UK pianist challenges 6 orchestras over discrimination

Nick Van Bloss is a Tourette’s sufferer.

He has written to six orchestras asking if the reason they won’t let him play is down to his disability.

The Royal Philharmonic, the Philharmonia, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and the Hallé in Manchester… strongly deny any allegation of discrimination, saying that they are inundated with hundreds of requests from talented soloists every week for a tiny handful of places. They insisted that their selections were based solely on musical merit.

Read on here.

 

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  • Daniel Poulin says:

    Here’s a review written by Christophe Huss in the Montreal daily Le Devoir published last November following a concert by Nick van Bloss. The major work that night was Bach’s Golberg Variations. Mister Huss is a well known critic, respected on both sides of the Atlantic.

    Un décevant Nick van Bloss

    “Après une superbe ouverture, vendredi, avec la Messe en si du Collegium 1704, ce fut une soirée cauchemardesque au Festival Bach. Le scénariste, auteur et acteur de la chose se nomme Nick van Bloss, et ce qu’il a de plus brillant, c’est sa biographie fleurie.

    Pour comprendre ce qui s’est passé et comment la direction pourtant avisée du festival Bach s’est fait piéger, il faut lever le rideau des coulisses de la musique classique. Bien avant les « fake news », le milieu classique a su inventer, fabriquer et concocter les fausses valeurs. La capitale mondiale de ce théâtre de marionnettes est Londres, où se concentrent les grosses agences d’artistes, des relationnistes puissants, des médias d’influences qui, naïfs ou complices, servent, langue oblige, de relais internationaux à la cause du jour.

    La cause, cela peut être une mode liée aux artistes, comme la soudaine (et heureusement éphémère) éruption de chefs d’orchestres vénézuéliens il y a quelques années. Que ce soit au pays ou dans ses contrées satellites, on aime fabriquer des personnages à l’image de leur destinée, comme en Australie il y a vingt ans, David Helfgott, héros du film Shine. Mais la réalité artistique n’est pas à la hauteur de la corde sensible qu’on tente de faire vibrer.

    Fabrication

    Alors, on aurait aimé y croire. On aurait aimé que Nick van Bloss, alias « le seul pianiste applaudi dans le monde entier qui souffre du syndrome Gilles de la Tourette, trouble qui disparaît lorsqu’il joue du piano », ait été un homme « en voie de devenir une célébrité internationale » lorsqu’il a abandonné le piano pendant quinze ans avant de renaître, soit le « génie sans orgueil », le « pianiste anglais légendaire » de « référence » qu’on nous vante dans sa biographie à coup de citations, sceau d’un documentaire de la BBC à l’appui.

    On est tout à fait au coeur du problème actuel. Il y a désormais tellement de plumitifs acculturés ou complaisants qui écrivent tout et n’importe quoi, dissémination numérique à l’appui, en recopiant des dossiers de presse et autres « prêts-à-penser », qu’il est facile de sortir des citations et de pondre une biographie corroborant un mythe qui s’effondre après quelques notes entendues « en vrai ». On est alors bien plus persuadé d’une fabrication que d’une rédemption.

    Aucun documentaire de la BBC ne transformera un pianiste lambda en « pianiste anglais légendaire » (niveau Curzon, Hough, Shelley, Blackshaw, tant qu’à faire ?) ou en génie. Si le disque fait illusion — mais un disque est une illusion, une fiction qui se bidouille —, en vrai, Nick van Bloss est un pianoteur sans style, qui, dans les Goldberg, tente de donner le change d’une interprétation en déconstruisant les fins de variations et se met parfois à divaguer, jusque et y compris (ça, c’était vraiment le bouquet !) dans la reprise de l’Aria, où il se prend soudain à sauter des mesures.

    Quand il joue à peu près ce qui est écrit, Nick van Bloss, qui n’a aucune espèce de toucher, vadrouille à travers les Goldberg en pilonnant des ponctuations de la main gauche pour montrer qu’il a compris quelque chose à la différenciation des voix. Mais il n’y a pas de ligne : il joue ces imbrications comme quelqu’un qui crierait des onomatopées.

