Franz Welser-Möst, who walked out of the Vienna Opera four weeks ago over artistic disagreements, is a much happier music director at the Cleveland Orchestra. So happy he has just extended his contract to 2022, meaning he will have spent more than 20 years with the orchestra.

Press release follows:

welsermost3

The Cleveland Orchestra announces extension of Franz Welser-Möst contract as Music Director to 2022

Extension confirms the continuing artistic success of the Welser-Möst/Cleveland partnership.

Franz Welser-Möst’s ongoing commitment to Cleveland provides continuity and artistic stability into the Orchestra’s second century.

Welser-Möst will lead the Orchestra even further in music education and community engagement.

 

Release Date: October 2, 2014 at 10 a.m. EDT U.S.A.

CLEVELAND – The Cleveland Orchestra announced today the extension of Franz Welser-Möst’s contract as Music Director to 2022. With this extension, Mr. Welser-Möst’s tenure will reach at least 20 years, extending four years beyond the Orchestra’s Centennial Season in 2017-18. The announcement was made this morning to the Orchestra’s musicians and staff by the President of the Board of Trustees, Dennis W. LaBarre, and Executive Director, Gary Hanson.

“I am delighted that Franz will remain our artistic leader through and beyond our Centennial,” said Mr. LaBarre. “There is no more successful artistic partnership in the world today thanks to Franz’s extraordinary vision and leadership. I am confident the future will bring even greater success. Franz’s extended commitment provides artistic stability that is increasingly rare in our industry, and enables our shared goal for a Centennial that is a forward-looking foundation for the institution’s second century.”

“Franz is transforming The Cleveland Orchestra,” said Mr. Hanson, “not only artistically with ever-greater elegance and flexibility, but also institutionally through his passion for making us relevant to today’s audiences. For Franz, performing great concerts in local high schools is no less important than our celebrated international appearances. His long-term commitment to Cleveland is central to fulfilling our expanding education and community engagement mission.”

Commenting on the announcement of his extension, Mr. Welser-Möst said, “I love the spirit of The Cleveland Orchestra and there is no greater joy for me than collaborating with these musicians. Their collective dedication to excellence at every performance is inspiring and humbling. We challenge each other to greater heights with each passing season. I am very excited that we will launch the Orchestra’s second century together.”

Mr. Welser-Möst also spoke about the unique qualities of the Cleveland community, “We have a highly sophisticated audience in Northeast Ohio. I feel a special bond with them, whose enthusiasm for their hometown orchestra is matched by their understanding of the work and support required to maintain such an ensemble. And beyond Ohio, the passionate support of our Miami community motivates even further my long-term commitment to the Orchestra and those we serve.”

In recent seasons, Mr. Welser-Möst has led a comprehensive set of new initiatives for the Orchestra toward goals of greater community engagement while extending the Orchestra’s international presence and reputation. Looking ahead to the Centennial and beyond, he commented: “To remain relevant in a changing world requires that we constantly change and grow. Leading up to and beyond our Centennial, we will accelerate the pace of change, breaking more new ground with new audiences, new repertoire, and new types of concert and opera presentations.”

With his extended commitment through the 2021-22 season, Franz Welser-Möst will become the second longest tenured Music Director of The Cleveland Orchestra. Mr. Welser-Möst was named the seventh Music Director of The Cleveland Orchestra on June 7, 1999, and began his tenure in September 2002. In May 2003, his initial five-year contract was extended to 2012. In 2008, a six-year extension was announced to 2018.

Concurrently with his Cleveland appointment, Franz Welser-Möst has also served as General Music Director of the Zurich Opera up to 2010, and in the same role at the Vienna State Opera from 2010 to 2014. He is a regular guest conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic at home and on far-reaching international tours, as well as for opera productions at the Salzburg Festival.

 

 

 

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and its conductor Riccardo Muti took a blow to their pride last night when principal flute Mathieu Dufour ended a period of prolonged vacillation by announcing he was leaving next month to join the Berlin Philharmonic.

Dufour is a central attraction of the Chicago band and his decision was greeted with some bafflement. He will probably earn less in Berlin where, aside from deep public subsidies, commercial and media fees have dried up. He will need to find a new home, new friends, new fans in a foreign language. And he will be moving from an orchestra with a powerful and charismatic music director to one with an open podium and no certainty of its future direction.

So why?

Mathieu is saying nothing.

mathieu dufour

 

As a Frenchman, formerly at the Paris Opéra, he may feel the tug of his home continent. As a cosmopolitan, he will embrace Berlin’s dazzling diversity. And as an artist, he is ever ready to take risks.

