Exclusive: An orchestra rejects its new music director

Exclusive: An orchestra rejects its new music director


norman lebrecht

May 22, 2018

The London agency HarrisonParrott has announced the appointment of its client Antonio Mendez as principal conductor of the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra. Just one problem: 52 percent of the musicians say they don’t want to work with him again.

UPDATE: The conductor must be wrong

UPDATE2: Now 60% don’t want him

Here’s what the musicians tell Slipped Disc:

Antonio Méndez first appeared with OST in 2016 to mixed reviews. He was given another chance in 2017 by his personal friend Mr. Miquel Angel Parera who in a meantime was appointed General Manager of the orchestra.

Long before his second appearance with OST rumors circulated that it has been already decided that Mr. Méndez will become new Principal Conductor of the orchestra. Prior to his second appearance with OST Mr. Méndez was invited to be part of an orchestra audition committee during the auditions for crucial positions in the orchestra. This move stunned many as Mr. Méndez has no previous experience of being Music Director  or Principal Conductor of any orchestra.

After the second program Mr. Méndez, musicians overwhelmingly voted against his future engagements. Asked if they would like to work with him even as a guest conductor in the future, 52% of musicians responded with clear NO. This would have been remarkably more negative if asked about potential engagement of Mr. Mendéz as Principal Conductor. On a 10 point scale Mr. Méndez scored a mediocre 5.5 points for artistic results and a poor 4.9 points for the way he was communicating and behaving with the orchestra.

Since this concert Mr. Méndez has appeared with OST again and musicians were asked to vote anew. They did so and expected the results to be as poor or even worse… BUT: they were not shown results until now and instead learned last Sunday from the local newspaper that “Mr. Méndez is coming to “resuscitate” the Orquesta Sinfonica de Tenerife”, while yesterday it was officially announced that Mr. Méndez was given a position of Principle Conductor with the orchestra for 3 years with 9 programs in 18-19 season.

Musicians of the orchestra are deeply offended, feel betrayed and outraged about the actions of its incompetent management. OST is not “dead” and does not need anyone to “resuscitate” it! Moreover we would like to draw your attention that General Manager Miquel Angel Parera has been given his position in violation of the application rules. Clearly lacking the required credentials, education and work experience he was not admitted into competition process in first instance, but remarkably past through the system in the end…

It was never a secret of Mr. Parera that Mr. Méndez is his long time personal friend and he has bragged about appointing him without respecting orchestra’s opinion on many occasions. It stuns the majority of the OST musicians to read the words of both Mr. Méndez and Mr. Parera on this appointment! Nothing could me more far away from the truth…:

‘There was an instant connection the first time that we worked together — their rich and deep sound, their energy and open approach to music captivated me immediately; I am delighted to be taking over the position of Principal Conductor with the Sinfónica de Tenerife. I am looking forward to continue sharing our love for music and developing together, and I am thrilled to become the leader of an orchestra with such potential; we are ready for this new adventure and I am convinced the audience can look forward to exciting things ahead of us!’

Antonio Méndez

‘We are specially happy to begin this new artistic adventure with Antonio Méndez. During the last concerts with the OST, his passion, energy and commitment with music brought our orchestra and our audience joy and pleasure. This is for us now a natural step after the great trajectory of common work and understanding.’

Miquel Angel Parera, General Manager, Orquesta de Tenerife

There was no connection, no passion and energy… There was lots of self-absorbed ignorance, lack of communication skills and a few boring performances. Majority of the orchestra musicians are deeply disappointed and looks with dismay at the prospect of being forced into this “unhappy marriage”!

The hope is that with facts becoming public and discussion initiated the orchestra’s voice will be heard and respected.



  • The View from America says:

    Mozart in the (Canary Islands) Jungle

  • alec johnston says:

    TSO = they speak out

  • MWnyc says:

    If Mr. Parera, the general manager, is openly bragging about his ability to get his friend Mr. Méndez hired as principal conductor over the objections of the musicians, then someone should get a video of Parera doing that bragging and post it on social media.

