A letter has gone out to members of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra ordering them not to discuss the reasons for Jasmine Choi’s controversial departure as principal flute, or to communicate with Slipped Disc. Needless to add, the letter reached us within hours.
Sample quote: Meinung Sie vertreten, muss INTERN bleiben, eine öffentliche Auseinandersetzung wird nur dem Orchester wie auch Jasmine Choi schaden. Ich muss auch darauf hinweisen, dass diese Nachricht vertraulichen Charakter hat und keinesfalls dazu bestimmt ist, an Dritte oder Personen außerhalb des Orchesters weitergegeben zu werden.
It is a mark of the deep divisions provoked by Jasmine Choi’s denial of tenure that the matter has become public. In any other society, it might have been dismissed as a minor tiff, a perfectly normal incompatibility between a principal player and other parts of the orchestra. In Vienna, with embedded discrimination at the Philharmonic and a long history of malice towards minorities, the issue is sensitive and inflammatory.
Plainly, the VSO wished to demonstrate its open and egalitarian character – its distance from the Philharmonic – by hiring Jasmine Choi a year ago. By removing her now in a 2-1 vote, it suggests that the openness was illusory, the distance non-existent.
But that, too, is a distortion. Jasmine Choi has friends and supporters within the orchestra. Their willingness to speak out against the majority is much to be applauded. It gives a healthier and more positive dimension to the ensemble than the official attempt to bury heads in shifting sands.
Jasmine, a star performer, will quickly find another job. The VSO would do well to advertise its democracy and celebrate its dissenters.