Toronto Symphony: It’s a lot worse than it looks

Toronto Symphony: It’s a lot worse than it looks


norman lebrecht

May 22, 2016

Since the turn of the year, the orchestra has learned that its music director Peter Oundjian is stepping down in 2018.



Then its president, Jeff Melanson, got tangled in a sensational divorce case with implication for his hiring practices and was gone before sunrise.

melanson divorce


Now the orchestra is facing a $12 million deficit, or more. Details here.

That black hole will make it harder to attract a new music director and chief executive of the qualities required.

How did it all go so wrong so fast?


  • Milka says:

    The orchestra never amounted to much,
    Never had a top conductor this latest one included who should have been given the
    boot years ago . Always competent not much else . Always a stepping stone to the
    real thing.

    • OhGlorioso says:

      Never had a top notch MD? Oh Milka Milka Milka….
      Ozawa, Andrew Davis, Ancerl……

      • Milka says:

        Ozawa used the orchestra as training ground, as for the other two you
        mentioned depends on standards of what one considers top .All three
        are not in my book of great conductors .

      • Steven Holloway says:

        I have doubts about Davis, serious ones, but Milka’s ignorance or demeaning of Karel Ancerl is unforgivable. During Davis’ tenure, the mantle of Canada’s finest orchestra passed to the Montreal, magnificent under Dutoit. While Davis was flailing away, the tragically undervalued Georg Tintner was hidden away, until his later days, as conductor of the Nova Scotia SO, not a biggie, when he would have done wonders at Toronto. His Bruckner! Winnipeg was creeping ever-upward until it’s admin scandalously forced out Piero Gamba — down we go. Most wondrous, Vancouver managed to get Rudolf Barshai, but that had a chunk of the orchestra in full-scale rebellion when they discovered that, after they had coasted so comfortably for years, Barshai, an orchestra-builder and something of a disciplinarian, intended to whip ’em into shape. They and the CEO got rid of Barshai in short order, and then carried on driving the orchestra into the near-bankruptcy crisis of the early 1990s. There is more, and all together it shows what a ‘distinctive’ (strange) country this is when it comes to the Arts. And so back to the TSO and that wholly political and undeserved government grant. Still, Montreal remains the finest we have. I just hope it doesn’t appoint its own Jeff Melanson, or another of that ilk.

        • Milka says:

          It seems one is demeaning and ignorant depending on the selective ox being gored.
          One can agree with the thought that it is indeed a strange country when it comes to
          the arts . The country has given the world some of the most brilliant artists on record
          and I don’t mean the pianist who talked to cows . That it cannot produce a
          symphony orchestra of note is puzzling.

  • mr norris says:

    didn’t the tso receive a large grant for canada’s 150th celebrations?

  • Emil Archambault says:

    The TSO also got a record-breaking 7,5 million grant from the Canadian Government for the 150th anniversary of the country, but let’s not mention that…

    • Let's face it... says:

      TSO is sharing the $7.5 million grant with various orchestras and artists throughout Canada. Not all of the money will end up with the TSO, the TSO is just the steward of the 7.5 million.

  • Andy says:

    The TSO is a wonderful orchestra. But no Canadian orchestra approaches the supreme quality of the Montreal Symphony when Charles Dutoit was its music director.

    The MSO is generously funded by successive Quebec governments, something the TSO must envy.

    Nevertheless, the deficits that have become an annual ritual in Toronto are unacceptable. The enterprise is obviously unsustainable. Something’s gotta give, whether a bloated administration, a bloated orchestra, or runaway guest soloist and guest conductor fees. Is operating within one’s means so impossible?