    Ce chemin de croix s’annonçait dès la 2e Partita, je dirais même dès les premières secondes de la 2e Partita, où M. van Bloss s’est mis à ornementer ex nihilo le portique d’entrée ! Ça commençait mal. Le chemin de croix a duré très longtemps”

    • Doug says:

      In other words, his Tourettes doesn’t really abate when he sits at the keyboard, it just takes musical form.

    • I have absolutely no problem with Mr Huss (or anyone else) disliking every note I play – that’s the nature of the business.
      Wrongly, however, Mr Huss rages and claims that I have a fabricated career based on fake news and that I am a product of a large London agency and machine. I’m afraid I am not with any large agency or PR company, so these statements by Huss are a figment of his imagination.
      His ‘review’ also throws doubt on ALL of his critic colleagues around the world, implying that they have all been ‘taken in’ by this imaginary machine that promotes my career. How insulting to them.
      I suggest that the rather venomous Mr Huss has made himself look extremely stupid by inventing ‘facts’ in a review that rants and rages.

      • Been Here Before says:

        Dear Mr. Van Bloss,

        I admire the persistence in pursuing your calling despite the difficulties presented by your condition. As an amateur pianists who had to overcome a different sort of physical challenge, I have great sympathy for your struggles. Making a career in classical music is extremely hard even for those in perfect health – having to go through it with your condition is almost unimaginable.

        I wish you the best of luck! I hope you will disprove the critics and be able to make a living doing what you love the most, which is playing the piano. Your story should be an inspiration for many!

    • Clémence Warren says:

      I was honoured to attend every concert at the Bach Festival Montréal last year, and for me and so many other people the Goldberg Variations played by Mr Van Bloss was one of the true high points. I think no one in the audience would agree with the review in Le Devoir, it is horrible and really personal attack on a great pianist

    • Edna Stein says:

      I attended the above concert with a very large group from our musical society, many of whom are retired professional musicians. We have heard many performers over the years, both good and bad and we consider it a privilege to have heard the Bach recital by Nick van Bloss. We thoroughly enjoyed it and were captivated by his emotional performance. Many of us were lucky enough to have heard Gould perform the same work and we found Bloss to play with equal intensity and character. We do not agree in any part with the review that followed in Le Devoir. As many other people here have said, Christophe Huss is a music critic who takes pleasure in trying to attack things that others deem to be great. He is a destructive journalist and should retire, as another person here has suggested.

  • Charles Clark Maxwell says:

    Oliver Sacks wrote about this guy in one of his last books “Musicophilia”

  • Philip Moores says:

    I am delighted to say that Nick is playing at Codsall (near Wolverhampton) on 14th March 2018, as part of the Codsall Community Arts Festival, His programme includes Schumann’s Kreisleriana and Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata. There is a pre-recital interview with Chris Morley formerly of the Birmingham Post. All are welcome. Details of his recital and all other events (including a world premiere by Ex Cathedra) at http://www.codsallartsfestival.org.uk. Philip Moores (Deputy Chairman CCAF)

  • Bo says:

    No way it’s based on musical merit, this guy can play as well as anybody!

  • PWW says:

    Huss’ reviews can be downright nasty and mean, so take them with a grain of salt.

  • Dan Redding says:

    I was at his Wigmore Hall concert a year ago. Best Appassionata Sonata I’ve ever heard in a live performance. Audience went crazy for him.
    Disgusting discrimination by the orchestras. These people should lose their jobs over this.

  • Sue says:

    What about David Helfgott and his mumblings and ramblings? Make a movie about the pianist in question and watch his career explode!! SERIOUSLY.

