Just in: Malaysia bans guest concertmaster

There is a concert of Carmina Burana tonight at Kuala Lumpur but it may not take place.

A group of five international schools under British principal Andrew Auster had hired the DFP (Dewan Filharmonik Petronas) hall for a 250 voice student choir and a professional orchestra, made up of National Symphony players and freelancers.

But when the hall management saw the list of players they objected to the concertmaster Brian Larson and principal viola Toko Inomoto, two musicians who are suing the Malaysian Philharmonic for unfair dismissal. The hall said the presence of these musicians would damage its brand and demanded their removal.

Since the event is a commercial booking and not a hall promotion this is discriminatory. The two banned players have notified Musician’s Unions in the UK, USA, Canada, and Europe with a request to intensify sanctions.


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  • Wow . Amazing . Always the moment I think the management of this place can’t get any lower and more malicious they proof me wrong.
    Feeling truly sorry for all remaining musicians in the MPO.

    • @anon – the 17 y.o. ‘prodigy’ was actually sitting Assoc Concertmaster (2nd chair) – and is one of my top students, Verena. I’ll be losing her to the UK this September on a full scholarship to A-Levels school, with a subsidy to study with R.C. teachers as well. Very proud, yet sad to see her go ! I was equally disappointed to miss this last opportunity to play side by side in a big venue.

      • oh! btw I don’t mean to sound rude or anything but yes, opportunities like this shouldn’t be missed!

  • Another ex-MPO violinist was available to fill in – and not “banned” presumably because he hasn’t sued . 😉 A former student of Toko Inomoto filled on on Principal Viola. The concert went ahead and was well received as far as we know.

  • Just to clarify, it was not “hall management” who objected and banned Brian and Toko. It was one single person — Nor Raina Yeoung Abdullah, the despotic and incompetent CEO of DFP/MPO!

    • Don’t want to split hairs here but Raina IS the management. And probably suppported by most of the big shots in Petronas who want the orchestra gone.
      Since she came to power in 2010 her main achievments are in the department of destroying the orchestra and making life miserable for the musicians.
      If Petronas would not agree with the course she would be history.
      But that’s not gonna happen.
      New MPO contracts only run for one year now instead of two years previously and you can be fired without any reason with a 3 months notice (6 months notice before).
      Does not look good.

      • ..further to your points “MPOSAGE”; it should be noted that special arrangements were made in order to keep the current CEO in place after she reached the then age of retirement (55 years of age). This is, to my mind, a strong indicator of the Board of Governors, and PETRONAS’s position regarding the extensive, and unprecedented catalogue of questionable events that have taken place under her tenure.

  • In the weeks before the concert, the DFP / MPO offered to cancel and refund the fees to Tenby Schools:
    “2) Should you choose to still have those 2 musicians (Brian and Toko) perform in the concert at DFP, then we’d be happy to give you a full refund
    and assist you, as best we can, to find as alternative venue for your concert. I don’t think it’s fair to expect us to compromise on our principles, now that we know of this development …”

    The fees were approx. RM 180,000 ! (over GBP 31,000 / over $USD 45,000) The price of vindictiveness… knows no bounds apparently.

    • Shocking. Who in the management agreed to such a stupid proposal????!?!? Just to save face???!?!? This is how GLCs continuously waste the tax payers money without any accountability.

  • The disgraceful pettiness of Nor Raina Yeoung Abdullah and her Board is matched only by the disgraceful pettiness of the former CEO of the Seoul Philharmonic. Two excellent ensembles being emasculated by women who have not an iota of experience in orchestral management. With Petronas “owning” the orchestra and the hall, the musicians have no alternative than try to increase international sanctions. Yet no matter what actions are taken there will always be professional musicians ready to take the risk of travelling thousands of miles to get paid employment. So the orchestra will continue.

    Paul Philbert’s post gives Petronas the way out – but it will no doubt never even consider it. What companies nowadays let their executives retire at 55? If they increased that age to 60 – still way below most of the rest of the world – their productivity gains would generate so much more profit, funding a professionally managed orchestra with a fully experienced professional management team would be the tiniest drop in the bucket.