He was, in any event, never the most settled member of the Chicago ensemble, having flitted off to Los Angeles for six months in 2009 when the CSO was between music directors. Appointed in 1999, Dufour belonged to the Barenboim era and never struck deep roots.

But his departure leaves Chicago with three big holes in the woodwinds – no principal flute from November, no principal bassoon since David McGill resigned in the summer and a big question over principal oboe Eugene Izotov who has successfully auditioned for the same post in San Francisco. Will he stay or, like Dufour, go?

 

After months of cogitation Mathieu Dufour, Principal Flute of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has submitted his regination, effective November 4, 2014, in order to join the Berlin Philharmonic in the same position in the new year. We hope he’s made the right choice.

Press release follows.  UPDATE: Why would he do that?

dufour

CHICAGO—Mathieu Dufour, Principal Flute, the Erika and Dietrich M. Gross Chair, of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has resigned his position with the CSO, effective November 4, 2014, in order to accept the position of Principal Flute at the Berlin Philharmonic. His tenure there begins in 2015.  

Dufour began his tenure with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as principal flute in 1999, appointed by then-music director Daniel Barenboim. Since then, Dufour has appeared numerous times as soloist, most recently in March 2014, giving the world premiere performances of Guillaume Connesson’s Flute Concerto, which was commissioned by the CSO.

Vanessa Moss, Vice President for Orchestra and Building Operations of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, said, “In the 15 years he has been with the CSO, Mathieu Dufour has made an extraordinary contribution to the artistry and musicianship of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. We wish him a long and successful career with the Berlin Philharmonic.”

Nacole Palmer is an Atlanta-born soprano with an international career. She is worried about her hometown orchestra. Here’s what she has written to the ASO board:

I am writing this as a response to Jessie Ahuama-Jonas’ request for words from people who were molded by the ASO. I am undoubtedly one of those people, and I hope to tell you how the ASO and its people molded me into the human I am today.

Some of my earliest memories are of being in Symphony Hall at the Woodruff Arts Center. I grew up in southwest Atlanta–yes, the bad part. I also had a mother who not only loved live classical music and theater, but who was relentless in finding ways for us to experience it. So we ushered for what felt like every play and every concert that Atlanta could produce. We went to hundreds of performances–often two or three (or even four!) in a single weekend. We would usher at the ASO on Friday night and come back on Saturday morning for the coffee concert with the pre-concert talk from William Fred Scott. From the time I was five or six years old, I was holding programs to hand out to patrons, and then a few years after that I was showing them to their seats. Of course, the most exciting part was when the concert would start, and we would find an empty seat to sit in during the hush before the music would begin. There was so much music that filled my young ears! And such great music! Mozart, Schubert, Haydn, Beethoven–what a wonderful experiential education for a young person. I remember leaning back into those soft chairs and swaying my head gently to the music that washed over my ears and heart and informed my soul. Sometimes, when I was little, I would fall asleep while listening, no matter how much I tried to stay awake; I remember coming in and out of consciousness to the transcendent sounds of the ASO, sometimes unsure of what was a dream and what sounds were real because it was all so beautiful.

At age six, I started singing in the Young Singers of Callanwolde (now called the Atlanta Young Singers of Callanwolde), and my official musical education began. Every year, the wonderful Robert Shaw presented his ‘Christmas with Robert Shaw’ concerts with the ASO and ASO Chorus, and Young Singers was the children’s choir that he invited to be a part of the concerts. Of course, at six I was too young to be on stage, but I remember wearing my Young Singers uniform as I ushered for those concerts, proudly telling people that I sang with that group, too. When I was old enough to sing with the ‘big kids,’ I sat in the front row–scarcely daring to move (because they had told us not to!), breathless with excitement and awe to be so near the Atlanta Symphony Chorus that sounded like heaven itself under Robert Shaw’s magical touch, to the Symphony Orchestra that sounded even more majestic from right in front of our noses, and across the stage from the Morehouse Glee Club, which literally rocked the hall with its incredible rendition of Betelehe-mu every night.

