Three in 5 musicians don’t want to see this conductor again

We reported last week that 52 percent of the musicians in the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra did not want to work again with Antonio Mendez, a young man who has been appointed their new music director.

A response from the orchestra management, which we duly published, claimed we had got our facts wrong.

Well, they would say that. In fact, our figure was based on a poll taken after Mendez’s previous appearance with the orchestra.

After the latest vote by musicians on guest conductors, fully 59.57 percent said they do not want Mr Mendez to return.

The question asked was: ‘would you like to see him/ her come back?’ Yes or No.

This does not appear to be a sustainable appointment.

You can read the voting results below.

(click right on the image to magnify in a new window)

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  • Well, I would resign if I was him. Similar story in Valencia earlier this month, and the conductor knew what to do…

  • I may have missed something but what exactly is the reason 3 out of 5 don’t want to work with him? Is he a bad conductor, unprepared, can’t hear, has no insight into the music he performs, or is he a bad person, etc. Or do they disagree with what he wants and how he attempts to get it. Or do they not like the repertoire he programs? 3 out of 5 doesn’t really say anything one way or the other except a lot of people are unhappy with him.

    • Usually these questionnaires (there is a standardized one for US orchestras, don’t know about Spain/EU) ask a number of questions about all the things you mentioned: preparation, tact/ respect in dealing with musicians, opinion of musical depth & insight, clear conducting technique, time management, repertoire choices (if applicable), etc. etc. Then there’s a question at the end “based on your overall opinion of this conductor, would you like to have him/her back again? [Y/N]”

      So for different people, the answer can be “no” (or “yes”) but the reasons can be different.

    • “3 out of 5 doesn’t really say anything one way or the other…”

      If, as some of the orchestra members have publicly claimed, 87% of the musicians voted ‘no’ when asked if they wanted him to be their new music director, it says enough for management to know that appointing him anyway might not be the smartest decision to take.

  • I understand that the musicians in this orchestra are upset, but this attempt, aided and abetted by this website, to destroy a man’s career is unsettling. They may think that they are just ridding themselves or protesting against a conductor they don’t like, but in fact they may be threatening any chance for this conductor to get any other job ever again. He is a human being.

    • Nobody – apart from the orchestra management – is doing anything to prejudice this young man’s career.

      • Yes Norman, but why are you singling out this one orchestra. There are many many orchestras unhappy with their music director. Why don’t you do a story an every one instead of just focusing on one? I think that’s a fair question.

          • Outside of the US this is not unusual. Ask anyone playing in Mexico or South America.

        • Slipped Disc is reporting an injustice served up to these musicians. They have no other recourse at this point except to go public. Mr. Lebrecht is a strong advocate for orchestra players. He’s reported on similar injustices in a number of other orchestras worldwide. This just happens to be Tenerife’s turn.

  • Doesn’t really matter. Conducting an orchestra, particularly as chief conductor, when 60% of the orchestra don’t want you is going to be a thoroughly miserable experience for all concerned.

  • I have worked with Maestro Mendez multiple times, and while he is a bit green and needs experience, he is a wonderful person and musician, and an extremely talented conductor. His future is bright and I hope he goes to a situation where he can continue to grow.

      • I am from another orchestra who has worked with him recently. Our audience loved him, but the musicians were similarly split. Like most young conductors, his weakness is speaking to and rehearsing with the orchestra, but he is dynamite on the podium. An extremely gifted and natural conductor and musician.

  • Baltimore Symphony Orchestra did not want to work with Maestra Alsop when she was appointed their Music Director. She said something like “Give me a chance, try me, and then decide”. It has worked out to everybody’s satisfaction

    • It’s too late for that here. In Baltimore the musicians’ opposition to the appointment was caught early and acknowledged respectfully. Alsop was able to go before the musicians and reason with them, to ask them for a chance, which they did.

      Tenerife’s management has burned their bridges for that to happen. They’ve come out publicly with a statement (in Slipped Disc) saying that they are right, everyone else is wrong, that the appointment stands and that they have nothing else to say.

      There is no way Mendez can do what Alsop did and go before the musicians asking for a chance after that. In Spain, it’s all about posturing, showing power, making your enemy back down. Diplomacy, which is Alsop’s strong suit, is not in Tenerife management’s playbook. Mgt. has put Mendez in an impossible situation.

      Where is the orchestra commitee in all of this? It is their obligation to defend the wishes of the musicians. If they’re not doing that, or if they’re defending their personal wishes a minority interest, denounce them.

      And AMPOS, the Spanish musicians’ organization, where are they when they’re needed? They want everyone to join up, pay dues but when there’s a conflict they hide their heads in the sand.

