Breaking: Toronto releases orchestra president

Breaking: Toronto releases orchestra president


norman lebrecht

March 30, 2016

Jeff Melanson is gone from the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

Here’s the statement.


jeff melanson eleanor mccain

TORONTO, ONTARIO  — 03/30/16 — The Board of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Jeff Melanson, President & CEO of the TSO, have mutually decided that it is in the best interests of both parties that he resign from his employment with the TSO. The TSO has accepted Mr. Melanson’s resignation effective March 29, 2016.

Richard Phillips, Chair of the Board of Directors of the TSO, thanked Mr. Melanson for the many positive contributions he has made to the TSO. Mr. Melanson has been instrumental in developing a new strategic plan…

The dismissal was swift and sudden. It follows allegations about Melanson’s personal life, claims that arose from his contested second divorce. But there had been indications for some time that Melanson was proving far too colourful for the solid suits on the Toronto board. Here’s where the trouble started.

UPDATE: Swift departure leaves a gaping hole.

UPDATE: The mystery woman.


  • Eddie Mars says:

    Magnificent news! The douchebag has gone.

  • B.K. says:

    The board’s announcement is predictably opaque, but nevertheless this news is 100% good. I think I’ll celebrate by purchasing some tickets.

  • Brian says:

    I admired his effort to stand up to Valentina Lisitsa and her pro-Putin fans last year, though the orchestra botched the P.R. campaign. I wonder if she’ll be invited back now?

    • Eddie Mars says:

      “Stand up to” = “unilaterally welch on a contract with”

      And you “admire” that, do you? You’re as gutless as he is.

      • V.Lind says:

        Can’t agree on this one, Eddie. Her social media remarks were reprehensible, and violated the norms of acceptable behaviour in Canada (although I believe that Calgary — redneck country — had no problem with her). As I wrote on this forum at the time, it was never her views to which I objected — though obviously many do, there usually being two sides in disputes of this sort, and neither usually being angelic — but her mode of expression. Because of her vulgarity and racist vitriol, I think her position was severely compromised, and she seems to have taken a truculent posture since that has not done much to endear her to civilised people around here.

        People seem to forget that Ukraine, while doubtless injured to a fairly severe extent by some Russian activity, is far from clean-handed in these disputes. It is a message that is being lost in the noise of people like Lisitsa, and to find reasoned analysis of the background and foreground of the conflict you actually have to look for it.

        As for the TSO: could go either way. A new CEO could possibly want to mark a clear line in the sand between the ancien regime of Melanson and the new tenure. Or he could come to the same conclusion as his predecessor and decide that this artist is more trouble than she is worth.

        Not sure about “admire,” but I did agree with his decision.

        • Eddie Mars says:

          In fairness, I think she took up her admittedly truculent position *after* Melanson illegally terminated her contract to perform.

          I would imagine the chances of Lisitsa now performing anywhere in Canada are 0. Which says more about Canada than it says about her.

          • V.Lind says:

            1. She’s no great loss. TSO attracts plenty of first-rate musicians — soloists and guest conductors.

            2. I don’t see how it was illegal. She was paid in full. And her termination was prompted by her behaviour, to which many TSO patrons took reasonable exception, including those who might agree with her basic position.

            3. I am pretty sure she completed her gig in Calgary after the TSO debacle.

            But I think you are right — it is unlikely she will be top of any lists pf potential guest artists. If that says Canadians dislike racist invective, I would imagine they will wear that badge proudly.

          • Eddie Mars says:

            I am not going to take up the cudgels further. I posted in order to register my rejection and revulsion for Brian’s blatantly politically-motivated post.

            We are clearly never going to agree on this issue – and since it is no longer an issue, I am withdrawing from any further discussion of it – with you, or anyone else either 😉 We’ve been through all the issues extensively already.

          • Herbert Pauls says:

            She is still on the schedule to play at Toronto’s Koerner Hall, a major venue, on April 10th. A long and extremely demanding program that plays to her formidable strengths, and includes much rare Scriabin as well as Rachmaninoff’s Sonata in D minor.

    • Olha Podolna says:

      “Pro-Putin”?! I am a fellow Ukrainian, originally from Ivano-Frankivsk, and have been an admirer and follower of Valentina Lisitsa (as a musician) for more than 15 years. I have never heard her say anything even remotely “pro-Putin”. In fact, when I first met her, she was firmly on the Ukraininan nationalist bandwagon (thankfully, she’s evolved away from it). Her alleged sin was to call the Nov 2013 – Feb 2014 events in Ukraine what they most truly and sincerely were: a coup d’etat that was paid for by some of Ukraine’s richest oligarchs and employed around 20,000 Nazis from western Ukraine as its crack troops and main moving force. Calling the current Kyiv regime a “Nazi junta” was neither slander nor abusive language on Ms. Lisitsa’s part; it is the sad truth. It is also sad truth that Canada, above and beyond any other country, gave refuge in 1940s to tens of thousands of west-Ukraininan Nazis who had on their hands the blood of at least 500,000 of their Jewish, Polish, Belarusian and Ukrainian neighbours. Shame on Jeff Melanson for having yielded back in 2015 to pressure from west-Ukrainian ultranationalist groups.