Orquestra Sinfonica Brasileira (Brazilian Symphony Orchestra)

April 1, 2011 at 01:09 AM ·

I don't have the whole story, in fact my intent is to see if someone else here might know more of what's going on. A friend told me that yesterday, 44 musicians of the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra, who refused to go through the audition (because they believed the auditions would not be carried out on fair grounds) were fired. This whole situation seems a lot like what happened in Detroit, and with all the stuff going on in Madison it makes me wonder what the future will bring for workers, the picture is not looking so good...

Replies (22)

April 1, 2011 at 02:18 AM ·

My Portuguese isn't so good, but I have been following the situation.   I did live in Brasil several years ago, and I'm very interested in what is going on.This is the very latest from the trumpetherald website.  It has a been a very good source of into during this crisis. Quite a few people on that website are interested in what is going on there.   It is last post at this link as of 10:37pm ET.



Brazil - latest on the musician sackings 
I have received an email from Deborah Cheyne, a viola player in the OSB and president of the Sindicato dos Músicos Profissionais do Rio de Janeiro, clarifying the latest situation. She was writing also on behalf of Luzer Machtyngier, president of the OSB musicians. 

Here's what Deborah has to say: 

On Monday, we had a final round of negotiation. Prior to it, we attended a call from the Ministry of Labour to sit in a round table with the ministry's mediator, where a proposal was offered. The employer's side did not show up. 

The proposal was, to review the performance evaluation test with the collaboration of the Ministery of Labour. This was a personal proposal of the Minister, and the FOSB (Foundation of the OSB) declined it. 

Later this day, a informal and definitive negotiation happened between Union and FOSB. 
The FOSB offered a "plan of voluntary dismissal" and the musicians refused it, believing that this plan only transfers the onus of dismissing such a large number of musicians. 

On Tuesday, the management called and/or communicated by e-mail, 31 musicians to attend to the office next day. Two of them attended the call and they were communicated about their dismissal. The other 29 did not appear. Which does not mean that they will not be fired, it is just a matter or time. 

Nine musicians received a statement to attend a re-scheduled audition, since they were on medical license before. Four musicians did not receive any communication at all till this moment. Calculating, this means 44 musicians. At this moment 31 will be soon or later be dismissed for sure. 

To my European eyes, this kind of confrontation management belongs to a very dark and distant era.

April 2, 2011 at 01:32 PM ·

Not so easy to write about it, but I will try to give a fair report: Last year, the OSB (Brazilian Symphony Orchestra) has completed 70 years, being so one of Brazil's most traditional and representative orchestras, even if having also to go through very difficult times. Most of the actual musicians could report about receiving their wages with up to 6 months delay, rehearsing in rooms with absolutely no conditions for it, confuse or nonexistent work schedule and so on. When the actual administration and conductor and artistic director Roberto Minczuk took charge in 2005, things seemed to stabilize. The quality of the orchestra and the work conditions improved, even if it was far from being a smooth process, 14 musicians were fired at the end of 2006 and the relationship between orchestra, conductor and administration has been always very stormy. Despite of it, the 70th anniversary season 2010 was very successful, acclaimed by the public and critics, and also increased sponsorships (by the City of Rio de Janeiro and two major state owned or state controlled companies) were announced. So it was a surprise that, 2 days after the beginning of the orchestra's vacations 2010-11, an "evaluation process" was announced to all musicians by the administration, without any kind of prior consultation, for the sake of reaching so-called "international standards". Even if it was stated that no musician will be "basically" fired, Mr. Minczuk's antics and the announcement of international auditions, to be held first in London and NY and then in Rio didn't inspire much confidence in such statement. Also the announcement of the orchestra being replaced by the OSB Youth Orchestra for the whole first half of the 2011 season didn't improve things.  So the musicians started protest actions and the whole, thanks to the Internet, took worldwide proportions. Since a consensus between the two parties could not be found, the auditions were held and boycotted by 41 of the 82 members of the orchestra and they, according to Brazilian labor laws (the administration, for instance, puts big emphasis on it) can be (and are being) fired for insubordination. More detailed reports and statements from both sides can be found (in English)  in the blog "slipped disc" by Norman Lebrecht, I don't know if I can post a link here, but it can be found easily and is anyway a good read IMO.  