  • Conductor says:

    As a conductor and colleague of Mr. Mendez, this letter has left me stunned and saddened. It is highly unprofessional, nasty, and unbecoming of a group of professional musicians. I know my colleagues and I will have to rethink any invitation to conduct an orchestra capable of airing their dirty laundry so publicly.

    • Nick says:

      As a professional musician, I have to disagree with you. I just did a concert with a conductor who couldn’t find the beat if his life depended on it. He is a very likable person but a horrible conductor. Some of my colleagues and I spent a considerable amount of wasted private time and stress meeting and doing rehearsals just to make it through the concert. Despite the conductor being a nice person, if you asked any of the musicians they would have all voted for a different conductor. I suspect that the musicians have some valid reasons why they don’t want to work with this guy.

      • Conductor says:

        Hi Nick,

        Obviously musicians have every right to hate the conductor they are working with, and they should do their best to air their concerns with management. Obviously it seems in this case that their concerns were unheeded, but it still seems to me to be quite unseemly to publicly attack a conductor in this way. It’s an airing of dirty laundry that is, as I said above, unprofessional in my opinion.

        • Rodrigo says:

          Dear Conductor,

          Your gentility and good manners are admirable and you make excellent points. But this is not always a genteel profession. Conductors reserve the right to “air dirty laundry” about players – to demote or dismiss players they don’t deem fit or to correct them publicly in rehearsals. Why should this be OK for conductors but not for the players?

          By airing this situation, the players are actually doing Mendez a favor. They are letting him know up front that they don’t want him. Knowing that, he can choose whether or not he wants to go ahead with the contract. If he has any sense (he doesn’t , I fear – he’s very young & not too fluent in social skills) he will meet with the musicians & try to hit an agreement. Or just not take the job. He should at least address them on it if he plans to take the job. The precedent here, of course is Marin Alsop. The same thing happened to her in Baltimore.

          As far as your well intended mention of boycotting any orchestra which would do this to an incoming music director, well, I’m afraid you’re whistling into the wind. There are so many good conductors tripping over themselves for even the most modest invitation to conduct any of the orchs. in Spain under just about any condition, I regret to say that your presence will not be missed.

          The lesson here is that you do not hire a music director without respecting the wishes of the musicians. Period.

          • Student says:

            Hear, hear, Rodrigo. I’m a budding conductor (currently a music student); I must agree with you. I feel too many conductors consider themselves above judgement, far greater worth than the players (hence such wildly extortionate famous conductor’s salaries arise). Mr Conductor, today is a transparent world. How else would you suggest the orchestra have their voice heard? Their manager ignores them. Their conductor ignores them. What do you expect? I suppose they could boycott rehearsals.

    • Bruce says:

      I saw this not as an attack against the conductor per se, but rather as a protest against the process by which he was hired.

      My orchestra hired a conductor this way many years ago: the conductor auditioned and nobody thought much of him; the board went ahead and gave him the job; the musicians were furious. The board ended up having to buy him out of his contract because the musicians were so unhappy (and the public wasn’t super excited either). He had pretty good success with other orchestras, just not with us.

  • Rodrigo says:

    Here’s my take. I think much of the blame lies with Harrison Parrott. They have been very aggresive about trying to get their client into a Music Directorship this past year. They have been promoting & schmoozing in Spain on his behalf like nobody’s business. They intimidate the gentle orch. managers of Spain to the point where something like this happens.

    If HP is promoting conducting clients in Spain they need to be aware that the musicians rule the roost, no matter what management might lead them to believe. 3 orchestras alone in Spain right now have, or are in the process of usurping their music directors via legal channels. The labor laws which protect the rights and wishes of the musicians are strong. There is a big backlash against authoritarianism, of politicians making decisions for the musicians. Pedro Halffter, the consumate politically appointed MD, has been run out of both of his jobs – one as MD of Sevilla, the other in Canarias. Times are changing.

    Musicians in Spain want a voice in who will be their next music director. When you skip over them as in this situation, they will rebel.

    HP needs to understand this. They also need to understand that zipping in from London to push an agenda, pulling a superiority card isn’t going to work. Tenerife is full of well educated, very experienced players from around the world. A Spanish orch. manager may be easily swayed by a suit from London, but these players, as with most in Spanish orchestras, have seen it all. HP should have considered the musicians.

