Apples and oranges
27 Oct 2011
Inside the Classics

It’s been another busy couple of weeks, but I’ve been trying to keep up with everything that’s going on the music world at large. I generally just skim the gloomy news that seems so prevalent in the orchestra world and move on (hey, there’s only so much bad news you can take in a day!). But this article caught my eye.

Essentially, it’s describing the acrimonious relationship between the KBS Orchestra (which is based in Seoul, Korea) and its music director, Korean American Hahm Shinik. A couple of very bothersome things here. First of all, ostenstibly what’s being discussed here is a disagreement between a conductor (who has the power to dismiss/take disciplinary action against players – this is never clarified) and an orchestra (who call Hahm “unskilled”). The author compares this discord to the settled Detroit Symphony strike – which doesn’t seem comparable at all. Further comparisons are drawn with Philadelphia (bankruptcy) and Colorado (paycuts).

I dunno, does this seem like comparing apples and oranges to you? Because it does to me. The rancorous relationship between players and conductor in the KBS seems to have little to do with, say, the financial woes of Detroit and Philly. It just seems to be an excuse to bring those orchestras up as a matter of course. But the effect is to paint a negative picture of the orchestra world, and I find that to be such a tremendous disservice. Bad news becomes tiresome.

And my other bone to pick; the author claims that:

“Musicians…are donning protest T-shirts and offering subpar work during practices and even some performances.”

I don’t know how you could make an assertion like that, unless you were attending all of the rehearsals (and even then…). Sure, the review for the concert was less that glowing, but is that because musicians were “offering subpar work” or because they were being led by a conductor who, musicians claim, “doesn’t recognize the distinction between different instruments”? I find it patently unfair that the blame is being placed on musicians.

And finally; if this is a piece about the KBS orchestra, why is there a picture of striking DSO musicians accompanying it? Confusing!

Phew. That piece really bothered me, I guess, thanks for letting me get that off my chest…

<February 2020>

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