  • Victor Dumont C. says:

    I live in Montreal and attended the concert. It was arguably the best concert of the Bach Festival since its begginings. Mr. Van Bloss got a full standing ovation and endless cheering. The applause lasted for ages and it was deafening. People would just not leave. By the end of his Goldberg I was in tears, his rendition was something from the Gods. Christophe Huss is the laughing stock of the Montreal classical music scene. His claim to fame in musical knowledge is that he once was a choir member of the l’Orchestre de Paris. He is the most perfect example of an ignoramus with a platform. Furthermore, he is also a notorious anti-anglophile. His review of Mr. Van Bloss miraculous performance was not even about his music making but about Mr Van Bloss being the product of some London based fabrication of false musical values at the service of powerful agents, with London being the world center of all evil. Today’s news comes to show how far away from the truth this ridiculous made-up libellous theory is. When an artist has a permanent, ininterrupted streak of glorious reviews and a single bad one, anyone with a brain knows where the fault lies. Do Montreal a favour and retire, Monsieur Huss.

  • Hernando Marquez says:

    By hiring the pianist in question it looks like a cheap marketing ploy to appear inclusive by the orchestras. He is too old to be the young kid on the block and his career to date is nowhere near impressive enough to be able to debut with a major UK orchestra at his age. He is simply a talented but unlucky artist, like thousands of others. Perhaps not being represented by a major agency is also a point of issue as he can’t be parcelled together with other more prominent artists as a package for the orchestras.
    All of that though means nothing as he would like the work simply because he is different, not because he deserves it and because he can rouse an internet audience on this blog to come to his defence.
    A quick look back through this site would also show at least one orchestra in a question, the Bournemouth Orchestra, now has a disability ensemble! Surely if he put his efforts into showing he could work there, it would be time better spent then crying discrimination.

    I await the hoards of his supporters to shout me down.

    • Françoise Alex says:

      And there lies an example of everything that is wrong with society and classical music today: Hernando Marquez proves himself to be ageist, discriminatory, bitter and paranoid. Probably a stooge for one of the offending orchestras. I wonder which one? Sad.

    • Dan Redding says:

      You’re entitled to your opinion. If you’d been at his Wigmore Hall recital a year ago you’d have seen that he is an artist who deserves it, as you put it. And when we see you on a stage and playing fantastically and dealing with a disability as well then we will respect your opinion.

      • Sir Kitt says:

        ‘And when we see you on a stage and playing fantastically and dealing with a disability as well then we will respect your opinion’.

        Well, I (or indeed ‘we’ – not sure why you referred to yourself in the plural, but whatever…) have never seen you on a stage, playing fantastically (or otherwise) or dealing with a disability, so, by your logic, neither I nor we nor they, it, she or he respect your opinion.

  • Hernando Marquez says:

    Every night at dozens of concert halls throughout Europe there are artists performing solo recitals who feel they should be given a platform with major orchestras. There simply aren’t enough opportunities that keep everyone happy.
    Perhaps his aggressive marketing campaign will work, but I would suggest that no orchestra will touch him with a barge pole now that he has shouted all this from the rooftops.
    If all else fails he could always hire an orchestra (like many artists do) such as the RPO, the Philharmonia or the Bournemouth Orchestra for a set fee, hire a venue such as the Hexagon in Reading or the Anvil in Basingstoke which are both established and cheap to hire venues and a conductor to give the performance he feels he so deserves. I guess that would only work if he was willing to take a financial risk on the one performance being so good it would result in follow up engagements. Again, much easier to shout about discrimination and others not wanting to take the risk then to put your money where your mouth is.
    My final point would be to ask, why has he only taken 6 orchestras to task over this issue? Why hasn’t he tried to engage with the numerous other full time orchestra’s in the UK? Does he not think the LSO, LPO, BBC SO, BBC NOW, BBC CO, RSNO, RNS etc worthy of his talents?