      This is a situation that could have been negotiated, as it was in Baltimore. Now it’s not. When management won’t acknowledge musicians’ voices, their own committee won’t represent majority wishes, and the organization which is supposed to be protecting them, AMPOS, all hide and duck, there is no other choice for the musicians than to go public with their complaints.

      Bravo to Slipped Disc and the press for bringing this issue forward. And congratulations to the brave musicians who are speaking up.

  • Mr. Lebrecht,

    First of all, I’m a member, still active, of the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra for more than 30 years. My childhood was involved by the orchestra’s performances and work because my mother was one of the founding members of the orchestra. As you’d guess, I’ve seen all kind of landscapes in this orchestra since the origins: conductors, managers, several changes in staff and projects.

    Many of the information enclosed in the two articles that you published is incomplete or untrue. I’ll set a sample: (in your first publication): 29 of a total of 60 votes said they wanted Antonio Méndez, against a number of 31 that they didn’t want him.
    48% wanted him, 51% didn’t want him. 1% of abstention. Those are the numbers, and I can tell you that because I was part of the counting team.
    That happened in December 2017.

    The information that you’re screening (actually, a PRIVATE INFORMATION from the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra records, that I wonder how you’ve got), it’s about the last performance of Antonio Méndez with our orchestra, dated April 20th, 2018. As you can see, the number of voters is fewer (47), maybe because it was about a smaller orchestra (Haydn/Beethoven), maybe because some orchestra’s components are loosing interest about this silly-inner disagreements.

    What you, and the world, have to know is that the Orquesta Sinfónica de Tenerife is a public orchestra, depending of a local administration, and the entire process of recruitment is different from an orchestra depending of private sponsors. That means the components of the orchestra eventually are not the ones to select the Principal Conductor. Having said that, I have to tell you that the orchestra WAS consulted about preferences on conductors.
    The last decision comes from the administration, and there’re more factors that they have to consider, like the project that the conductor presents, the knowledge of cultural/idiomatic/ financial context, etc. It’s up to them to evaluate all the factors, considering every point. The orchestra’s liking is one of them. And it was taken into account, I positively can tell you.

    Please, leave our orchestra to face and solve it owns problems and make it own choice for the future. Appreciated all this opinions, but, at the very end, they are not THE final decision.

    Thank you.

    Best,

    M. Carmen González Martín
    Orquesta Sinfónica de Tenerife.
    Santa Cruz de Tenerife, May 29, 2018.

    • Mrs. Gonzalez Martin,

      Respectfully, if you refuse to acknowledge the musicians’ opinions without acting with diplomacy here, to negotiate an agreement, everyone loses. Franco is dead.

      I understand the need for management to have the final word, but these musicians clearly will not tolerate a dictatorship. They are intelligent and articulate and they will go to the press. The world will stand with them and you will do irreparable damage to the career of young Maestro Mendez. He doesn’t deserve this.

      Open a dialogue with the musicians. Negotiate. Strive for an agreement, a compromise. They want to be heard. Ask them how this situation can be remedied. If you go forward with this appointment without negotiating with the musicians, you are sending Mendez to the guillotine. He is a cultured, sensitive young man, I’m sure he knows that, and I honestly doubt he’ll accept the appointment.

      Wishing you the best!

  • What Mrs. M. CARMEN GONZÁLEZ MARTÍN fails to tell is that she is a chairman of the OST artistic committee and is instrumental in manipulating and even hiding these results. When recently OST musicians have decided to finally hold a secret vote about weather they would like to have Mr. Méndez as their next Principle Conductor she has informed the management about this and musicians were threatened and were denied this opportunity. Mr. Gonzalez Martin also does not want to see that the voting results reflect the fact that majority of OST musicians do not want to work under Mr. Méndez even as guest conductor and to talk about Principal Conductor is not appropriate. Furthermore – suggesting that the public financing of the orchestra in Santa Cruz means musicians do not have a say in who they want to work with is even more ridiculous – 99% of European orchestras are Publicly funded and musicians are more and more involved in selecting process when it comes to appointement of Principal Conductors edpecially.
    Voting is voting and results speak for themselves – you can not manipulate or dress these to your liking!

  • On a point of information, that feedback form seems to have been returned by only 41 players out of an orchestra with a strength of 70 players. Possibly due to the size of the particular programme for that concert. But 59.57% of 58.5% of the orchestra does not represent a majority. It suggests that something like one third of the players are actually against his return.

      • Er, no. You make the same mistake the article makes: you can’t assume either way. claiming a result based on 40 votes (or fewer in some questions) when the membership is approaching double that is to make a claim too far. You can say “X out of 40 thought Y”, but beyond that there’s little meaningful. There isn’t even a stark trend in the results pictured, rather there is a clear disparity amongst player opinions for those who voted.

