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Brazil – the judge’s assessment

Michael Faust, the German flautist who is about to judge the woodwind re-auditions of the Brazil Symphony Orchestra, has sent me an article by Nelzon Rubens Kunze, editor of the music magazine, Concerto, which he feels represents the situation more objectively than the musicians. 





In the interests of balance and open communication, I am reproducing the piece verbatim in Portuguese, followed by an English translation, prepared by the OSB:
*Por uma nova OSB* (12/3/2011)
*Por Nelson Rubens Kunze*

Estou acompanhando atônito os desdobramentos da crise da Orquestra Sinfônica
Brasileira (OSB). Como todos sabem, músicos se rebelaram contra um processo
de reavaliação de performance decidido pela direção da orquestra e pela
Fundação OSB. A ideia, segundo tem repetido insistentemente o maestro
Roberto Minczuk, é a de reclassificar artisticamente o grupo. Músicos
protestam e boicotam as audições, na internet ecoam queixas e até o blog do
influente crítico inglês Norman Lebrecht entrou na história [clique aqui
para ler http://www.artsjournal.com/slippeddisc/2011/03/brazil_in_a_nutshell_-_so_what.html

Surpreendeu-me a dimensão que o assunto assumiu. Estamos falando da
reavaliação de instrumentistas de um grupo que há pouco mais de 5 anos era
um simulacro de orquestra. Simulacro mesmo! Não foram raras as vezes em que
a Revista CONCERTO lamentou a situação de penúria e abandono a qual a OSB,
uma das mais importantes orquestras do país, estava relegada. Com a nomeação
do maestro Roberto Minczuk, em 2005, a coisa mudou. Houve em sua gestão uma
pequena revolução, que teve entre as suas principais conquistas a
revalorização do músico e de seu trabalho. Não será isso o que significa a
realização de temporadas sinfônicas com renomados solistas e maestros
internacionais (Kurt Masur já seria suficiente, mas é uma lista extensa)? Ou
concertos com teatros lotados em palcos nobres como o Teatro Municipal do
Rio de Janeiro ou a Sala São Paulo? Ou ainda salários e remunerações pagos
mensalmente? Há poucos anos não era bem isso o que se passava.

Mas a pequena revolução não foi apenas do maestro Minczuk. Houve um grande
empenho para mobilizar um atuante conselho para a Fundação OSB (isso não
deve ser desprezado, seu conselho reúne personalidades eminentes e um
presidente com raro engajamento), houve empenho para conseguir formar uma
administração moderna e eficiente com profissionais que estão entre os mais
preparados do ramo, e, talvez o mais importante, logrou-se sensibilizar
grandes patrocinadores e apoiadores. Após anos de sufoco, a OSB começou a
respirar novamente. Isso, no Brasil, é uma pequena revolução. Desconfio que
no Rio de Janeiro seja um tsunami cultural...

Mas sejamos realistas: a orquestra, em uma escala de 0 a 10 , foi, digamos,
de 3 para 6. Não é pouco, pelo esforço que custou e pelo movimento que
causou. Mas está muito aquém do que a cidade do Rio de Janeiro e o Brasil
merecem. A Cidade Maravilhosa quer uma grande Orquestra Sinfônica
Brasileira, profissional, geradora de cultura e inserida no debate cultural
contemporâneo. Uma orquestra que possa orgulhar o país que abrigará a Copa
do Mundo, e que possa orgulhar a cidade das Olimpíadas de 2016. E
convenhamos que para isso falta alguma coisa.

A Fundação OSB não está propondo uma reavaliação de performance de uma
orquestra consolidada em um grande centro europeu ou norte-americano. Também
não se trata de reaudições em algum conjunto do interior da Inglaterra ou de
uma orquestra de alguma cidade da província alemã. Creio que o que se
pretende é a construção - sim, estamos em pleno processo de construção! - de
uma moderna orquestra sinfônica internacional em uma das mais belas
metrópoles do mundo, em um país que recentemente alcançou à sétima posição
na economia global. A OSB, com sua história de 70 anos, merece essa
oportunidade, e desde alguns anos há um esforço evidente nesse sentido.

