, I am sure they would fill you in. In fact why don’t you ask the long list of orchestras who he has debuted thanks to Daddy, Mummy but was never been re-invited to so you can receive the same opinion. Just because it worked in Munich with an excellent orchestra does not make him an excellent conductor. And the reason why he remains in Seville is because nobody else wants him.

    • sdReader says:

      What does “thanks to Daddy, Mummy” mean exactly? That the “long list of orchestras” invited him on their instructions before waking up to his weaknesses? Hard to believe.

  • Fedro says:

    I am a member of the ROSS. Everyone in Sevilla thought Chichon would be announced yesterday and we would have welcomed it but we are just shocked and very angry that Halffter continues to try and decide our future.

  • David says:

    I am not a musician of the ROSS but I’m a professional musician settled in Seville. In the past few months all the musical institutions of Seville have formed a collective body to support the orchestra and to support the decition of the experts comitee, whoever it might be the winner. None of us want Halffter back. This is not over.

  • Anonymous says:

    Chichon, seriously? When you could have Axelrod? Or any of the others? Each to his own but I thought Chichon ran a pretty tacky press campaign in Sevilla, promoting himself into the job. I would imagine his “project” would be Carmen starring his famous wife. He is SO riding on her coat tails.

    • David says:

      Way better than Halffter riding over Mummy’s and Daddy’s coat tail, indeed!! The only press campaign I, and everyone else in Sevilla, have had to bear with is that infamous and dirty one against Chichon, Pretended to be based based on music-matters but with the only aim of destroying his reputation, as he was the only really dangerous opponent to Halffter. In order to that, he’s been calumniated in several ways, even using his personal tastes and private life, which is most obscene and rather disgusting
      Axelrod: a really good conductor, of course…way better than Halffter too!! (almost everyone in the circuit is), the favorite of the orchestra, but not at any point better than Chichon, specially concerning opera (remember, Sevilla’s competition is looking for managing an Opera theater with a season, not just a Symphony orchestra).
      I have red Chichon’s project for Sevilla and his orchestra. Its just amazing, far more ambitious and complete than an anecdotic (but beautiful!!) “Carmen” with Garanca. It would lift up Sevilla with his orchestra and theater to the top scale of opera theaters. As a professional musician and music lover in Sevilla I just can´t wish other than K. M. Chichon being elected as soon as possible, before all this continues getting rotten, as it is happening…

  • Don Jose says:

    Excellent questions, SD Reader!

    Pedro Halffter’s father is the distinguished Spanish composer Cristobal Halffter, now in his 80’s. Cristobal is the real deal, perhaps Spain’s most important living composer. He’s one of the “Generacion del 51” composers of Spain which includes Luis de Pablo and Anton Garcia Abril. Outstanding group of composers with Halffter at the top of the list. Here’s his bio:

    You can see from the bio above that Pedro is also descended from Rodolfo and Ernesto
    Halffter, both also well-known composers.

    I’m not sure of the details – perhaps a Spanish reader can fill us in – but either thru marriage or government connections or perhaps musical success, the Halffter family has accrued a TREMENDOUS amount of wealth.

    Pedro also married very well. His wife is the daughter of a major Spanish banking or political figure. She is from a very monied, well-connected family as well.

    The connection with Ignacio Wert, Spain’s Minister of Culture has been mentioned a number of times in the press. He holds a vote in the Sevilla proceedings through the
    INAEM (Instituto Nacional de las Artes Escénicas y de la Música) which is run by the Ministry of Culture.

    At the Teatro Real in Madrid last year, Wert held up the appointment of Joan Matabosch
    to replace Gerard Mortier as General Director because he insisted on the appointment
    of Pedro Halffter for that position, much as he’s doing in Sevilla. He has come out in the press quite a few times in the press in favor of Pedro Halffter both in Madrid and Sevilla.

    Powers that be (presumably Wert) also tried to have Pedro Halffter appointed as Music Director of the Orquesta Nacional de Espana 2 yrs. ago. This is probably of Spain’s most prestigious and well-paying music directorship.Fortunately, the musicians of the ONE
    are VERY streetwise politically. They have seen everything and know how to deal with it.
    David Afkham is now their Music Director.

    So, as you can see, political forces are at work behind the promotion of Pedro Halffter’s career. For Wert to be promoting the same candidate in several of the best paying, most prestigious organizations in Spain all in the space of about 3 yrs. indicates to me, at least that he has an affiliation or at least a loyalty to the family, probably to Cristobal, who is also based in Madrid.

    THIS is a very big part of what the Sevilla musicians and their union are protesting. No orchestra in the world wants a political appointee as a music director. The implications are horrendous. I can’t speak to Pedro’s artistic qualifications, but the fact that the Spanish government wants to dictate to the musicians in this situation who will direct them is a throwback to the Franco era.

    • sdReader says:

      Todo muy interesante! Ya veremos.

      • David says:

        Qué chuleta eres, “sdreader”!!!

        • Anonymous says:

          Hi, David, actually it’s a good thing “sd reader” is asking this stuff. There are a lot of English speaking readers who don’t understand the problems with Pedrito. or the political implications of his reappointment. Remember, he did a Fullbright in the USA at Manhattan School and there are probably American readers who he impressed favorably, who like sd, don’t understand why Sevilla doesn’t want Halffter. So sd reader is giving us a chance to air this in English by asking questions and giving his impressions.

