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Shameful: Madrid orchestra is put on the dole four months a year

There were public demonstrations at the last concert this season of the Spanish radio and TV orchestra and chorus, which is threatened with partial closure. Musicians have been told that from now on they will be paid eight months a year and should register unemployed for the rest. Listen here to the public response.


We have received the following appeal from the musicians and their conductor,  Jun Märkl:

From Orquesta Sinfónica y Coro de RTVE:
We are an orchestra and choir dependent on the national public radio and television, which proposed, as part of new contract negotiations, that we work for eight months a year and go on unemployment four months of each year. This is an unprecedented measure in Spain and the public opinion and our audience have felt so outraged that since it was announced there were spontaneous chants in our support,”publica” meaning “public”-as in “we want public, state supported culture”.

From Maestro Jun Märkl:
The background is that the orchestra is facing a difficult financial situation now. And the audience wanted to give support to the orchestra by shouting ¡Pública! which is saying: this orchestra is a public one, for everybody, and should be maintained and equipped with enough money to survive. Since it had been the last concert of the season this was the time for orchestra and audience to do a manifestation, which continued after the concert in the streets.


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  1. The New York City Ballet Orchestra has done this for decades. They work about half a year and go on unemployment for the rest of the time. Another example of the American model spreading to Europe?

  2. What’s even more shameful here is the lack of coverage of this situation in the Madrid press. As with recent problems at Madrid’s Teatro Real, it’s becoming clear that these large cultural entities in Madrid keep a tight fist on what’s published in the news about any conflictive situations.

    My observation is that very little about this drastic RTVE situation is being covered in Madrid’s major newspapers. Please correct me if I’m wrong here. Fortunately word is coming out via social media, blogs, etc
    Many thanks to Mr. Lebrecht for his fine reporting on this..

    The Spanish blog Beckmesser recently brought the problem of Madrid’s suspiciously selective press to light when he revealed that Mr. Maranon, head of Teatro Real, has full control over what is published about his Teatro in several major Madrid newspapers. Beckmesser pointed out that coverage of a particular conflict occurring at the Teatro was simply not reported in these publications because Maranon had prohibited it.

    I also noticed something suspicious with Spanish newspaper coverage when Joshua Bell’s violin was stolen in Zaragoza last year. The entire world was informed about this event a full week before it finally appeared in any Spanish newspapers.

    RTVE is a major Spanish orchestra. This should be front page news in Madrid & it doesn’t appear to be. I am appalled to begin to realize that there is tremendous prejudice and unfairness in what is and is not printed in major Spanish newspapers. This reeks of Francoism, of government control, of corruption.

    This situation also underlines the importance of reporting via social media and blogs. This is a very big story in Spain. If the major press wishes to underplay it, it must come out via alternate forms of reporting. Tjhank you, Mr. Lebrecht for writing about RTVE.

  3. Dear Norman, please note that, although Jun Maerkl did indeed recently conduct the Madrid RTVE orchestra as a guest, and is of course supportive of the musicians, their Music Director to whom (I presume) the above comment should be attributed, is Carlos Kalmar. Many thanks, Susie McLeod (agent of Maerkl).

  4. Dear Norman,

    thank you for echoing our plight and we would also like to thank maestro Märkl , with whom we had a wonderful concert, for supporting us.

    A couple of corrections, though :

    -The four- month dole proposal is for the moment just that, a very agressive and unprecedented (in Spain) proposal by the management of our mother company, RTVE. Neogtiations with the unions are under way and we sincerely hope that this unheard of ,destructive measure will be put to rest.

    -Jun Märkl, with whom, I insist, we had a marvellous concert which marked the end of our season, is not our music director-that would be Carlos Kalmar.

    This situation started at the end of February and you have gracefully echoed our plight in at least one article,if I remember correctly. Sincé then we have been getting incredible feedback from our audience-the “Pú-bli-ca” chants started then and brought tears to our eyes , as can be seen in videos which, along with other shows of support in the form of letters from conductors,copmosers,colleagues and audience, you can see on our webpage , created expressly for this fight,,some in English.

    Please visit also our Facebook page, Orquesta y Coro de RTVE,it was created and is run by us and there is a recent post with a podcast with interviews of our musicians, in english also.There is also a wealth of videos.all our performances are taped and broadcast.

    Again, thank you on behalf of all of my colleagues and let´s hope that , when all the musicians of the world unite and suppport each other, the attacks on the culture can be stopped.


    Suzana Stefanovic
    cello principal, Orquesta y Coro de la Radiotelevisión Española

  5. The music director of Orquesta Sinfónica de RTVE is Carlos Kalmer.
    Jun Märkl is the guest conductor on the day.

  6. In response to William Osborne’s mention of NY City Ballet Orch. doing this for decades, San Francisco Opera
    Orchestra has also made a practice of doing it. I don’t think they do anymore, but I specifically remember back in the 1980′s SFOpera Orch. players were paid only for the months they worked and expected to collect unemployment the rest of the year. It was a given when you won a job with them.

  7. Oops. Correction on the Joshua Bell robbery. It was an ATTEMPTED robbery of his violin in Zaragoza last yr. He had the violin in his possession while the thieves looted his hotel room searching for it. They got his laptop & a very expensive watch, not the violin. Again, the whole world knew about this a week before any Spanish newspaper reported it.

  8. Theodore McGuiver says:

    Isn’t Jun Märkl MD in Lyon?

  9. Angela Cockburn says:

    I know it’s a typo on Suzana’s part, but isn’t “copmosers” a wonderful word? They really ought to exist.

  10. Dear Norman: Scherzo published in its April issue an editorial about the situation of Orquesta y Coro de la Radio Televisión Española. The link:

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