robert shaw nacole palmer

As I grew up, my commitment to music and specifically to singing grew stronger. A particularly formative experience was in high school, when I was lucky enough to be in the Robert Shaw High School Choral Workshop that performed at Spivey Hall. I still get tears in my eyes as I remember Mr. Shaw telling us the story of when he and his choir traveled to Russia and sang an impromptu Requiem (I think it was Brahms) at the request of a mother mourning the death of her young son who had died when the ground was still too frozen to bury him; Mr. Shaw, himself, was teary as he told this story of an event decades earlier, and I was in awe that such a Great Man as Robert Shaw was so humbled by the power of music and its ability to heal and touch people’s hearts that he would cry, so humbled that this music was what a grieving mother needed to comfort her in her hardest days that he spoke through tears about it decades later to a group of teenagers who needed to understand what the ‘power of music’ meant. Mr. Shaw spoke passionately about how music is not a means of self-promotion or accomplishment; rather, he spoke of how we, as musicians, are servants to the music, vessels through which the healing and beauty may travel on its way to the ears and hearts of others. Mr. Shaw’s argument for this vision of a musician was so powerful and transformative that I later could point to this experience as the turning point in my eventual decision to become a professional musician.<

My life as a classical singer has been both challenging and rewarding, as any life in the arts must be. I have sung in Moscow and Paris, Carnegie Hall and Westminster Abbey, and I have worried about how I would pay my rent for more months than I care to count. Being a professional musician means being committed to years of hard (and often unappreciated) work with no promise of commensurate pay, all in service to others and to the music itself. I know that the musicians of the ASO share this commitment because I have witnessed it first hand, practically since birth.

And so I ask you, board of the ASO and people of Atlanta, what is your commitment to the musicians, and what should it be? I believe that a society that is nurtured by art has a responsibility to support that art. The alternative is honestly that the art will die, because people cannot feed themselves with the beauty alone of the music and art they create. That’s reality. When we consider these questions, we are really asking ourselves what kind of society we want to be. Need I remind you that when we look back in history, each significant culture is defined by and remembered for its art? This is not a fluke or a mistake: arts and music are the very heart of a community and a culture. Please do not deprive Atlanta of its heart, of its most fine ambassador, of its ability to touch and reach the hearts of people through the finest music-making in the country. Please renew your commitment to the musicians who have sacrificed and created beauty and truth through music for your benefit. Not only do they deserve it, but so do you.

Most Sincerely,

Nacole Palmer

The premier Brazilian pianist Nelson Freire has announced his withdrawl from concerts with the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra, which has sacked half its musicians in a reaudition dispute. His withdrawal follows that of Cristina Ortiz yesterday.

The soloists appear to be starting a solidarity movement with the orchestral musicians.

I received the following note indirectly from Freire’s office:

This morning, pianist Nelson Freire cancelled his concerts in August 2011 with Orquestra Sinfônica Brasileira. “Having followed the sad news about mass dismissal of musicians, Nelson Freire has cancelled his appearance in August with Orquestra Sinfônica Brasileira”. 

Nelson, whose first appearance with OSB was in 1956, arrived this morning in Paris, where he plays three times this week – on Wednesday, in a benefit concerto for Japan; an two times at Salle Pleyel.
 

http://www.deccaclassics.com/ontour/?ART_ID=FRENE

 
 
 
 
Nelson Freire, o pianista com a mais longa história com a Orquestra Sinfônica Brasileira: 55 anos ( com a orquestra pela primeira vez em 1956) acaba de cancelar os concertos desta temporada.


 

Tendo companhado as noticias através de todos os jornais, o pianista Nelson Freire decidiu cancelar os compromissos com a OSB em 2011, chocado com a demissão em massa dos músicos. Ele chegou hoje (4/4) a Paris, e se apresenta três vezes nesta semana – na quarta, num concerto em benefício das vitimas do terremoto no Japão; dia 8, um concerto na Salle Pleyel (tocando o Concerto n. 2 de Chopin) e dia 11, um recital na mesma Salle Pleyel; e nas próximas semanas em Genebra, Grenoble, Lyon e na Itália.

The city of Buenos Aires has fired half of the musicians in the Teatro Colon for going on strike over late payments.

The musicians, who won support last week from the visiting Placido Domingo and accompanied his concert for free, are taking their case to court. See here for details. And here for a softer version.
It is impossible to ignore parallels with the brutal dispute being played out in Brazil. Foreign artists and managers are starting to put both orchestras on an international blacklist.

The foundation that runs the crisis-stricken Brazil Symphony Orchestra has announced overnight that it setting up its own blog to give an official spin to fast-developing events.