Posto isso, parece coerente a decisão da Fundação OSB em promover a
avaliação de performance como medida para a classificação artística de seus
instrumentistas. Não será uma imposição unilateral e autoritária guiada pela
vontade do maestro ou diretor artístico. Haverá uma banca internacional,
isenta e imparcial. E o processo terá uma contrapartida, que é um novo
patamar salarial. Assim a Fundação OSB finalmente estabelecerá condições
para um vínculo empregatício que poderá garantir, também, a necessária
segurança para futuras aposentadorias.

Oxalá a OSB possa seguir contando com o grupo de exímios instrumentistas que
hoje a integra, e que contribuiu decisivamente para o atual nível de suas
realizações. E que o processo auxilie também para o amadurecimento de
modernos processos de gestão, próprios de uma orquestra sinfônica do século
XXI.
Nelson Kunze





For a new OSB (03/12/2011)

By Nelson Rubens Kunze*

I’m following astonished the crisis in the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra
(OSB). As you all know, musicians rebelled against a process of performance
reassessment determined by the direction of the orchestra and the OSB
Foundation. The idea, according to what maestro Roberto Minczuk has insistently
repeated, is to reclassify the group artistically. Musicians are protesting and
boycotting the auditions, complaints are echoing on the internet and even the
blog of the influential British critic Norman Lebrecht came into the story
[click here
http://www.artsjournal.com/slippeddisc/2011/03/brazil_in_a_nutshell_-_so_what.html to read].

It surprised me the extent that the subject took. We are talking about
the reassessment of a group of musicians that just over 5 years was a
simulacrum of an orchestra. Yes, a real simulacrum! Several times CONCERTO
Magazine regretted the shortage and neglect to which the OSB, one of the most
important orchestras in the country, was relegated. With the appointment of
conductor Roberto Minczuk, in 2005, things changed. There was a small
revolution, which had among its main achievements to revaluation of the
musicians and their work. Or isn’t this what it means the establishment of
symphonic seasons with international renowned soloists and conductors (Kurt
Masur would be enough, but it is a long list)? Or concerts in crowded venues
such as the Municipal Theatre in Rio de Janeiro or the São Paulo Hall? Or
salaries and wages paid monthly? That was not what was happening a few years
ago.

But it was not only a small revolution of conductor Minczuk. There was a
great effort to mobilize an active board for the OSB Foundation (this should
not be despised, the council today is formed by eminent personalities and has a
president with rare engagement), there was a commitment to achieve a modern and
efficient administration with professionals who are among the most prepared in
the field and, perhaps most importantly, they were able to gain major sponsors
and supporters. After years of struggle, the OSB began to breathe again. This,
in Brazil, is a small revolution. I suspect that in Rio de Janeiro it is a
cultural tsunami…

But let’s be realistic: the orchestra, on a scale of 0 to 10, went, say,
from 3 to 6. It is not little, for the effort it took and the movement it
caused. But it is far from what the city of Rio de Janeiro and Brazil deserve.
The Marvelous City wants a large and modern Brazilian Symphony Orchestra, that
generates culture and that is inserted in the contemporary debate. An orchestra
for what the country that will host the Soccer World Cup can be proud of, and
for what the city of the 2016 Olympic Games can be proud of. And let us admit,
for this it lacks anything.

The OSB Foundation is not proposing a re-evaluation of performance of a consolidated
orchestra in a major city in Europe or North America. Also this is not some reauditions
in the English countryside or an orchestra in a little city of the German
province. I believe the aim is to build – yes, we are in the process of
construction! – a modern international symphony orchestra in one of the most
beautiful metropolis in the world, in a country that recently reached the
seventh position of the global economy. The OSB, with its history of 70 years,
deserves this opportunity, and since some years there is a clear effort in that
direction.

That said, the decision of the OSB Foundation to promote performance
evaluation as a measure for the artistic classification of their instrumentalists
seems consistent. There will be not an unilateral imposition guided by the
authoritative will of the conductor or artistic director. Instead, there will
be an international banking, unbiased and impartial. And the process will have a
counterpart, which is a new wage level. So finally the OSB Foundation will
establish conditions never had before, that will also guarantee the necessary
security for future retirements.

I really expect OSB will keep the group of skilled instrumentalists they
have today, and which contributed decisively to the current level of their
achievements. And hope that this process also assists in the maturation of
modern management processes, appropriate to a symphony orchestra of the 21.st Century.

