Maestro sues orchestra for back pay

Maestro sues orchestra for back pay


norman lebrecht

April 13, 2016

Never long out of the Spanish limelight, the Grand Canaries music director Pedro Halffter is suing his orchestra for 105,000 Euros in what he claims is unpaid wages and expenses.

Halffter has played on through rising musician resentment for 12 years. He took legal action when they tried to oust him and won a shoddy compromise deal, a kind of Half-and-halffter.

pedro halffter2


  • Michael Pearson says:

    The photograph is actually Halfter in front of the Seville Symphony Orchestra which also finally managed to get rid of him recently after years of having to put up with his mediocrity. The amount of money that this man has made over the years is eye watering but he has a famous father (the composer Cristobel Halfter) and is politically well connected. Musicians in Madrid and elsewhere in Spain shudder when they see his name on their schedules but presumably Halfter remains oblivious to criticism and seems to think that he is the victim of a huge conspiracy. Whilst I am used to encountering conductors with thick skins this bloke takes the biscuit!

    • Rodrigo says:

      Well said, Mr. Pearson. His presence provokes an on-going soap opera in Spain. His story
      will be a lively chapter in the annals of music history tracing the lineage of the famous Halffter name. Someone should go after book or movie rights to all of this. It’s unbelievable!

  • Carmen says:

    Correction, Norman: it was actually Karl Mark Chichon who threatened legal action against the Sevilla orchestra when he wasn’t hired as Music Director. Pedro did not. Looks like
    Chichon set the precedent then for Pedro. Maybe it looked like a good idea and Pedro decided to try it, too.

    The cast of characters surround the epic saga of Pedro in Spain is fascinating. Chichon is
    definitely one of the most colorful.

  • Jesus says:

    Whilst Halffter needs to hang on to dear life to Seville as his own chance to earn a living in this profession – Axerlod is not far behind – Chichon has just made a very successful debut at the MET with a long run of performances of Madama Butterfly. He is clearly destined for greater things.

    And the Royal Academy of Music has just named him a Fellow in recognitions of his achievements.

    Whilst this seville mess goes on and it has just been announced that the Sevilla orchestra is under a dissolution process by the political powers that be

    Chichon must be laughing all the way to the bank. Sure, he is colorful but at least he is not afraid to say things as they are rather than political correctness.

    • Anon2 says:

      Sorry Jesus, you’re dead wrong about Sevilla and this “disolution”. I’m afraid you’re not reading the Spanish accurately. It’s a threat at this point, nothing more. Sevilla has 2 mos. to rectify their economic situtation with the threat of disolution if they don’t. It’s been proposed that the musicians take a 15% pay cut to solve the problem and Axelrod is intervening now to see if there’s a better way. They will find a solution. There is no way the Junta of Andalucia will let this orch. disappear.

      As far as Chichon goes, if he’s destined for greatness, why on earth did he make such a fool of himself in the press when he didn’t get the Sevilla job? Didn’t he do his homework? Doesn’t he have an agent who looked into that rat’s nest of corruption in Sevilla before he got serious about the job?

      He should have just walked away and not dirtied his name with the situation. It looked really really bad. If every musician in the world felt as entitled as he did to question a selection process we’d all be running to the press with legal complaints. I’m glad that his
      current situation has eclipsed what happened in Sevilla. Maybe he’s learned from it & has realized he has to keep his mouth shut. He was the butt of jokes in the music world for months, perhaps he sees that now and is behaving.

      Chichon strikes me as someone who approaches the conducting profession like a great singer rather than a great conductor. A divo. He behaves more like Alagna or Pavarotti than any leading conductor I can think of. He doesn’t seem to be coming from an orchestral point of view, more grand opera, which is very old school for conductors these days. His temperament is a time bomb which I think will eventually go off in some prestigous house like the MET and poof he’s back leading poorly paid orchs in Eastern Europe.

      Must correct you on Axelrod, too. His career as a conductor, author, educator and now negotiator, is soaring. He will come out of Sevilla with a reputation for integrity, intelligence, and diplomacy. He’s the Music Director everyone will want. He already is. Axelrod is putting his musicians, his orchestra 1st now. He is proving his skills as a negotiator with the politicians. Chichon and Halffter are both pretty much about themselves, their own careers. Chichon walked out on a situation like this in Latvia. Axelrod is dealing with it. Pretty clear why the musicians wanted him.

  • Jesus says:

    Anon 2’s comments are a wonderful example of what Spain has to contend with.

    I hasten to guess that Anon 2 must be Spanish and probably from Seville too. Only a Spaniard in this “circle” is unable to discern the difference between a Halffter and Chichon, if only by their artistic achievements. Moreoever only somebody with limited artistic acumen is not able to distinguish the difference between a status of a conductor who conducts in Seville or in ballet performances in opera houses to being invited at the MET to conduct a long run of performances of Butterfly.

    I was part of the movement supporting Chichon for his candidacy in the Seville process and I know for a fact that Chichon has legally justifiable reasons to seek damages for the Seville debacle, not because he was a sore loser. Nobody is that stupid. But what it does show is that Chichon does not care what others think and will pursue what he believes is his truth and time is proving he is not doing badly as a consequence. I have time for people who have the courage to follow their convictions even if it is not always the easy road to take.

    And I am sure Axerlod’s career (and perhaps Anon 2’s own career if he/she is conductor….I wonder) are reaching such heights they also have invitations from the MET but prefer to conduct in Seville instead. Only twenty conductors in the world are invited every year to conduct at the MET – I would be happy to place a bet with Anon 2 that none of the Seville circle are on that list now nor for the future – Axerlod, Halffter and Anon2 included. Say what you want but the MET is the zenith of any conductor’s operatic career and I have a feeling Anon2 is rather jealous of that by trying to compare it to Seville.

    By the way, the 15% reduction in salaries for the musicians in Seville is non-negotiable if they don’t want it be an even greater cut this year. My sources tell me it will become 30% within the next 3 years and that the orchestra has already been advised of this. Time will tell if I am right…let us wait and then let’s see if Anon 2 has the courtesy to concedes defeat when Axerlod shows he neither has the interest nor influence to change anything. Or has nobody noticed Axerlod publicly promised tours and sponsorship and has delivered none of that. Let’s see how much musicians want him when he does not deliver.

    It is due to the close-minded attitude of people like Anon 2 that Spain and indeed Seville is how it is and somebody like Halffter continues to do as he wishes. Good luck to them and to Anon2. End of.