Uproar in China over incoming maestro

The Singaporean Darrell Ang was named last December as music director of the Sichuan Symphony Orchestra, as part of a revitalisation plan with the Singapore Symphony.

‘I have the opportunity to shape this orchestra in my image,’ said Ang at the time, admitting he spoke very little Mandarin before flying in to China.


We now hear from Rudolph Tang that he has fired two-fifths of the tutti players in what the musicians say was an unfair audition, run entirely by Ang and one other Singaporean, with no Chinese representation or any discussion with the musicians.

Ang has made a statement saying the audition was ‘legal and justified… video and audio taped throughout’.

The row has exploded onto Chinese social media. No Chinese orchestra has ever been treated this way before.


photo: Darrell Ang, Facebook selfie


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  • Official reply of Sichuan Symphony Orchestra:

    Sichuan Symphony Orchestra (SCSO) and Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) has signed the Letter of Intent Towards A Future Collaboration and Communication on December 191 h of 2016. At the same day, Mr. Darrell Ang was appointed as the artistic director of SCSO. In March 2017, with the support of SSO, SCSO has completed the general audition. However, we have heard slanders over the past general audition which have seriously damaged the reputations of SCSO and Mr. Darrell Ang. We hereby send you this letter as a statement of fact and clarify every and all untrue information. A state-owned orchestra under the authority of the Department of Culture of Sichuan Province, SCSO has started the general audition with the rightful authority from both the provincial Party committee and the provincial government. The higher government authorities decreed in 2016 for SCSO to begin its progress towards a world-class orchestra. On December 19tli of2016, Mr. Darrell Ang was entitled as Introduced Foreign Talent of Sichuan and was appointed as the artistic director of SCSO. He was also appointed to lead the jury panel of the general audition that took place in March 2017, and which has initiated the growth of the orchestra. Under the supervision of the Department of Culture of Sichuan Province, the complete process of the general audition in March 2017 was fair, just, transparent, and open. The jury of the audition consisted principle musicians from SSO, along with an external supervisory team and an external auditing team that include professionals from music industry and culture industry in China. Meanwhile, the complete audition was recorded both on video and audio to keep the transparency and openness, as well as written records of the process and adjudication remarks. In order to help musicians preparing for the general audition, Mr. Darrell Ang and SSO principles provided one-on-one coaching to every musician of SCSO, starting in January 2017. Last week, Mr. Darrell Ang and the higher executives of SCSO have reviewed the general audition and have announced the final results. 48 musicians from the current roster of the orchestra participated in the general audition, and 42 musicians have passed the audition. 6 musicians, with expired contracts, have had their contracts with SCSO not renewed spontaneously due to their poor performances. 22 external musicians applied to participate the general audition, out of which only 9 passed. The SCSO continues its audition process to fill up the ranks of the orchestra over the following months at music conservatories all over China. Recently, we have heard intentional slanders and spiteful rumors on the internet towards the general audition of SCSO, which have caused serious damages to the reputations of SCSO and Mr. Darrell Ang. SCSO will conduct a thorough investigation into this and reserve any legal rights to sue the makers of the slanders.


    Lingfeng Wu, President Sichuan Symphony Orchestra

    Linghong Mu, Vice President Sichuan Symphony Orchestra

    TaoZuo, Orchestra Inspector Sichuan Symphony Orchestra

    Weike Zhang, Administrative Director Sichuan Symphony Orchestra

    • I am sorry but I think there is a clear distinction between verbally attacking and “one-one-one coaching” someone.

    • The Singapore Symphony’s first collaboration with the Sichuan Symphony was to send musicians and their CEO to fire most of the orchestra and insert Singaporeans. They sent their concertmaster and principal trombonist to do the job. Both of these foreign import Singapore Symphony players are not outstanding musicians and are not well respected by their colleagues in the SSO.

  • “No Chinese orchestra has ever been treated this way before.” At least not since the Cultural Revolution….

  • Facts and figures: there are 73 musicians in this orchestra. 49 musicians with either expiring or expired contracts were selected to audition, out of which 48 musicians turned up. 42 out of the 48 had their contracts renewed. Every government-run orchestra in china is required by law to review (audition) its players upon completion of every contract: this orchestra was notified of theirs in the third quarter of 2016, long before Maestro Ang had met them.

    First you have to understand the background: in provincial Chinese orchestras and especially this one, many of these musicians are not professional. They were invited to join as members because they were friends, family, etc. of previous administration or other musicians. When I say “not professional”, I really do mean they cannot make a note/sound no matter how hard they try. Do not make comparisons with orchestras that you and I know: in this part of China, they do not exist. These players won’t even be good enough to enter a music conservatory outside of here. The orchestra has all the evidence of their playing on video. [This orchestra required one whole month (four weeks of Monday to Friday rehearsals, 9am to 3pm) to learn Brahms’ 2nd Symphony – and still the performance was a disaster.]