    • Manu says:

      This contract was not negotiated by Harrisson & Parrott. It was Agencia Camera, the local agent in Spain, led by Mónica Lorenzo, who is from Tenerife by the way. Very fine professional.

    • TAP says:

      One would expect that all those harsh accusations would come with some evidence to back them up. Otherwise I don’t think anyone can believe any of it…

  • fierywoman says:

    I think the argument is actually: Oh, the SHOCK that the musicians of an orchestra should be allowed to have a say in who their music director is.
    The old (fast fading) paradigm is that the board of directors (usually 1% elite types who know nothing about the reality of how one actually plays music) get their egos massaged into naming conductor X.
    I wish for all the orchestras of the world to be able to morph into the Berlin Phil model where the musicians vote for the music director, not the board of directors.

    • Chris Clift says:

      And the CBSO – the orchestra musicians selected in turn, Simon Rattle, Sakari Oramo and Andris Nelsons, before selecting Mirga their present Music Director

    • Sandra Wendel says:

      Please is that a joke! You are talking about Berlin Phil. and the Tenerife Symphony is a public orchestra: there are no sponsors is all public money.
      Have you ever seen in your life a public enterprise where the workers decide who’s their boss.
      At list in Tenerife they asked and that is proved by the fact that almost half of the musicians agreed with the choice.

      • Musician says:

        If you read slowly again, you will see that 52% of the musicians of the orchestra doesn’t want him to come back EVER. And the vast majority doesn’t want him as principal. So not almost half of the orchestra agreed with the choice.

  • george Rynar says:

    As someone who worked with a rude arrogant conductor it is very difficult and plays negativity on your well being… His hughe hughe ego was bought buy the management team who kissed his feet..he however, with all his credentials is a true amateur …

  • David Windle says:

    Too much bullshit is flying around in musical posts.
    Conductors/Cathedral Organists/working musicians.
    Is this guy any good?
    Give him a chance.
    If he is crap give him the elbow but if he’s any good shut up and play the part as he directs.

    • Novagerio says:

      It reminds a lot of the Halffter/Seville disaster, doesn’t it?…At the end, Halffter got a prolongued period despite having an orchestra wearing ribbons as a sign of protest during concerts, all thanks to Halffter’s connections with the rulling PP-party….

  • Nurhan Arman says:

    Clearly this is a scandalous situation. The musicians of the orchestra have of course every right to speak out. If everything in the letter is correct they have no other option than going public.

  • Sandra Wendel says:

    It looks to me that more than one here forgets the other 42 % of the musicians that agreed with the choice.
    In my experience when the percentage between yes and no is so close it means that something is missed.
    It seem to me that once more Mr. Lebrecht forgot to verified the information.

  • Violin Vero says:

    To Sandra Wendel:
    you should read the information supplied better before forming an opinion: when musicians were asked about theirs they were asked about Mr. Méndez potentially guest-conducting again. Even so, 52 % have rejected this idea and did not want him to come back at all. If you have any understanding of how these polls work you’d know that if they were asked about Mr. Méndez becoming their Principle Conductor the numbers would have been much worse…

  • Arts Professional says:

    I’m very sorry to see that Mendez, a young conductor with much promise, a very decent career as a guest conductor and a lovely person, will suffer due to the wrong-headedness and idiocy of Parera. I’ve seen this happen before. A orchestra or opera house manager imposing a Chief conductor without due process and consultation with the musicians is often going to end horribly for everyone involved. A shame.

  • maurizio barbacini says:

    Dopo anni secondo la mia esperienza,dirigendo più o meno in tutto il mondo,posso asserire che l’orchestra solo l’orchestra può decidere il principal conductor o il music director.
    Avendo anche diretto più volte TSO con grande piacere e con straordinari risultati artistici,ho pero’ sempre avuto seri dubbi sulla organizzazione dell’orchestra e forse quelle mancanze sono purtroppo ancora presenti.
    Maurizio Barbacini

    • Paul Opie says:

      Bravo Maestro.
      Playing opera with you has always been a joy. What memories. Paul (oboe)

    • Michael Kirby says:

      I agree totally with you Maestro Barbacini.
      As Paul says, it was always a great pleasure and honour to perform with you at the helm.