 

[Nelson Rubens
Kunze is editor of the Brazilian Music Magazine CONCERTO, licensing partner of
Gramophone in Brazil. This text was first published on the website of the
CONCERTO Magazine (
www.concerto.com.br)]

 

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Comments

  1. Eduardo Monteiro says:

    The fact that this partial a biased letter was sent to this blog by one of the judges, shows how “impartial” these re-auditions are being held.
    Thia is a gross ethical fault of Michael Faust. As a judge, he should never do it.

  2. It’s not a surprise for me this statement comes from him.
    And It’s hard to believe that someone living 10000km from Rio knows the reality better than those living there!
    And of course, Eduardo is right. He can’t be part of the jury anymore.

  3. Antonio Augusto says:

    Dear mr. Faust,
    By publishing a letter from the editor of a magazine in which FOSB and its artistic director constantly do paid ads as a more objective view than the one presented by the musicians about what’s happening in our orchestra is disgusting, arrogant and unworthy.
    I will not measure efforts so that all your colleagues and all the German orchestras was well as all the internacional music community get to know your irresponsible, unethical and therefore negligible behavior.
    Needless to say that you Mr. Faust have every right to participate in this board, but please at least respect the sense of musicians like me, who for 23 years has been working with passion to keep this institution alive. It may be that I am completely wrong in my point of views, but I do not admit that neither you or a magazine editor will have a more “objective” view than that of the musicians who are having our professional and personal lives destroyed by this reckless action of FOSB. By taking a position so clearly on one side of this issue, Mr Faust, you clearly demonstrates that your trial will never be impartial, fair and clean as you have expressed on previous occasions.
    Respect, Mr. Faust! It’s all I ask of you.
    Antonio Augusto.
    Horn of OSB;
    Professor at Federal University of Rio de Janeiro

  4. I make no comment on the rights and wrongs of this dispute, but the above letter is CLEARLY an honest opinion about the need for the proposed process. This does not mean he is biased in favour of any one particular player, etc. He just clearly states that he is willing to adjudicate fairly and honestly under the circumstances, and adroitly clarifies his reasons for doing so. His writing to the blog, and what he says, does not undermine or infringe upon his impartiality, and I think it would be an insult to him to imply that he is not or would not be impartial.

  5. It is very interesting to notice that the solo flute player from the WDR, who has been called in to sit on the international jury for the internal auditions at the OSB, sends in the comment from Mr. Kunze. To me it looks like Mr Faust is desperately looking for an excuse for being a judge in the hideous audtions.
    Mr. Faust has been warned against participating from his own solo bassoonist in WDR, Mr. Ole Kristian Dahl,and told not to go.He has also been told he is ruining the fine reputation of the WDR. Even so, he chose to be an “executioner” and even wrote that he would be happy if he could be evaluated himself at an audition at his own orchestra. I guess his colleagues cannot wait to discuss further details with him. When Mr. Faust comes back to Germany, he will be surrounded by musicians who know of his work in Rio de Janeiro,and who also know that the German union of orchestras is condemning these internal auditions. Good luck !
    Mr. Faust is obviously biased in this whole matter. Any person in the jury who is impartial , would never take part in the public debate in the media.I have to say it in plain English: do your job and shut up ! Best would of course have been to have gone home, before the auditions !
    To me Mr. Faust’s contribution is another evidence that ” something is rotten in the state of Rome”, in this case the state being the administration of the OSB.
    To Mr.Kunze’s message: Everyone has different opinons on an artistic performance. Someone can think that an orchestra performs well, others may be very disappointed. I am sure that the OSB has made good and less good concerts in its 70 years’ existence. However, it is not right that only after Mr. Minczuk became music director, we could have high level concerts, some with international conductors like Kurt Masur. Kurt Masur has conducted the orchestra regularily since 1970 !The OSB has been a very strong artistic force in Brazil since it was founded.
    It is very chic in Rio to speak about the World Cup and the Olympics. Mr. Kunze does it as well.It is admirable that one wants a symphony orchestra of a high international standard, if such a term exists. I have said in numerous messages before, that the way the present administration is trying to rebuild the orchestra, is not the way to go. It will never happen.It is the wrong way !One day people will come to their senses. Fortunately for the music scene of Brazil, the musicians are very strong and the international music community is very united in its support for the members of the OSB.
    Best regards Ole Bohn
    Concertmaster Norwegian National Opera
    professor Sydney Conservatory of Music