    Anyhow, 6 musicians who had expired contracts were not renewed – simply because they were not near any amateur level. Among these six also had serious disciplinary problems (not showing up for work; continuous slander on the Internet of the orchestra or fellow musicians or other orchestras in china, etc.)

    Now, keep in mind that here we are talking about different standards: in this part of china, there are no professional musicians as you and I understand that term. (The members of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra who came to judge at the panel can confirm this because they certainly had not seen this level of playing before. The Sichuan Symphony had enlisted the help of the best orchestra in that part of the world to help with its development. )

    None of them would have made it to the first year of Conservatory anywhere in the world. Of course there are some players who are of a decent or somewhat decent professional level. They make up some of the 42 musicians who had their contracts renewed.
    The culture in China (especially outside of Beijing and Shanghai) are beyond our imagination. They do not function like what we know. The Sichuan Symphony board and management had a long meeting with the Government Cultural Bureau of Sichuan Province yesterday – who were actively involved and interested in the examination and even attended some parts – as well as the Disciplinary Committee of the Communist Party Bureau of Sichuan. Two former members of the orchestra have been identified as feeding false information to journalist Rudolph Tang and other Journalists as well as encouraging mindless slander on the internet through their friends and acquaintances in anonymous posts and calling themselves “members of the orchestra”. The orchestra board , through both government bureaus mentioned above, will be posting official reports and statements today (Tuesday). An official investigation with an intention to take legal action will also begin on the guilty parties. We know the current musicians who have all signed their contracts are not involved they had a rehearsal with Music Director Darrell Ang yesterday and the mood was very positive, and everyone is looking forward to a better future as the orchestra begins its first season in September 2017, as well as tours abroad.

    Rudolph Tang’s KLASSIKOM has been shut down by the Chinese internet authority due to “violation of laws and regulations”. His ramblings and articles cannot be backed up by proper and substantial evidence.

    • Welcome Long’s ramblings cannot be backed up by proper and substantial evidence. Sorry for the plagiarism, Mr. Long, because I fail to express it better. Below are a few of your statements that I would like to criticize.

      1) “73 musicians in this orchestra. 49 musicians with either expiring or expired contracts were selected to audition, out of which 48 musicians turned up. 42 out of the 48 had their contracts renewed.”
      Well, you did not mentioned that there were originally 12 musicians forced to switch to cleric work. And you probably don’t know how orchestras operate, so it would be unfair for me to blame you. But it is not that common for musicians after their first two years of contracts to get fired due to an expired contract and/or lack of improvements (unless they misbehaved, e.g. causing harm to their colleagues). The reason Mr. Darell Ang was hired was to train and lead these musicians rather than to fire them. So…his doing defeated the purpose. He displayed no strong leadership, in my humble opinion.

      2) “Anyhow, 6 musicians who had expired contracts were not renewed – simply because they were not near any amateur level.”
      Who are you to judge? Are you a professional music player or critique? What instrument(s) do you play?

      3) “Now, keep in mind that here we are talking about different standards: in this part of china, there are no professional musicians as you and I understand that term.” “None of them would have made it to the first year of Conservatory anywhere in the world.”
      Are you sure? Because that sounds like bringing a stupid generalization to a new level to stupidity. And of course, it’s not “backed up by proper and substantial evidence” and entirely subjective.

      4) “The culture in China (especially outside of Beijing and Shanghai) are beyond our imagination. They do not function like what we know.”
      If you are a foreigner, the chance is you are not likely to understand how “China’s culture” is functioning. It’s deep-rooted, dogg. So….no need to whine and bitch like a little bitch, because it’s annoying. And maybe you need to educate yourself on the concept of “cultural relativism”.

      5) “The members of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra who came to judge at the panel can confirm this because they certainly had not seen this level of playing before.”
      Wait….So it was the members of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra who came to judge. Are you sure there was not a conflict of interest?

      Your argument is certainly an interesting one, because it’s so flawed that I have barely seen this level of bigotism before.

      Thanks for entertaining. I would have grabbed my popcorn.
      Note: I am not actually plagiarizing Mr. Long because I quoted him. Danke sher!

    • How do you define “feeding false information to the journalist” and “mindless slandering”?
      Can you back up your statement?
      I would love to know more about what happened. Thanks!

  • KLASSIKOM is reinstated and up running again. KLASSIKOM on Wechat, on which the SCSO labour dispute was first revealed in Chinese, has been running non-stop since 2014.

  • Original story run by KLASSIKOM:

    A large number of musicians of Sichuan Symphony Orchestra (SCSO) are being purged by its management.

    In a latest development which caused a sensation on the social media last week of escalating tensions within the divided orchestra, around 42% of its musicians are immediately replaced following an audition carried out in March. Some of the musicians claimed that the audition was secretive and unfair while the management together with Mr Darrell Ang, SCSO’s incoming Singaporean artistic director, insisted the audition “legal and justified” and “video and audio taped throughout”. They said in a statement that musicians were replaced because they are “unqualified”.