Here’s the url. The opening page features a damage limitation statement by the foundation president, Eleazar de Carvalho jr. I’ll post it below.
Clearly the bosses have been rattled by the dynamics of slipped disc over the past few days. It remains to be seen whether their page will try, like slipped disc, to present both sides of the story.
Here’s the announcement, from my mailbox:

OSB em Pauta é o blog que a Fundação Orquestra Sinfônica Brasileira (FOSB) lançou nesta segunda-feira, dia 14 de março de 2011, para tornar públicos seus posicionamentos oficiais sobre os fatos relacionados à entidade.

Você é nosso convidado para visitar e participar do blog da mais tradicional orquestra do Brasil.

And here’s the Carvalho statement:

DOMINGO, MARÇO 13, 2011 @ 04:03 PM

Gostaria, como presidente da Fundação OSB (FOSB), de relatar que, no dia 24 de janeiro, uma correspondência assinada pela Comissão dos Músicos da OSB solicitava uma reunião com representantes da FOSB para debater questões relacionadas às avaliações de desempenho individuais agendadas para março. No dia 18 de fevereiro, a reunião aconteceu na sede da OSB, com a minha presença e a de representantes dos músicos. Na ocasião, a Fundação OSB reiterou a obrigatoriedade do comparecimento às avaliações, que servirão como mais um meio para apurar o rendimento artístico e profissional de cada músico individualmente, juntamente com o processo avaliativo contínuo que é feito sistematicamente na nossa rotina de ensaios e espetáculos. A reunião foi encerrada com uma solicitação dos músicos para que o repertório escolhido pela direção artística fosse revisto – cabe aqui ressaltar que as obras selecionadas foram recentemente tocadas pela OSB nas suas últimas temporadas, fazendo parte do repertório sinfônico comum às orquestras. Uma reunião com a direção artística foi agendada para o dia 21 de fevereiro, para que questões como essas fossem debatidas diretamente entre as partes.

No dia 21 de fevereiro, diferentemente do que havia sido combinado, a Comissão dos Músicos nos comunicou que não haveria mais sentido em discutir repertório ou nenhuma outra questão referente às avaliações, pois haviam decidido, em assembléia realizada pela manhã, que 56 dos 58 músicos presentes não a fariam – ainda assim, atendendo à reivindicação do dia 18, a direção artística fez a modificação no repertório inicial. Seguindo prerrogativa legal, os músicos foram advertidos por escrito de que o comparecimento à avaliação era obrigatório e que a recusa em comparecer configuraria ato de insubordinação, sendo passível de punição.

No dia 3 de março, recebemos a visita de um membro do Sindicato dos Músicos e do presidente da Comissão de Músicos, que nos entregaram um ofício convidando a Fundação OSB a comparecer ao Ministério do Trabalho para uma mesa-redonda, com data sugerida para 10 de março. O objetivo, segundo o ofício, era discutir a avaliação de desempenho – embora os próprios músicos já tivessem encerrado o diálogo sobre o assunto, no dia 21 de fevereiro, conforme relatado acima. Imediatamente, a FOSB colocou-se à disposição para retomar o diálogo, respondendo que, a despeito do curto espaço de tempo que teríamos para conciliar as agendas de nosso representantes, envidaríamos nossos melhores esforços para estarmos presentes. Em nossa correspondência, a FOSB esclarece também que, independente da mesa-redonda, as avaliações estariam mantidas até 2ª ordem – correspondência essa que foi recebida e assinada pelo presidente da Comissão dos Músicos e pelo representante do Sindicato.

No dia 4 de março – um dia após a solicitação dessa mesa-redonda, portanto – fomos surpreendidos com uma medida judicial movida pelo Sindicato em nome dos músicos, com o objetivo de cancelar a avaliação. No entanto, o pedido foi liminarmente rejeitado, tanto em primeira quanto em segunda instâncias, o que reforça a absoluta legalidade do que vem sendo praticado pela Fundação OSB. Devido à exiguidade do prazo, a Fundação solicitou a remarcação da data para a realização da mesa-redonda, o que mais uma vez comprova que estamos abertos ao diálogo. Entretanto, tendo em vista as medidas judiciais e a postura adotadas por esse grupo de músicos, cabe a nós uma reflexão mais profunda sobre a real intenção de dialogar por parte deles. No dia 10 de março, as avaliações de desempenho transcorreram normalmente, tendo comparecido 6 dos 15 músicos agendados. Acreditamos que até o dia 18, quando terminam as avaliações, teremos contado com a adesão de um expressivo número de músicos, que, com certeza, estão olhando na mesma direção que a Fundação. Estamos oferecendo excelentes condições de trabalho e um aumento substancial nas bases de remuneração dos músicos, que passam a receber entre R$ 9.000,00 e R$ 11.000,00 – há cinco anos, quando a atual direção artística assumiu, o piso era de R$ 2.200,00 e os salários estavam atrasados. Graças ao empenho de todos, conseguimos atrair uma série de patrocinadores importantes, fazendo com que o orçamento da OSB saltasse de R$ 6,4 milhões para R$ 35 milhões e propiciando à Orquestra uma vida financeira saudável, que vai nos permitir dar os próximos passos para que a OSB se projete internacionalmente – turnês e gravações de CDs e DVDs, entre outras ações.