    • VICTOR DUMONT C. says:

      This is about one thing and one thing only: THE LAW. I suspect “TIME’S UP” for the UK musical establishment. If I were you, I would tell the orchestra you work for to seek legal advice NOW. I for one, can’t wait for an official investigation on the connections between the orchestras’ governing bodies, the Arts Council and the BIG AGENTS. It will be a true spectacle lol

      • Hernando Marquez says:

        You mean it is the law to hire someone not as qualified for the job (in a freelance capacity) because they have a disability? This is not a black and white issue of ‘he has the right qualifications therefore we must give him the job’. In order to be engaged he must demonstrate numerous qualities and perhaps his constant media presence about his disability is actually a turn off for the subscription base of most UK orchestra’s.

        Of course, if you are right and it is the law to hire someone just because they have a disability and not because they are actually the right person for the job then I’m wrong and I assume the ensembles he bad mouthed in the press today will queue up to engage him.

    • Dan Redding says:

      So you’re suggesting he should have kept quiet over an injustice, whilst being discriminated against? And that now he’s spoken about the injustice you say he will be discriminated against by the orchestras further, as they won’t touch him with a barge pole. Sounds nice.

      Mate you’re a piece of work and I can’t help thinking you must have some kind of vested interest in defending these people. You should quit before you make yourself look like a real plonker. You’re coming across like a real fascist.

      • Hernando Marquez says:

        Do you think after years of not being engaged all will change now he has singled out 6 ensembles? Do you honestly think they are all about to engage him now? How do you see this playing out? I’m intrigued, and a facist plonker obviously.

  • Hernando Marquez says:

    Surely we should all re read Mr Van Bloss’s biography and see what a concert promoter, dealing with big budget requirements over ticket sales and sponsorship reads:
    • over 50 years of age, yet to debut with big UK orchestra
    • ‘retired’ for 15 years, now playing again
    • has disability (✔️✔️✔️)
    • Wikipedia page that is most likely written. Y him shows that even as a student he claimed ‘He was in constant conflict with College authorities, who, he felt, appreciated neither his talent nor the difficulties that accompanied living under his condition’.
    • Media aware, has been focus of BBC show over 10 years ago. Now singles out ensembles in the media who don’t hire him.
    • Does this appeal to our audience base?

    • Dan Redding says:

      Hernando Marquez LOL, you’ve actually given yourself away by asking ‘does this apply to OUR audience base?’. So you DO work for one of the mentioned orchestras, and are an ageist, discriminatory bigot at that.
      Actually, artistic merit should be the only thing considered and van Bloss has proved that. Certainly there was no mention of his disability when I heard him at the Wigmore.
      Why don’t you just say which of those orchestras you work for? You keep avoiding the question. Or are you just lashing out because you fear for your job now that you and your colleagues have been exposed?

    • VICTOR DUMONT C. says:

      I suspect the full revelation of the corruption between orchestras and the big agents (and the huge monies involved) will actually be a bigger turn off for your subscription base than Mr. Van Bloss personal history.

      I also suspect you will lose your paycheck sooner rather than later.

      This is a matter for the UK courts. Time will tell.

  • Hernando Marquez says:

    Ah, assumptions. The last bastion of those without substance to a debate. Well I’m glad you think you know me Mr Redding, but alas I do not work for one of the orchestras he mentioned today, nor any other UK arts organisation. If you would be so kind as to answer the questions I posted rather then just blabber on about my supposed career in the arts, then we could find out more of your thoughts then just ‘I like him, hire him’.

    • Dan Redding says:

      Of course you don’t work for one of the orchestras, Hernando Marquez. Everyone will believe you. Of course you have no vested interest, of course you’re fair and not in any way discriminatory or ageist, or course you are demanding answers to your very un-biased questions. You’re a star.
      And frankly, you are a golden beacon of light in the music profession. I’m sure you’ll be its saviour. (Probably only after losing your job in one of the orchestras).
      LOL.

  • Hernando Marquez says:

    Well if you can’t answer questions, can you give some? Or are we still at ‘I like him, hire him’

    Oh, and that silence is Mr Van Bloss. Not a word to say anymore.