        Plenty seem to like the man or what he does as much as those who dislike; but it is entirely fair for FS60103 to note that the pictured results do not give us any indication of the overall feeling of the whole orchestra.

  • Usually, the process to select a chief conductor is extremely complex, so many things have to come together. The orchestra (comitee) shortlist a few names, sometimes the management, depending on the structure of how the orchestra works. In the best case, not like here, the few conductors that are shortlisted are asked one by one, until they find one which meets an agreement with the management. It is often not the first choice of the orchestra, but maybe the second or third. Usually this information is not revealed so as to present the most harmonious face to the press and public opinion, and it is OK like this, because it is the best for all parts. Of course, if the conductor who signs a chief conductor contract is not even shortlisted by the orchestra members, it is not clever at all from the management to push it – my opinion a huge mistake. The way how the orchestra is managing this situation helps them maybe to be heard (I agree it is absolutely the wrong way to push a chief conductor) but this is damaging the image of the conductor and that is not just wrong, it is a case for the justice (image damage), because it is possible, that other orchestras have a completely different opinion about AM. It is just about an orchestra musician’s opinion, it can vary from one to another extremely.

    • Actually, speaking as someone from one of those other orchestras we’d really like to see you guys work this out. Unfortunately most of us feel the same way about him and because he has powerful people advocating for him we are afraid we’ll be next on HIS shortlist if he doesn’t stay in Tenerife.

  • Ms Martin

    What was the point of asking your orchestral musicians to vote on the position of principal conductor if the appointment comittee did not intend to respect the outcome ?

    If the committee has authority to simply appoint the best mate of the Head of Administration above the wishes of the musicians simply do it – everybody understands how nepotism works although they may not necessarily like it……

    To try & dress up cronyism under the guise of a democratic decision is a recipe for total disaster and can only damage the interests of Mr Mendez AND the orchestra as a whole.

    I do not judge Mr Mendez’s abilities but there are plenty of other orchestra’s – why choose to stand in front of an Orchestra that does not want you ?

    • Well, Mendez was one of the 3 candidates the musicians themselves proposed last year.

      So it seems they are listening to them just fine…

    • As far as I know, the management team decided on one of the conductors from the orchestra’s shortlist. In any case, it is pointless to argue about numbers without seeing the approval rate of the other candidates. Maybe they were even lower…

      The only sure thing is that this childish behavior is going to hurt to the orchestra in the long term. I bet after this, not many conductors and soloists will want to play at that circus!

      • Hah! That’s a good one! Playing as a soloist or conducting an orch. is such a coveted and competitive opportunity that the lines are years long to work with Tenerife and every other orchestra in that league.

        Conductors and soloists generally have very few scruples when it comes to being invited to play with an orchestra, at least at this level. There are just too many soloists and conductors out there and too few spots for them. This isn’t going to change a thing.

        • Yeah, of course, you can always find mediocre soloists and conductors that would go anywhere. And you are talking about Tenerife as if it was a great orchestra. It is definitely not, more like a 2nd rate orchestra in the country (Spain having not an awesome level anyway).

          Really good soloists and conductors can choose where they go, and they will not want to go there…

          • And your basis for Spain “not having an awesome level” is what exactly? Getting tired of listening to your Enrique Iglesias albums?

            Really good soloists and conductors like to go to new and interesting places. Have a look at Tenerife’s hall. Check out the cvs of the musicians in the orch. Get off your high horse.

          • No, my basis is actually being Spanish (studying music there for many years) and going to concerts both in Spain and in other European countries. No Enrique Iglesias records were used in the process 😀

            Thinking that Tenerife is a first-rate orchestra, either nationally or internationally, is just beyond incredible…

          • It doesn’t have to be a first rate orch. to attract good soloists or conductors. They have a stunning hall, a good season, they play together full time and it’s a beautiful place to visit!

            A lot of top conductors and especially soloists actually prefer less visable, lower key orchestras like Tenerife for breaking in pieces they’re doing for the 1st time.

            Unfortunately Spaniards are often reluctant to recognize the intrinsic value of what they have in their own country. Foreign is better, right? It’s like a cultural inferiority complex. So I’m afraid if you’re Spanish, I take your judgement of Tenerife with a grain of salt. But your points of reference are certainly valid, and I respect that.

          • I don’t think it is necessarily an inferiority complex, I actually think we produce some of the best musicians in the continent. It is more the fact that those musicians usually go to orchestras in Germany, Austria, England, Netherlands, etc.

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