  6. Eduardo Monteiro says:

    Mr. Robson, the letter of Mr. Kunze is the honest statement of the owner of a magazine that has strong financial interests in this crisis.
    You didn’t know about it. Let’s give Michael Faust the benefit of the doubt. He also didn’t know about it.
    This is why he sould never make statements about a very controversial question, while participating in the process.
    His willingness to do it is for me a sign he doesn’t show the necessary distancing in this process.

  7. The relevancy of Mr. Faust’s or Kunze’s statement falls short of addressing the real issue as I see it. The process of building an orchestra is one that takes time and must be done with patience and a steady hand. I play in an American Orchestra where this process is proven time and time again to be very successful. There is always a flow of this “coveted “new blood” into orchestras. My own holds auditions every year, throughout the year to fill positions that have become open for a variety of reasons. People retire, people move on to different opportunities, etc, etc, etc. But the level of the orchestra is always maintained through honest and approved methods of audition. We don’t simply tell someone that their time has come to be put out to pasture and shove them out the back door! There is a right way and a wrong way to do most things in life and this one, dear friends, is simply wrong. Growth is nurtured and takes time and patience. Building a musical empire on the backs of others is just not the way to go. And, further, for a musician like Mr. Faust to take the time and effort to travel to Brazil to participate in this hasty and ill advised methodology is actually quite shocking. I believe it smacks of opportunism and a severe lack of fore site rather than a desire to really be of help. Ride in as a mercenary and then scamper home after participating in the ruination on many lives and careers. Hardly honorable Mr. Faust. And come now, Mr. Faust, please don’t insult my intelligence by suggesting that you would welcome a re-evaluation of your work! That is simply laughable. I can’t see you submitting to having me fly over from San Francisco and decide whether or not you are worthy of continuing in your position. Really Mr. Faust? Come on! An irony here is that the OSB doesn’t even have faith in it’s own nationals to do this dirty work for them.

  8. gildemaro says:

    Mr. Kunze’s letter is not even worth commenting:Things like his “scale from 0 to 10″ or his “knowledge” of what an orchestra the “marvelous city in the 7th economy of the world” must have are simply ridiculous. The only conclusion one can get out of it is that Brazil needs better music magazines, with reports about what’s really happening there, and maybe less “copy / paste” from “Gramophone” or “Le Monde de la Musique”…
    But having to know that one of the “hired guns” or so-called “judges” hides behind such thin arguments and endorses them by publishing here is bitter! The ethical standard of it has already been bespoken, so it remains to hope this person appears / is appearing to do his “auditor” job wearing a tin foil hat, as he already has done virtually here…

  9. @ Eduardo, 11:44am
    Why shouldn’t Michael Faust justify his presence on the panel? You and others are roundly criticising him; should he not have an opportunity to reply?
    @ Rob Weir
    You write on condemnation of the auditions. You suggest how thigs are much better in your American orchestra(s).
    a/ Have you considered how your orchestra(s) were founded, and whether what you consider to be fair process was applied then (or were players hand-picked by a conductor starting an orchestra, and others dismissed without opportunity to represent themselves at an audition?)
    b/ by what methods do you suggest that this orchestra in Brazil should seek to improve its standards, and, further, how would you seek to improve the standard or otherwise move aside a player in your own orchestra or section who was simply no longer up to scratch?
    I keep asking – what methods would the critics use to ensure an orchestra plays at its best? How do you propose dealing with poor players, or those who can’t be bothered? (a sub-standard actor won’t last long on Broadway, or a sub-standard baseball or American Football player in their teams… why do you think musicians are different?).

  10. M.Villeger says:

    Here is a suggestion: since the OSB is a world class orchestra according to its musicians, why not giving them the opportunity to play one gig in NYC and another in Europe and let audiences decide if effectively they live up to their claim! Although these days there is a much better use of anyone’s time and money, the verdict would be the best way to either discover a gem or have these musicians turning it down a notch or two.

