Ooooooo boy…
10 Apr 2011
Inside the Classics

Where to start with this one…I first heard about the Roberto Minczuk/Brazil Symphony Orchestra scandal via Normal Lebrecht’s blog. In effect; Maestro Minczuk was to have re-auditioned the entire orchestra as an “evaluation process”. The 41 members refused to submit to re-auditioning. They took the case to court and lost; they were then fired, to much uproar. Management’s take on everything, of course, has a different spin:

We have scheduled individual assessments, within parameters that occur in large orchestras and with musicians from abroad to make up most of the evaluation boards. Our goal, when choosing external evaluators and of recognized competence, was to ensure total impartiality to the process, but also, especially, to be able to give a set of suggestions to the musicians to their possible improvement.

Minczuk has also responded via various media outlets, including the Calgary Herald (Minczuk is music director of the Calgary Symphony), stating that “Musicians who are being dismissed are not (being dismissed) for artistic purposes, and not by my decision -but by the legal measures they were forced to take”.

To be fair, what Minczuk says is true, because in a basic sense, it became a legal matter, not an artistic one; none of the musicians fired were dismissed because of any judgment on their musical fitness, but because the refused to submit to a process that was imposed on the entire organization. I think the larger question is the fairness (and legality) of that imposed process, and the implied artistic judgment therein.

Meanwhile, the controversy has come Stateside, as Minczuk is slated to guest conduct the Utah Symphony this coming week. And the fracas has spread all over; musicians worldwide have protested against Minczuk’s re-auditioning, and prominent guest artists, including pianist Cristina Ortiz, have canceled upcoming performances with the Brazil Symphony.

But perhaps most damning are the videos. Right after the firings, the Brazil Symphony management attempted to go forward with scheduled concerts by using members of the Youth Orchestra. The result, from two different perspectives (note the warm reception as the young musicians take the stage and the pandemonium that breaks out as Minczuk takes the podium).

Here’s a better view of the Youth Orchestra leaving the stage:

And, finally, some footage from the protests outside the hall. (The upside of all of this is to see how passionately the Brazilian people care about this orchestra!)

As of today the fate of those fired orchestra members is uncertain. What we know for sure, however, is that Minczuk will have a rough ride as he attempts to rehabilitate his image.

<February 2020>

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