    Several musicians being replaced said that the jury, chaired by Darrell Ang, were single handedly picked by him from Singapore. A previous plan to engage a third party jury from Shanghai was dropped as the last minute, according to a source spoke on condition of anonymity.

    A total 48 orchestra musicians participated in the orchestra’s annual assessment, in addition to 40 candidates for auditioning. 7 musicians were not offered a new contract, 12 musicians were assigned to office or cleric work, one chose to quit. That means 20 musicians, with an average age of 33, were immediately removed from the chairs, or 42% of the auditioned tutti, unprecedented in Chinese orchestras in the past decade.

    Musicians also pointed out that new recruits are offered much higher salary than them, which might have constituted a violation of equal pay for equal job.

    Darrell Ang was appointed artistic director of Sichuan Symphony Orchestra in December 2016 with an initial contract for three years, as part of its revitalisation plan with help from Singapore Symphony Orchestra. SCSO is a provincial orchestra of Sichuan province. It was founded in 2002 and was located in its provincial capital Chengdu.

  • What Rudolph Tang said above was completely untrue.
    First of all, our orchestra is in a good shape, not divided. Maestro Darrell Ang led the orchestra rehearsal in the morning of Monday with 100% participation of musicians and 100% energy. After the audition, there were 42 musicians stayed in the musician roster, including me. Also, there were 12 new faces joining us in the rehearsal. These people came to Sichuan from multiple countries in the world when heard about the recruitment of our orchestra.
    As an orchestra musician in SCSO, I’ve heard nothing about Shanghai’s any involvement of the audition. Singapore Symphony Orchestra signed a letter of intent for future collaboration with our orchestra on the day of Maestro Darrell Ang’s inauguration. Actually, it’s going to be a great thing for SCSO because we haven’t had any chance before to get a real sense of how the world-class orchestra looks like. The strict and open audition process cannot be achieved without the help of those from SSO.
    To be honest, the evolution of SCSO can be facing some turbulence, which is totally expected in any other orchestras in the world who want to make themselves heard worldwide. Frankly, we’re having a great new orchestra here with power and professionality, thanks to Maestro and all the higher leaders of SCSO. We have been longing to see a better SCSO for years. Now with our new artistic director and new orchestra leaders, all of us musicians look forward to having our common dream come true, which is to be playing in a first-tier orchestra in China and even worldwide.

    • What Tiger Lee says is completely untrue. The rehearsal on Monday to which you refer was a strings only rehearsal, and only a string quartet. In fact this whole week is scheduled to only be the string section rehearsing in quartets, so I guess it’s easy to have 100% attendance with only four musicians per session. I will be more than happy to provide the roster as evidence of proof. Of the 42 musicians in question, at least 20 were either reassigned to non-playing duties or did not have their contracts renewed.

      The Shanghai Symphony was contracted to help develop the Sichuan Symphony through their audition process and coaching activities that were to include exchange partnerships through government grants of 700,000RMB (90,000EUR) applied by the Shanghai Symphony on behalf of the Sichuan Symphony and approved. This can be verified on the Shanghai Symphony website. The management of the Sichuan Symphony suddenly decided to sign with the Singapore Symphony instead and as a result, Shanghai Symphony has reassigned the funds to help develop the Kunming Symphony.

      Please respect the honesty of this forum and refrain from using more lies to cover other lies. Your level of English is not typical of the average musician of the SCSO and are most likely one of Darrell’s recently appointed patsies. We overseas are aware of what is actually going on and are not afraid to reveal details of the truth to counter your false claims.

  • Darrell Ang is barely respected by Singaporeans. He destroyed the National Youth Orchestra, decimated its musicians through mass sackings and reauditioned the entire membership of youths with professional level excerpts. It is still recovering today, 5 years after he mysteriously vanished before a concert, leading to a last minute search for a replacement conductor and complete change of the program. BAD!

    Over the past 10 years, he slandered and backstabbed administrators, musicians, orchestras, choruses, sponsors and cultural institutions, causing great damage to the art and culture in Singapore. Please keep him in Sichuan and out of Singapore!

    • No wonder they say Singaporeans are brilliant keyboard warriors. A few points:

      1)You mean mass sacking the noobs who can’t even play or bother to practise in the first place? Good riddance.

      2) “Auditioned them with professional level excerpts”. Hi, most youth orchestras on planet earth hold their audition with “professional level excerpts”. Did your mom tell you she used to audition with “amateur excerpts”? You expect “an easy mode” for a Youth Orchestra on a national level?

      3) It is still recovering today because the core members who are all around the same age got old and left. You can ask the amazing administrators why they didn’t recruit fervently throughout the years instead of relying on the core members.

      4) If by “slandering” you mean “pointing out” how useless these administrators and institutions are, you’re absolutely on point.

      5) Haters gotta hate. Although he might suck at some administrative stuff but we ain’t paying him to be a paper pusher.

      • Hello SINGAPOREAN, thanks for information. Darrell is not liked in Russia also. Orchestra here not respect him at all. Gergiev say he is hopeless. Keep him away please. He is not fit even for Siberian gulag.

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