          As for Chichon, well, it’s good you like him. But he’s no golden boy. He cancels, he did a bizarre walk-out on his orch. in Latvia and as to his opera skills, I’ve read reviews that call him a “third rate kapellmeister”.

          And then he did that strange self-promotion last spring in the Andalusian press where he held a press conference and announced that he had decided he should replace Halffter. If the whole music world worked that way we’d all be holding press conferences instead of taking auditions. He strikes me as eccentric and opportunistic. But I have never seen him conduct so I cannot judge that.

          However he could be just the right fit for Sevilla. You’re quite right that Garanca’s coat-tails are much better than the family Halffter’s right now in Sevilla. Chichon is clearly competent and if the musicians like him, then AMEN to that choice. But you can’t fault this sd reader for asking questions. As you can see, it’s brought out some very interesting comments!

          • David says:

            Yes, Anonymous!! Sdreader is giving us a good chance to slap Pedrito’s face, at least here on the “virtual space”…no one of us, professional musicians in Sevilla (orchestra players or not) would dare to do it for real, as he could easily use all his influence to ruin careers or even fire ppl from their jobs!

            About Chichon, as you suggested, many ppl here think he could be the right one for Sevilla now..I wish you could just take a look at his project, it’s exciting, imaginative, concerns the whole city and its musical life…exactly the opposite to Halffter ominous decade. And yes, I agree his appearance on press with a dose of auto-promotion might look eccentric and opportunistic but, believe me, everyone in Sevilla knows that Halffter would have been automatically re-appointed without any kind of process or competition, and just the bold and surprising irruption of Chichon forced politicians to organize a “kind of concurrence” , which is demonstrating to be adulterated and unclean, by the way, as we still know nothing about it, except the frustrated trial of re-appointing Halffter, under any circumstance…Let’s see!

        • sdReader says:

          David, this chuleta is still waiting for an answer to his question to you four days ago:

          What, specifically, is wrong with Pedro Halffter — not counting his connections or the generalized animus of orchestra musicians?

          In addition to the Strauss opera already mentioned, I heard solid Halffter concerts at the Auditorio Nacional in 2008 and at the Prinzregententheater in 2012. The latter featured the Orquesta Filarmónica de Gran Canaria, in remarkably good form for an ensemble from a little African island. And on Tuesday night this week, I learned that the Bavarian State Orchestra had “no complaints” about Halffter’s debut work with them, which amounts to a rave review.

  • Anonymous says:

    Deja vu. Here’s the article from several month ago when Spain’s Minister of Culture Ignacio Wert held up the appointment of Joan Matabosch to replace Gerard Mortier at Madrid’s Teatro Real because he favored Pedro Halffter for that position. Nearly identical scenario right now in Sevilla.

  • Guillermo says:

    SD Reader – I can reply to you without waiting for David to do so.

    You obviously have no idea how many musicians and people in general Halffter has infuriated over the ten years he has been in Seville. It’s not only his sheer arrogance as a person thinking that because he is an Aristocrat that he can ride roughshod over whoever and whatever as he pleases. It’s also his musical incompetence too.


    Easy – ask any musicians from the ROSS and their answer is the same – the guy has no idea how to rehearse or create a positive atmosphere. He just repeats and repeats passages without explaining to the musicians how to make them better. He has no idea on how to create an atmosphere in a piece of music let alone create an atmosphere where he engages the orchestra to play with him.

    Then he lacks the basic experience and talent to understand that every composer requires a different sound. That’s for conductors on a different level and he is not one of them.You can rattle on all you wish but there is no way that such a high majority in the ROSS want him out unless there is something really wrong with him.

    We all know why he was appointed and if he had been just a little clever Pedrito could still be at the head of the ROSS without any major complaints from the orchestra. But all he has done is ruffle feathers with EVERYBODY other than one member of the press and the so-called Friends association of the orchestra which is handful of individuals with no real weight. There must be a reason 90% of all musical institutions and musicians in Seville want him out, not just the orchestra. AND in Gran Canaria since they know they cannot get rid of him they forced Pedrito to conduct much less regularly even though I think he gets paid the same as if he conducted more concerts, as a concession to the orchestra otherwise he would have to leave. If these are not enough signs then…..

    Sure, it’s possible he made a good debut in the Bavarian State Opera. He probably received one or two rehearsals – the opera is long enough for no major bumps to happen but if you are a conductor you know that a conductor’s worth is measured by the way he undertakes his job in whatever orchestra he holds the position of Chief Conductor. In this respect he fails miserably for the reasons mentioned above.

    From the other side, sure Karel Mark Chichon cancels concerts, sure he can be a difficult guy, but look at the state of the orchestras he has been Chief Conductor of BEFORE he had them and then compare these ensemables after a few years of his tenure. There you will see his worth. And I suggest that before you bark about Axerlod or other conductors like readers have done here you go to one rehearsal with Chichon and you will very quickly understand why Chichon is above all of the candidates in the list. I know because I have seen Chichon rehearse and conduct in person, the same as I have had to endure Halffter too and Axerlod who although better than Halffter is actually on the same line because anybody in the business knows Axerlod brings money to every orchestra he conducts, be it through sponsorship or through his own financial wealth which is considerable. It happened in Lucerne and it’s happening again in Milano – that is how Axerlod works and has his value.

    Chichon is on another level and if you allow me if I have experienced them all and I think it allows me to be in a better position to judge.

    Kind regards