Gostaríamos, para finalizar, de frisar que todos os músicos que fazem parte da OSB devem se sentir à vontade para procurar diretamente a Fundação OSB caso tenham alguma dúvida referente à avaliação ou a qualquer outro assunto relacionado às suas atividade na Orquestra.

Eleazar de Carvalho Filho
Presidente da Fundação OSB

—————————————————————————–


The foundation that runs the crisis-stricken Brazil Symphony Orchestra has announced overnight that it setting up its own blog to give an official spin to fast-developing events.

Here’s the url. The opening page features a damage limitation statement by the foundation president, Eleazar de Carvalho jr. I’ll post it below.
Clearly the bosses have been rattled by the dynamics of slipped disc over the past few days. It remains to be seen whether their page will try, like slipped disc, to present both sides of the story.
Here’s the announcement, from my mailbox:

OSB em Pauta é o blog que a Fundação Orquestra Sinfônica Brasileira (FOSB) lançou nesta segunda-feira, dia 14 de março de 2011, para tornar públicos seus posicionamentos oficiais sobre os fatos relacionados à entidade.

Você é nosso convidado para visitar e participar do blog da mais tradicional orquestra do Brasil.

And here’s the Carvalho statement:

DOMINGO, MARÇO 13, 2011 @ 04:03 PM

Gostaria, como presidente da Fundação OSB (FOSB), de relatar que, no dia 24 de janeiro, uma correspondência assinada pela Comissão dos Músicos da OSB solicitava uma reunião com representantes da FOSB para debater questões relacionadas às avaliações de desempenho individuais agendadas para março. No dia 18 de fevereiro, a reunião aconteceu na sede da OSB, com a minha presença e a de representantes dos músicos. Na ocasião, a Fundação OSB reiterou a obrigatoriedade do comparecimento às avaliações, que servirão como mais um meio para apurar o rendimento artístico e profissional de cada músico individualmente, juntamente com o processo avaliativo contínuo que é feito sistematicamente na nossa rotina de ensaios e espetáculos. A reunião foi encerrada com uma solicitação dos músicos para que o repertório escolhido pela direção artística fosse revisto – cabe aqui ressaltar que as obras selecionadas foram recentemente tocadas pela OSB nas suas últimas temporadas, fazendo parte do repertório sinfônico comum às orquestras. Uma reunião com a direção artística foi agendada para o dia 21 de fevereiro, para que questões como essas fossem debatidas diretamente entre as partes.

No dia 21 de fevereiro, diferentemente do que havia sido combinado, a Comissão dos Músicos nos comunicou que não haveria mais sentido em discutir repertório ou nenhuma outra questão referente às avaliações, pois haviam decidido, em assembléia realizada pela manhã, que 56 dos 58 músicos presentes não a fariam – ainda assim, atendendo à reivindicação do dia 18, a direção artística fez a modificação no repertório inicial. Seguindo prerrogativa legal, os músicos foram advertidos por escrito de que o comparecimento à avaliação era obrigatório e que a recusa em comparecer configuraria ato de insubordinação, sendo passível de punição.

No dia 3 de março, recebemos a visita de um membro do Sindicato dos Músicos e do presidente da Comissão de Músicos, que nos entregaram um ofício convidando a Fundação OSB a comparecer ao Ministério do Trabalho para uma mesa-redonda, com data sugerida para 10 de março. O objetivo, segundo o ofício, era discutir a avaliação de desempenho – embora os próprios músicos já tivessem encerrado o diálogo sobre o assunto, no dia 21 de fevereiro, conforme relatado acima. Imediatamente, a FOSB colocou-se à disposição para retomar o diálogo, respondendo que, a despeito do curto espaço de tempo que teríamos para conciliar as agendas de nosso representantes, envidaríamos nossos melhores esforços para estarmos presentes. Em nossa correspondência, a FOSB esclarece também que, independente da mesa-redonda, as avaliações estariam mantidas até 2ª ordem – correspondência essa que foi recebida e assinada pelo presidente da Comissão dos Músicos e pelo representante do Sindicato.