  • Didn’t know all the horrible politics and poor management was still a problem with MPO. Shame on them and her . Still enjoyed the concert , but you would think after all this time management would have got their act together. Literally.
    Who retires at 55 ?

    • Management of the MPO getting its act together? That just isn’t going to happen! The Petronas Twin Towers, for a couple of years or so the tallest building in the world (now fallen in the rankings to 7th), is one of a series of mega-projects encouraged by former Prime Minister Mahatir Mohammed. Another was the development of an F1 Grand Prix. These were designed to bring major international prestige to the country.

      Petronas, an oil and gas company, is the anchor tenant of the Twin Towers and took on the responsibility (or was pushed?) for establishing and running a national symphony orchestra and the excellent concert hall which lies between the Towers. IMG Artists had a 5-year contract to do that for them. In 2003 Mahatir ceased to be Prime Minster and IMG Artists’ contract was not renewed. So Petronas was saddled with managing an orchestra – a skill about which it knows all but zero and which it would probably love to see taken off its hands. The government certainly doesn’t want it. But there is no other company around prepared to step in. So as for Petronas getting its act together in running a professional symphony orchestra, just forget it!

      • Don’t forget the MPO is the brainchild of the late chairman Datuk Azizan Zainul Abidin. Without his vision Malaysia’s classical music scene is non-existent today. Bitch what you want about the MPO the orchestra and the musicians has trained priceless next generation Malaysian musicians and if not for terrible mismanagement the local classical music scene would’ve as vibrant as Singapore and Thailand. It’s a pity when Datuk Azizan passed away everything went to hell.

  • I am a regular at the MPO concerts and yes there have been problems but with respect these two musicians are suing the MPO. If someone was suing you would you let them in your house?

    We all have the right to refuse entry to anyone we wish. The MPO exercised this right quite correctly in my view.

    I am not defending past actions of the MPO management but on this occasion I think they were quite within their rights. I’m suing you but still want to come to your auditorium so I can play and “get spotted.”

    • Well, what is „right“ or not you can both see from a legal and from a moral perspective.
      Not sure about the legal situation, especially in such a corrupt environment like Malaysia.
      Morally and ethically it was simply wrong and malicious. But that’s the normal modus operandi of the MPO management nowadays.

      As far as I’m aware those musicians never were banned from the hall (as paying audience) nor they ever received any notification that they are persona non grata and would not be allowed on stage again even with another group – if the hall is legally rented and paid for.

      You – probably one of the minions in the office – might see this as ok and well within the “rights” but I ensure you that the international music community will disagree.

      It’s so sad that the reputation of the MPO and the Malaysian music industry, once more, will suffer from the fallout of the malicious actions of this incapable and hostile management.

  • Datuk Azizan Zainul Abidin was indeed a remarkable man. But there can be little doubt the founding of the MPO was in part due to the closeness of his relationship with and the encouragement of Prime Minister Mahatir. After all, he had been once Mahatir’s Principal Private Secretary, a post often described as gatekeeper to the PM.

    Of all the top business people in Malaysia, the only one I can think of who would have the interest and the funds to run the MPO as an orchestra should be run would be Francis Yeoh, the Chairman of YTL. He is not only the son of a billionaire and Chairman of one of the country’s top conglomerates, he has a passion for singers and opera which may well extend to classical music in general. He is, however, Chinese Malay and a committed Christian. Even if he were to have the remotest interest in taking over the MPO, would the pro-Malay government permit it?

    • He is Malaysian Chinese quite a difference and I think you will find well connected to the ruling junta so if he were to be willing to be its benefactor I think it would be acceptable.

    • Doubt that will happen. I think the racial politicking has turned him off from contributing to the local music scene. The klpac center founded under YTL receives no cent from him although they have a venue on their own. Last I heard he poured millions of his own cash into a Rome opera house.

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