After trying to report the most relevant facts as good as known to me, I would like to say that in my (not so...) humble opinion, the administration of the OSB has made a complete mess of the whole, conducting things in a very autocratic and amateurish way and principally completely lacking the deserved respect for the musicians. So they must not wonder to being target of nation- and worldwide protest actions, now also to start being boycotted by announced soloists and guest conductors and being held responsible for bringing the actual Brazilian musical life in tremendous disrepute.
So let's hope that things don't remain like this and some kind of satisfactory solution can be found and the dignity of the orchestra and members can be preserved.

BTW I have nothing against auditions in itself, the orchestra where I work actually  regularly re-evaluates all the musicians, but this was known to me before signing my contract. And I also never had to do such sacrifices in behalf of the group as many (including now fired) musicians of the OSB have done!

And now I have to write accidentals in 101 pages (and learn it...)  of "Tristan", even if I have successfully avoided it  'til now, writing such a long post... ;-D 

April 4, 2011 at 07:47 PM ·

On a more violin-related side of the whole imbroglio, would be interesting to know if Joshua Bell, Sarah Chang and Simone Lamsma, all scheduled to appear as soloists in OSB's  2011 symphonic (half-) season, will adhere to the beginning boycott actions to the orchestra and his conductor, as Brazilian pianists Cristina Ortiz, Nelson Freire and conductor Roberto Tibiriçá have already done.

April 6, 2011 at 06:56 PM ·


A member of the OSB Youth Symphony has resigned from his position and will not play in place of

the fired musicians!

In Portuguese at this link: 

Farewell OSB Youth Orchestra 

Today I left the OSB Youth Orchestra, because I disagree with all of the things that are going wrong within the Foundation. I am leaving because the dignity of a musician has to be worth more than 1000 reais or any false promises which we make. The OSB Youth Orchestra has always had the potential to be...incredible, incredibly talented young people who have made the orchestra sound like a great orchestra, mature and experienced. But this potential has never been explored correctly, we have always been seen as objects to cater to the whims of conductors or directors. 

We have often been introduced as "the cream of young musicians" and soon after we were replaced by "monitors". Is it really possible that in order to have this "cream" the merits and creation of these students were worthy of the monitors, or could it be that the credit really belongs to the various competent teachers who have refined these young musicians? Teachers who were ridiculed publicly in interviews with this Artistic Director. 

The last words I heard before I packed my bags and left the orchestra was "I'd like to see your teacher take a part of his salary and support you". I don't think I need to dignify that with a comment, the quote speaks for itself, no? 

I have witnessed and felt within my skin the disdain of a conductor, I've seen friends suffering, I've seen competent people humiliated in front of the orchestra, I've seen people submitted to psychological pressure minutes before appearing as a soloist with the orchestra, I've seen the money of our stipends discounted for obscure reasons...to be honest...i haven't actually seen it...because it was never explained to us where this money went. People who were sick and delivered a physicians' release were docked, people who went to witness the birth of their children were docked...these are just a few examples which express exactly what kind of grotesque apprenticeship we were subjected to. 

Recently, we have had to divide the stage with various "monitors" (people who submitted to the professional evaluations), we had to witness the charged atmosphere between them, each one speaking badly about the others...is this really the supposedly educational project which is sold to audiences and sponsors? Is this the real OSB Youth Orchestra that is announced in the program? An orchestra in which during every rehearsal more and more monitors are inserted to mask and disguise itself as an orchestra that no longer exists? 

It is very sad to leave an orchestra where I have made friends, where I dedicated myself, had fun, laughed and lived intensely, but that orchestra has died, it doesnt exist any more, and to my friends who are there, each with their own reasons and convictions, I can only leave a message from my heart: Music is life, it is love and feelings. If you don't perform thinking of this maybe it is because you are no longer being musicians! 

I hope the musicians are treated with respect, because in spite of appearing ironic in these circumstances, one of the phrases that has stayed with me throughout my time in the OSB Youth Orchestra is "the baton makes no sound". So... 
take the hint! Best Wishes, Luiz Felipe Ferreira

April 6, 2011 at 07:08 PM ·

Well, we all know that conductors and directors are often the lowest form of life known to mankind. The only lower form of life I know of - are politicians.

