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Just in: Canada joins boycott of the Malaysian Philharmonic

Just when the Petronas lackeys who run the MPO thought they had survived the worst protests, Canada has woken up to join the International Federation of Musicians in applying a boycott to orchestral auditions and other services.

I have just received a new recording by the MPO and its heavily compromised conductor Claus Peter Flor. Ethically speaking, is it better not to review the CD, or to review it with a summary of its unpleasant history. Your views, please.

Meantime, here’s a letter that has gone out from the Organisation of Canadian symphony Musicians:

Letter sent on September 14th to Nor Raina, CEO and Timothy Tsukamoto, General Manager of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra


Dear Ms. Raina and Mr. Tsukamoto,


The Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians, a professional conference of the American Federation of Musicians for the United States and Canada, will advise its membership of more than 1,100 professional musicians not to attend the auditions for the positions presently advertised by the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra. We have been made aware that several musicians of the Malaysian Philharmonic have been dismissed without reasonable cause and in an arbitrary fashion.  We are disappointed to see that in the twenty-first century such practices are still occurring.


Over the last century orchestral musicians around the world have worked hard to achieve better working conditions and job security. This enables the musicians individually and collectively to perform at their highest level. Musicians with seniority within an organization have rights and can expect to have some security as regards to their continued employment with that organization.  For situations where the performance or behaviour of a particular musician in the place of employment is not satisfactory to the Music Director or the Management, there are fair practices that are available to address the concerns and that allow the musician in question to have a chance to improve and change.


The manner in which many musicians of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra have seen their contract non-renewed is shocking to us. The world knows what is going on in Malaysia, and the total disrespect the management is showing to professional musicians. The Board of Directors must realize that these unjust dismissals are destroying the reputation of a once great orchestra, and harming the reputation of Malaysia at the same time.




Matthew Heller, OCSM President

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  1. Linda Grace says:

    Regarding the review copy of the recording which you received, it would be interesting to know if the non-renewed members played on it. Would that knowledge influence your judgement of it? I’m asking, not setting up a conflict.

    As for the conductor Flor, perhaps his standards will not permit his performing with other orchestras.
    Too good, haha.

  2. Have the Musicians Union in the UK said anything about the dreadful situation yet?

  3. If the CD in question is the one from BIS coupling Dvorak’s Symphony no. 8 with his Scherzo capriccioso and ‘Golden Spinning Wheel’, it has won an ‘Outstanding’ accolade from Richard Whitehouse in the October 2012 issue of International Record Review. Whitehouse describes it as ranking “among the most desirable collections of the composer’s orchestral music to have emerged over recent years …There are many competing versions of these pieces that have claims on the listener’s allegiance, but this disc is the only one to couple them and is enhanced by the alacrity of the Malaysian Philharmonic’s response…”.

  4. Linda: to answer your question – yes the non-renewed musicians were present for that recording. It was probably recorded in 2011. As with previous Flor recordings, many of the musicians use their own ‘courtesy copy’ as a coffee coaster. Probably it will be the last major recording to come out of this orchestra for a long time. It is also interesting to note: visit the MPO Box Office, in Kuala Lumpur ; have a look at the recordings available and on display ; notice that not ONE recording with founding director, Kees Bakels, exists there. They have distanced themselves completely from their founder and chief mentor, as well as all history, and the best recordings of the orchestra.
    Also important, Norman, would be to follow up on what has happened between BIS and the MPO. Apparently there is no more recording arrangement between them. Sessions in July 2012 (more Dvorak?) were cancelled, apparently at the whim of the their CEO, Nor Raina.

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