No dia 4 de março – um dia após a solicitação dessa mesa-redonda, portanto – fomos surpreendidos com uma medida judicial movida pelo Sindicato em nome dos músicos, com o objetivo de cancelar a avaliação. No entanto, o pedido foi liminarmente rejeitado, tanto em primeira quanto em segunda instâncias, o que reforça a absoluta legalidade do que vem sendo praticado pela Fundação OSB. Devido à exiguidade do prazo, a Fundação solicitou a remarcação da data para a realização da mesa-redonda, o que mais uma vez comprova que estamos abertos ao diálogo. Entretanto, tendo em vista as medidas judiciais e a postura adotadas por esse grupo de músicos, cabe a nós uma reflexão mais profunda sobre a real intenção de dialogar por parte deles. No dia 10 de março, as avaliações de desempenho transcorreram normalmente, tendo comparecido 6 dos 15 músicos agendados. Acreditamos que até o dia 18, quando terminam as avaliações, teremos contado com a adesão de um expressivo número de músicos, que, com certeza, estão olhando na mesma direção que a Fundação. Estamos oferecendo excelentes condições de trabalho e um aumento substancial nas bases de remuneração dos músicos, que passam a receber entre R$ 9.000,00 e R$ 11.000,00 – há cinco anos, quando a atual direção artística assumiu, o piso era de R$ 2.200,00 e os salários estavam atrasados. Graças ao empenho de todos, conseguimos atrair uma série de patrocinadores importantes, fazendo com que o orçamento da OSB saltasse de R$ 6,4 milhões para R$ 35 milhões e propiciando à Orquestra uma vida financeira saudável, que vai nos permitir dar os próximos passos para que a OSB se projete internacionalmente – turnês e gravações de CDs e DVDs, entre outras ações.

Gostaríamos, para finalizar, de frisar que todos os músicos que fazem parte da OSB devem se sentir à vontade para procurar diretamente a Fundação OSB caso tenham alguma dúvida referente à avaliação ou a qualquer outro assunto relacionado às suas atividade na Orquestra.

Eleazar de Carvalho Filho
Presidente da Fundação OSB

—————————————————————————–


A row over re-audition procedures at the Brazil Symphony Orchestra has prompted many local musicians and overseas colleagues to black out their facebook photos in protest.

The points at issue are laid out in a letter (below) from the former Chicago Symphony oboist Alex Klein to the music director, Roberto Minczuk. They are mostly internal and occupational, of no wider interest beyond the working conditions of musicians in Brazil – although some comments on my facebook page from musicians in other countries indicate levels of intense solidarity and condemnation of the re-auditioning process.
photo: Juliana Coutinho
But the fact that the musicians are using facebook as their medium of protest gives the matter wider attention and ensures that the orchestra management cannot ride roughshod over the dissenters. It could signal a new phase in musical negotiation.
For blacked faces check, e.g., home pages of Juliana Bravim, Victor Astorga and more.
——————-

Open letter to the Music Director of the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra, Roberto Minczuk.


Dear Roberto,

 

I write in an open letter format to support your intention to renew the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra, OSB, and establish a higher artistic level. The OSB used to be a leader among Brazilian orchestras, but thanks to your work and leadership during these past years as well as the dedication of the musicians who kept the orchestra alive for so many difficult years, we see that the orchestra is now receiving its deserved high recognition.

 

However, I beg you to reconsider the strategy of imposing internal auditions to the entire orchestra, or even to a single musician. This strategy has been used before in Brazil, at OSESP, leaving scars on the music market up to this day that affect musicians and the conductor himself. At that time, however, the OSESP internal auditions brought in judges from outside the organization, reducing or eliminating the perception that non-artistic standards – that is, a personal preference of the conductor – would be used in the process of choosing musicians.

 

To justify these auditions, much is said about the need to raise the level of our orchestras to international standards. Ironically, there is no precedent of great international orchestras going through internal auditions to reach that level. Instead, the major orchestras in the world reached a high plateau after the onset of labor movements that gave support to the musicians, giving them job security and reasonable working conditions that foster this high standard.

 

The Berlin Philharmonic began its journey as a significant leader among orchestras of the twentieth century after a movement in 1882 when 54 musicians complained about working conditions and formed a new group, leaving behind their conductor. And Chicago became a leading international orchestra after the departure of Fritz Reiner and the formation of its musician’s committee which defended the labor rights of its members. In fact, Chicago’s first int
ernational tour was only in
1971, eight years after the departure of Reiner, a period in which the Musician’s Committee established the foundations for better working conditions.