That's all I have to say.

April 7, 2011 at 12:39 AM ·

"This whole situation seems a lot like what happened in Detroit, and with all the stuff going on in Madison it makes me wonder what the future will bring for workers, the picture is not looking so good..."

It's all sad and troubling, but I think the picture still looks good for the worker who is willing to go the extra mile. We luthiers don't have a union, have always needed to compete globally, and "audition" every day when we put our work out the door. A lot of us have trouble relating to the forklift operator who refuses to clean toilets during the three hours per day when he is idle. Yes, I clean toilets. My wife, an executive with a Chinese-owned company, cleans toilets too. If a truck comes in, she has her forklift operators license too. Then she comes home late, from making up the work lost when she was on the forklift.

German and Japanese competition hurt Detroit, for sure, but ultimately made the automobiles better.

April 7, 2011 at 01:56 AM ·

@Charles I agree... But there are some conductors who could easily earn politician status "honoris causa"...

@David I know, times aren't that good nowadays, but the reason for the actual firings isn't  lack of funds at all. Brazil's economy is actually booming and life, also as an orchestra musician, is more viable than ever here  right now. But it seems really awful to me that the orchestra administration, claiming to be in a very good economic situation now, on the other hand lays most of the musicians off who have "operated the forklift" in bad times.

Also I don't know if market laws should apply to the whole orchestra business, is a difficult question that will (or not) find different solutions worldwide, at the end.    


April 10, 2011 at 02:46 PM ·

Video of OSB "performance" Saturday April 9th at 4pm in Rio.   The concert never starts!


April 10, 2011 at 06:34 PM ·

 Man, that's rough! I'm glad to see the audience also standing in support of the musicians.

Today I saw a letter circulating on facebook from an organization of Canadian orchestras (I forget their name) where they basically say that none of them will continue to engage this conductor if he carries on with this unethical behavior. I'm glad to see the support coming from around the world! I would love to live and work in Brasil some day, and I hope I never have to go through something like this!

April 11, 2011 at 04:46 AM ·

There are plenty of orchestras there to play in!  That is for sure.   If you are from outside Brasil, one of the easier orchestras for foreigners to get in is in Manaus.  I've been there twice, and I know most Brasilian musicians aren't interested in living there.  Lots of Eastern Europeans play in Manaus unless it has changed in the last couple of years.



April 11, 2011 at 06:17 PM ·

@Delmar, basically you're right, they are a lot of orchestras to play in here in Brazil, but there are only up to 10 with salaries high enough to really make a living from playing.

If joining the orchestra in Manaus is so easy, I don't know, it's already 3 1/2 years ago since I'm a member... (;-D) For instance they are a lot of musicians from Eastern Europe ( I'm the only Brazilian in the 1st violin session and always consider learning Russian or Bulgarian for the group rehearsals...) working here, but there are also people from Germany, Argentina and even 2 US-Americans.

And the number of Brazilians is also increasing, since a couple of absolvents of the educational project of the orchestra have already joined.  

April 11, 2011 at 08:22 PM ·

It is hard to get in any orchestra, and I am sure that there is plenty of competition in Manaus.  I didn't mean to degrade your or anyone else's accomplishment of winning an audition there.  I'm sorry if it came across that way.

Here is a picture that I took of the Manaus Opera House about two years ago.


April 18, 2011 at 02:28 AM ·

After the very stormy last weeks, it seems that an agreement between the musicians and the OSB Foundation could be found. Both have presented their proposals to get out of the actual shambles and the points of view, albeit being naturally different, could lead to a useful solution for both sides, at the end. Unfortunately, it will only work out if the Foundation ditches the actual conductor and artistic director, Mr. Minczuk, who surely must be held responsible for most of the actual situation. Since they appear to continue giving him inconditional support, in a way that can't be called rational anymore, the imbroglio can continue "ad aeternum" too...

Difficult to undestand how the guy doesn't take the consequences and simply goes away, what kind of person would like to lead a group that can only repudiate him?