    • Dan Redding says:

      Your post doesn’t make sense.
      But anyway, shouldn’t you really be in bed in order to get up and go to work at your orchestra tomorrow for a crisis meeting? There’s a question.

  • Hernando Marquez says:

    As you have nothing of value to say, this is my final post on this topic. As i stated previously, I do not work for any UK arts organisation.

    One can only assume you are in the presence of Mr Van Bloss given your staunch defence of him. Be sure to toast the end of any chance of him performing with those 6 orchestra’s before you call it a night.

    • Dan Redding says:

      You’re paranoid as well as ageist and discriminatory – yeah we’re all sitting here together and plotting against you LOL.

      You already gave it away that you DO work for one of the orchestras mentioned in the Times article (see above). Therefore nothing you have to say is balanced and valid on this topic. But you’ve shown yourself to be a truly lovely guy – congrats.

    • The View from America says:

      “As i stated previously, I do not work for any UK arts organisation.”

      OK, we’ll take that statement at face value. So, which non-UK arts organisation do you work for?

      lol

      • Lewes Bird says:

        To be fair, I rather doubt Hernando Marquez works for any UK-based cultural organisation. His consistent rendering of the plural to “orchestra” as a possessive suggests he’s either Dutch or illiterate.

  • Dave who can't behave says:

    Dan Redding – calm down sir, Hernando Marquez clearly said ‘see what a concert promoter reads’ meaning if you were in the promoter’s shoes these are the questions you would ask yourself / hence the use of the word ‘our’. For what it’s worth I think Mr Van Bloss needs to get himself a new agent. Demanding that orchestras hire you because you are disabled is a cheap shot. Obviously feeling discriminated against can’t be pleasant but there are probably hundreds of pianists who have also had plaudits from international critics and also feel they ‘deserve’ to be booked by these orchestras and are not. I was unaware Bournemouth Symphony (one of those accused here) had a disabled ensemble until seeing it on the comments above, and a quick Google reveals the disabled ensemble are led by a disabled conductor who has received a bursary from the orchestra – so accusations of disability discrimination seem rather odd. One wonders whether The Times did any research before running this story!

  • FS60103 says:

    I’d heard of Mr Bloss, and that he was a decent player, but I was entirely unaware, until now, that he had a disability. I’m not sure that throws any light on matters at all. I’m sure his claims are born out of genuine frustration rather than calculated cynicism, but of course, “reasonably good but little-known concert pianist doesn’t get hired by major orchestra” is hardly a headline.

    Six UK orchestras between them will perform perhaps 300 straight classical concerts in a season year. Possibly one in four of those concerts features a piano soloist. That makes perhaps 75 opportunities per year for concert pianists to be booked. The 6 biggest artist agencies working in the UK alone list over 100 pianists between them, all better-known than Mr Bloss. Statistically, at least 25% of these won’t get a gig with one of these orchestras in any given year.

    Simple numerical logic dictates that most concert pianists in the world will not be hired by any of these orchestras, ever. Are they all the victims of prejudice?

  • Name with-held for obvious reasons says:

    ‘Dave who can’t behave’ says ‘Obviously feeling discriminated against can’t be pleasant…’ Of course it isn’t, however sometimes that feeling is created in the mind of the person who feels discriminated against. Many years ago I COULD have felt discriminated against by an organisation who didn’t employ me as a tutti player after several seasons elsewhere as a section leader. I didn’t, and ended up working as a freelance player with the same organisation for several years. What goes around comes around.

  • Griff says:

    So, he wants to bypass the filter of quality claiming discrimination? I have seen that far too many times.

  • Kundry says:

    Hardly a review, that tract. Mr Huss spends most of the space trashing marketing copy and not describing the performance he heard, other than in a few lines at the end which tell us very little. Because of that, it’s hard to give his views much credence. Let’s hope van Bloss has another chance to show us what he can really do. In London or elsewhere.

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