 

Against this historical movement you cannot fight. The days of the “Godfather” in factories and industries is now long gone. Today, modern enterprises value the feedback within the firm, with “bosses” and “employees” in constant two-way communication toward a better quality product. Neither Embraer nor Petrobrás order the re-interviewing of all its engineers. This is the secret of the success of large companies as well as major international orchestras. The election of internal auditions goes in the opposite direction to these modern ideas, and makes the OSB under your leadership look at the year 1950 as an example for the future. You do not deserve this comparison, Roberto, and you need to change the course of this discussion.

 

The auditions have other negative consequences. They create a work environment of “us against them” where the first possible opportunity is used to score points against the other party, generating distrust, unnecessary friction, and none of that is commensurate with good music, where harmony should reign, mutual respect, artistic cohesion, and that great moment where the orchestral conductor and orchestra are “one”, and form a magical partnership. A “partnership”, however, indicates a horizontal working strategy, side by side, between conductor and musicians. And not something vertical where the maestro is on top and his decisions are untouchable. The respect musicians must have for a conductor is not really different from that which an engineer has for the administration at Embraer or Petrobras, and it depends on a two-way street where the leadership “makes sense” for the highly trained technicians who assemble the company’s product. If, from the point of view of musicians the leadership of the conductor “makes no sense”, this musician will not produce his best work, unless the desired product is merely that of 100 musicians playing together. But looking at your career, Roberto, you know how to achieve more, and you deserve more than that. Perhaps other conductors settle for less, just as well as some companies accept a lower standard. But for a top-notch institution, we demand the highest quality in everything we do, on all fronts.

 

It is also wrong, therefore, for musicians to demand the immediate dismissal of a conductor. You have a 6-year contract, and you should have the right to carry it through without interference or internal strife against you. Shouldn’t you also lead by example and give the musicians their own permanence without the presence of internal strife that threatens their job security and livelihood? Wouldn’t it make more sense to ensure the reasonable job security for all – musicians and conductors as contracted – leaving them free to create music without wasting time and resources, and the wear-and-tear of internal auditions and dismissals?

 

Mind you, Roberto, your situation is quite different from Neshling’s when he did the auditions at OSESP in the 90’s. You conduct the world’s finest orchestras, Philadelphia, New York Phil, and have an important position in Calgary. All of these modern orchestras have “horizontal” agreements with their musicians. You need not be equal to Neshling to uphold your reputation as a great orchestral leader in Brazil, and do not need to use techniques which are discredited internationally to command respect and discipline from your orchestra. A wrong choice now could cause complications and raise suspicions in your reputation abroad. You do not deserve any of this after devoting so much to your career, and we need you in Brazil as a modern leader.

 

The OSB is an excellent orchestra, and includes many of the best orchestral musicians in Brazil. The institution itself owes them a big thank you for keeping this orchestra alive through many years of labor conditions that fell way below expectations. If there are musicians who no longer keep up with the work demands, maybe you can bring to OSB the separation principles already existing in Calgary and other foreign orchestras that you have already conducted. A musician facing dismissal deserves to know the reasons for his impending termination, and a real chance to offer improvements. If the termination is still desired, the musician deserves to defend his case through the Musician’s Committee, so as to prevent non-artistic reasons from permeating the decision to fire him. After that, if the dismissal is truly inevitable, then please give the musician some mercy and the dignity of a proper separation, with a round of applause, a certificate of appreciation, at least some recognition that his days in OSB were of value, for which the institution thanks him. Please consider the human being inside this musician because this message will then be clear to those who are remaining in the orchestra, that it appreciates those who actually produce its sound.

 

These musicians have families, Roberto. They have bills to pay. The path to the desired major renovation of an orchestra is not through the removal of musicians, but by encouraging them to produce the best music they ever played, nurturing their self-esteem. I agree, however, that it is much more difficult for a conductor to work under these conditions, where 100 musicians have their own opinion and often opposed to that of the conductor. It is also much harder for Dilma Rouseff to govern our country than it is for Kim Il-Sung to govern his. For this is the system we live in: a democracy, where there is freedom of e

xpression. An orchestra or company is not a democracy, but we Brazilians are democratic people, it is in our veins. We breathe the dialogue and free expression in all our affairs, and it is up to the smart leader to know how to transform all this energy into productivity. The experience with democratic values has its price, especially for those who lead. We cannot cede to autocratic values simply because or whenever they suit us. We are Brazilians, we do not respond well to autocracy, and that’s a good thing. The orchestra, as a micro-society, also breathes democratic values even if the format of the organization is contractual and business-oriented.

