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Label boss to orchestra: you’re finished

The Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, which has sacked nine players and drawn an international boycott on its auditions, has released on Bis a performance of Dvorak’s eighth symphony,

The Bis owner, Robert von Bahr, is not happy. He loved the recording, but he won’t work with the orch again and he doesn’t think anyone else will, either. Here’s how he tells them:

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  1. Dvorak 9, not Dvorak 8

  2. Mr. Bahr’s comment is absolutely correct. 

    We musicians can only speculate about the reasons why exactly BIS pulled out or was not invited back after many years of successful cooperation.

    The way BIS sound engineers were treated (cheap hotel etc) under the new management during the last recording sessions in 2011 might be part of it. There also have been rumors about business related disagreements between the involved parties.

    Facts are:

    Last season’s recordings with BIS have been cancelled and there are no recordings scheduled this season.

    Thanks to the serious mismanagement and the many vacancies the MPO is in no shape to do any serious high level recordings anytime soon.

    Also unclear if the new management even wants to promote the orchestra via CD in future – or if there is a future at all.

    It’s more or less a miracle that we are still playing on stage at all.
    Only possible with a lot of substitutes. It’s like a pickup orchestra now. Whatever style and quality there was… It’s gone.

    And key players continue to leave, for instance first solo horn just resigned.

    So yes, it could easily be the last CD.

  3. I did write what’s in the eClassical news bulletin. All the rest is Norman’s take on it. I have not told the orchestra off, nor do I intend to. Actually, I haven’t talked to them at all in this connection, so the headline is totally off!! The news letter is also about the 9th symphony, not the 8th.

    However, there are problems there that can well influence recordings for the future, one of them being atmosphere, and those have to be addressed in order to safeguard the quality at least we need.

    I am not happy with the way a rather innocent feathery comment from me has been made into a huge turkey, and I do most profoundly dislike being used for other ulterior motives, with which I have nothing to do.

    Robert von Bahr
    CEO, BIS Records

    • Robert
      The last MPO Bis I have received is the Dvorak 8. There’s a 9th too? How nice.
      As for turning small comments into large beer, I would have thought that you, Robert, need no lessons from me.
      However, bearing in mind your newfound shyness, I will refrain from quoting you again.

      • Dear Norman,

        If, instead of being sarcastic (OK, talk about the pot calling the kettle black) about it, you would have told me and your big readership how on Earth my comments, quoted in my bulletin, could be made into your headline, it would be much more helpful, rather than your implied threat to send me to Coventry.


        • Dear Robert
          I’m not going to have a public slanging match with you, or anyone else. You told the orchestra quite clearly that ‘this will be their last record for a while, or permanently’. That any reasonable person will take to mean that in record terms they are finished. Hence the headline. End of.

          • In fairness, reading the BIS website quote, in it Robert says that there is a *risk* that this will be their last… which is quite different from stating that this *is* their last.

          • I think “any reasonable person” will take it to mean that something’s gone wrong, Robert doesn’t quite know what will happen, but in the meantime he needs to limit the impact of whatever it is on his sales for the current release, so he’s trying to emphasise that despite the rumoured problems this performance is worth hearing.

            As for your having received a Dvorak 8, Norman, that’s as may well be, but it’s a bit disingenuous to pretend ignorance of a 9th while posting a screenshot headed “Dvorak – Symphony No. 9″. And as for what you thought “the unforgettable english horn melody in the slow movement” referred to if not the 9th, well … perhaps you should read more into descriptions of the music and less into what might or might not be a sensational story for your blog? ;-)

  4. harold braun says:

    Well,I have their recordings of “Ma Vlast” and Dvorak 7,and they are really fine,very well played,and fantastically engineered,as always with BIS(bravo,Mr.von Bahr!).This of course doesn`t justify the recent goings-on about this orchestra,nor should these events afflict our judgements of the artistic value of these versions.

  5. I think it is quite correct to ‘read into’ the comments, and put the recording future of the MPO into proper perspective… 9 KEY musicians were sacked, most of whom played on this final recording. Fact. There was, and still is, an “International boycott’ of auditions. Fact. – “Well, with the horrible problems that have befallen the Malaysian PO…” Things have not improved (talk to any of the musicians), and there appears to be no move from management to rectify the situation or improve their reputation. Has there been any comment from the Board of Directors, even ONE, in the past 9 months? Nothing. Deafening silence. Anything from MD Claus Peter Flor, suspected to be involved in these unethical dismissals? Nothing. Gag order most likely. WHICH other arts organization, claiming to be “International” is sailing without any hint of a mast, like this.
    Norman’s conclusion is pretty accurate, and it is pretty obvious that no recordings of international quality are likely to appear again from this band unless a board of directors miraculously appears out of nowhere, and purges the management and directorship completely.

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