  • Violin Vero says:

    It is a joke to imply that HP did not anything to do with negotiating this contract – true lack of knowledge about how these things work! And if the local manager is from Tenerife – this is even worse: she then surely has a few local political contacts to pull the “right strings”. What a scam!

    • Rodrigo says:

      Absolutely! If HP is representing a client, they are responsible for supervising all aspects of his professional well being, including when they farm out contract signing to a local rep.

      HP really dropped the ball here. They should be the adults in this scenario. If they are trying to place a client in Spain, they need to be aware of how the Spanish system works. They must understand that orch management & artist representation is not a very sophisticated field yet in Spain. There are errors, ignorance & huge chasms of lack of communication between mgt., artists and players. It’s not the same as placing a client in a UK or German position.

      And most important, they need to understand that just because Spanish managers are naive and malleable, that is absolutely no indication of what the orch. musicians are like. Most of the players in Tenerife are at least on the same educational and cultural level, if not higher, than any artist rep from London. HP is dealing with their equals or even superiors with the musicians of the orch. These players are not just going to take whoever you put in front of them.

      HP needs to take a long close look at how they go about trying to place clients in Spain. This situation reflects badly on them.

    • Bukis Strings says:

      What is a scam? Has she ripped off someone? Please, we speak of great professionals that the only thing they want is to generate cultural value.

      I think to say that they are naive and malleable managers are strong words, do you know them personally? How easy it is to criticize and not to enjoy the music.

      I leave you a phrase of Napoleon, 🙂
      “The world suffers a lot, not because of the violence of bad people but because of the silence of good people”

      • Rodrigo says:

        “Please, we speak of great professionals that the only thing they want is to generate cultural value.” Perdona, cielo. No es la verdad.

        Music is a profession. In Spain it is a profession which is overseen by politicians. Since when do politicians have a reliable knowledge of or interest in cultural value?

        Cultural value is subjective. Who is qualified to determine cultural value? Politicians? Dilettante orchestra managers? Don’t you think that the musicians of the OST, who know far more about music and the profession of music than a newly minted orchestra Gerente, should have a voice in the projected “cultural value” of their own orchestra?

        Yes, I do know Spanish orchestra managers personally who I would without hesitation call naive and malleable. Orchestra management in Spain is not an evolved profession. There are barely candidates qualified for any given opening.

        Bukis, dear, your words are painfully idealistic and naive. I can see that you wish to defend OST’s appointment of the new Titular. You feel that you are being one of Napoleon’s “good people” in speaking out. But, respectfully, there was an official vote, Mendez did not win and you are in the minority.

  • Maria C says:

    Sr Lebrecht,lamento profundamente que la falta de informacion empañe malamente el inicio de una etapa que creo puede ser excelente para la OST.
    Pertenezco a ése 42% de personas que apoyan éste proyecto.Vivo con ilusion la posibilidad de devolver a nuestra orquesta un espacio en el panorama Nacional e internacional,como lo tuvimos hace unos años.
    Creo en la juventud y en la excelencia y en el producto nacional.
    Los porcentajes de adhesion o no a éste proyecto,no sé bien de dónde salen,pero sea como sea me gustaria ver reflejada mi opinion en ésta página.

  • Seguidora says:

    Tras leer la noticia y los comentarios, me siento horrorizada. Quede claro que no formo parte de la orquesta. Me pregunto, que rigurosidad en sus métodos ha tenido quien haya publicado estas opiniones para tener la seguridad de que son veraces.
    La que se está montando, cuando es TOTALMENTE Falso que la Orquesta haya hecho comentarios semejantes.
    Señores/as no se puede hablar en voca de nadie.
    Opiniones hay de todo tipo, pero es imperdonable que se hable en voca de un colectivo, aunque ciertamente, puede ser la opinión de algunos.
    Quién lo desee que de su opinión, pero no en nombre de la Orquesta.
    Por otro lado están valorando un trabajo que todavía no se ha efectuado. Dejen trabajar y después opinen.
    Me reitero : Falso, la orquesta jamás ha hecho esas manifestaciones