 

I ask you, my dear friend, to reconsider and cancel those auditions. You are in an excellent position to bring to Brazil the standards of an international orchestra. Do it. Bring to your country the true standards that made a Philadelphia or Cleveland Orchestra what they are today. Raise the level of productivity of the musicians, but please do it with respect and dignity.

 

Let’s turn the page and close this chapter of layoffs, misunderstandings, biases, authoritarianism, and the inevitable lack of artistic consensus it brings. No more mass layoffs of musicians, and no more demands for the immediate departure of the conductor.

 

We count on you, Roberto, on the musician who you are and what you represent for the future, to lead the OSB without internal auditions, not because it’s easy but because it is difficult. But it is the right thing to do.

 

Best,

 

Alex Klein

Watching a BBC4 rerun last night of John Bridcut’s thoughtful bio-doc of England’s iconic composer, I was puzzled by an early clip of a young woman conductor I had never clocked before. But, knowing the frugal way that Bridcut builds his films with few inessentials, it was only a matter of time before her significance was revealed.

Natalia Luis-Bassa is her name (here’s her website) and the causes of her enthusiasm went unexplained, though it appears she leads a couple of orchs in the north of England and has won an award from the Elgar Society. 
Home in Caracas, she was conducting the Elgar second symphony with the Simon Bolivar national orchestra and the zeal with which those musicians blew away the old pomp and circumstance was a wonder to behold. My eyes opened even wider when I saw the ruminative young dude sitting, lips pursed, just behind Natalia’s left shoulder.

                                                                             &n
bsp;       &n
bsp;      photo: wikipedia
And there he was, Gustavo Dudamel, the Dude himself, soaking up English music like a citizenship candidate in a seedy Brighton language school. His first Elgar – who knows? But don’t be surprised of the man with the big moustache finds his way into the Dude’s LA playkit in the coming seasons.
Here’s Natalia conducting Elgar 2nd on Youtube.

The January issue of the German magazine Das Orchester is dedicated to environmental awareness. It reports healthy progress on many fronts.

The Schleswig Holstein Music Festival has introduced reusable lunch plates. The Leiszhalle in Hamburg has replaced its lighting system. The Grafenegg festival runs bus shuttles. 

Players in Daniel Barenboim’s Berlin Staaskepelle have set up a group called NaturTon to raise awareness among musicians and audiences of the damage they are doing to the planet.

The British music industry is praised for forging ahead with Julie’s Bicycle, a cross-arts initiative chaired by ex-EMI boss Tony Wadsworth on how to make the arts less pollutant.

There is, of course, an elephant in the room. It is called orchestral touring. If orchestras like the Staatskapelle stopped jumping on planes at the drop of a fat cheque, they would save large chunks of the ozone layer and be able to play with clean consciences. It’s not as if they tour for a living. Most orchestra players are paid salaries whether they play or not, fly or stay home. 
Flying orchestras is wasteful and wrong. Most musicians know that and many would like to do something about it.
Audiences can help. Support your local orchestra. Don’t buy tickets to orchestras on tour. Spread the word. Stop classical pollution.

The January issue of the German magazine Das Orchester is dedicated to environmental awareness. It reports healthy progress on many fronts.

The Schleswig Holstein Music Festival has introduced reusable lunch plates. The Leiszhalle in Hamburg has replaced its lighting system. The Grafenegg festival runs bus shuttles. 

Players in Daniel Barenboim’s Berlin Staaskepelle have set up a group called NaturTon to raise awareness among musicians and audiences of the damage they are doing to the planet.

The British music industry is praised for forging ahead with Julie’s Bicycle, a cross-arts initiative chaired by ex-EMI boss Tony Wadsworth on how to make the arts less pollutant.

There is, of course, an elephant in the room. It is called orchestral touring. If orchestras like the Staatskapelle stopped jumping on planes at the drop of a fat cheque, they would save large chunks of the ozone layer and be able to play with clean consciences. It’s not as if they tour for a living. Most orchestra players are paid salaries whether they play or not, fly or stay home. 
Flying orchestras is wasteful and wrong. Most musicians know that and many would like to do something about it.
Audiences can help. Support your local orchestra. Don’t buy tickets to orchestras on tour. Spread the word. Stop classical pollution.