  11. Picture this: you are a grocery store manager. Since you took up that role, customer service, efficiency, productivity, and sales have gone from about a “3 to a 6″ on a scale of one to ten. You dream, however, of running an “perfect ten” grocery store, so how do you solve this? Obviously, by bringing in a panel of excellent grocery clerks from other grocery stores around town and have them watch your current employees bag groceries one at a time. Anyone who fails to perform what the panel considers “excellent grocery bagging” will be fired.
    I am not comparing music to grocery bagging. As a musician (and former part-time grocery bagger) I am well aware of the considerations unique to the music profession. Basic, elementary, so-blatantly-obvious-one-wonders-how-you-could-ever-screw-them-up management principles, however, still apply even in music, and the above example illustrates how poor judgement on the part of managers may be disguised as concern for artistic success.
    As any first-year management student could tell you, there are ways of creating institutional change that are not as counter-productive as those proposed by the OSB leadership. They just require much more imagination and patience. Great orchestras are not simply collections of great players. They come about through a tradition of great ensemble playing that develops over time spent playing together under the direction of great artistic leaders. In order for such a thing to happen, the collective spirit of the ensemble (and indeed its interpersonal relationships) must be nurtured rather than carelessly smashed apart and stitched back together.

  12. Krauze Bittencourt says:

    At the same way as Mr. Norman Lebrecht is a well known repected critic and commentator Mr. Kunze is the same in Brazil. If he lives 100 km or 1000 km from Rio does no matter. His comments make sense, too bad for those that disagree.
    We have read a lot from a backyard bassoonist, that I frankly, never heard of him and also from another fellow from Norway here. They proved that their knowledge about the BSO and Brazil is zero but they are here.
    Their postings are non sense and proves how influenced they are by third parties, probably from those so called “The Professionals” at the BSO.

  13. gildemaro says:

    @M.Villeger As far as I know, none of the musicians has claimed the OSB is a world class orchestra, but the management and the artistic direction are declaring trey know the way to reach this standard (what’s it, BTW?) since 5 years.
    @anon For instance Mr. Faust is welcome to explain his reasons to take part in this so-called “jury”, but it would be better for him to give a more personal statement and not hide behind Mr. Kunzes rather nonsensical report, don’t you think só?
    @K Bittencourt So Mr. Kunzes comments “make sense”… Because you say it? Nice to know! But give me the freedom to despise comments coming from a person that considers the San Francisco Symphony a “backyard” and doesn’t know who the “norwegian guy” is and what contribution he has made to musical life in Brazil. Reading reports thoroughly before commenting them would help you a lot, too: The “10.000km of distance” reference was made about Mr. Faust, I think everybody here knows (as already explained) Mr. Kunze is much nearer to Rio, or at least to the management of the OSB…
    And I rest my case that OSB’s management is making a total mess of the whole affair and that it’s impossible to create a so-called “world-class orchestra” using such amateurish methods.

  14. music001 says:

    There are many ways that orchestras can improve their performance without firing loyal members. Many times in orchestras the employees that are let go are those that don’t do well in office politics, rather than those that don’t perform perfectly.
    Performance reviews are okay, firings are not.
    Many orchestras that have performance reviews have other ways of dealing with those employees that fall below desired standards:
    –requiring musicians to take lessons
    –providing funds for and requiring study abroad
    –bringing in guest teachers to help these musicians
    –requiring chamber music with coachings
    There are many more interesting ways to do this than arbitrary firing of long-serving employees.

  15. Trofim Chudak says:

    music001
    Are you kidding me? Require professional musicians to take lessons? Bring guest teachers?
    Are these guys really professionals? With all respect, this is a joke or what?
    Again, what king of musicians are they then?

  16. Mr. Kunze´s and maestro Minczuk allegation that the orchestra was in shambles before him is not true.
    You just have to compare the recordings made during the Sharowski tenure, immediately before Minczuk´s,with the present performances to verify there is no artistic change (for the better, at least). The only real change in the orchestra has been an aggressive marketing and publicity campaign, at a very high cost.
    Mr. Minczuk allegations do not differ from the same ones made by his predecessors.
    OSB development took place in spite of their artistic directors and not as a result of their work. Any musician who has followed the Orchestra´s path in the last years will attest to that.

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