 @Delmar, nice pics! This days our orchestra has become even more international, we have our first New Zealander, a superb cellist, fired without indication of reasons by another little local tyrant with a baton... Such a pity that "almighty" conductors, who think they can behave like when orchestras were their "feuds", are still part of Brazil's fast improving actual musical life.    

April 19, 2011 at 06:40 PM ·

a blog entry that seems to favor the management/conductor side of this issue  ... if the facts are accurate:



April 20, 2011 at 12:09 PM ·

Dear Christina, the facts mentioned in the link you posted here are far from being accurate, it's simply not true that the auditions for vacancies in the OSB before 2006 were held informally or "without adherence to industry standards" (this must be a joke!). I have talked to two of Mr. Minczuk's predecessors, Mr. Karabtchewsky and Mr. Sharowsky (one time because I have been invited as a soloist with the orchestra, the other in consulting function) about the audition process, and even remember having advised to "lower the bar" in relation of the quantity of repertoire ( in this context, it's maybe interesting to know that the Berlin Phil. is the orchestra that demands the smallest quantity of repertoire in auditions, or at least it was so "in my time") and, on the other hand, ask for more quality, as a strategy to attract better players. What is true is that, after 2006,  Mr. Minczuk has given  himself prerogative to hire musicians for "key positions" without audition and has also done so.

The other bit of  fallacious information in the link, this time (I hope...) involuntary, is that Mr. Minczuk is a "protege of Kurt Masur and arthistic director of Theatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro". Knowing that his position in the Theatro would be no more sustainable after the actual scandal, including on legal grounds,  Mr. Minczuk has resigned very recently from this position, to (official version) "concentrate himself in his work with the OSB"...

And now, I'm really sorry that my reports here are considered biased, I have tried my best to stick to the facts, as known to me. But since I was forced to read today that another musician was fired yesterday, and this while on sick leave recovering from an heart infarct, I think despising the procedures of Mr. Minczuk and the board of the OSB have more to do with humanitarian action than with defending opinion X or Y.  

April 20, 2011 at 01:44 PM ·

Thanks Claudio. I thought it was interesting that the blog was by someone who claims to have been victimized by a conductor themselves. I've just read the blog entry that she refers to (Norman Lebrecht's Slipped Disc)


.....it certainly is hard to figure out what the facts are, especially in such an open forum offered by the internet

May 3, 2011 at 03:51 AM ·

The strings of the OSB play the opening of HEITOR VILLA-LOBOS - BACHIANAS BRASILEIRAS no. 4 - Prelúdio 



May 3, 2011 at 03:17 PM ·

Thank you very much for posting the last link, Delmar, it did save me a lot of work... So who wants can see and listen to "mediocre", "lazy" and "only troublemaking" musicians (at least according to the orchestra management and the "still-conductor") at work. At least some music has been played, a seldom occurence since the beginng of the whole affair. In my opinion a  big point for the sacked musicians.  Meanwhile, the management of the OSB has annouced the end of the negotiations with the musicians, so they must try to get their rights in the courts. Or wait to negotiate with a new board, which is also a big possibility: a political hearing is scheduled for tomorrow at Rio's City Council, mainly about serious administrative errors, ignorance of laboral laws and general lack of transparency  from the side of the OSB Foundation management.

For the sake of a fair report, I'm also including a link to a blog which reproduces some statements (I would call it rather "mantras", they repeat it like a broken record since things started to boil...) of the management of the OSB Foundation.


May 12, 2011 at 10:43 AM ·

Time for a little update, since OSB's international auditions, now also for the places of the sacked musicians, will be held in London and NY in the next days. All the major Musician Unions worldwide have called for a boycott of the auditions, following a call from the International Federation of Musicians, as it can be read here. Meanwhile, Mr. Minczuk is conducting the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra this week and facing a massive protest of the musicians there, on behalf of the fired colleagues in Rio, the official text (and also interesting comments) is available here .The announced hearing in Rio's City Council took place and the proven and suspected irregularities in the procedures of the orchestra management will probably lead to the whole affair being investigated in a higher legal instance, which, in my opinion, could bring some light into it and, maybe even bring it to a satisfactory ending.

June 9, 2011 at 06:41 AM ·


Could you give an English update about the very latest that is going on with the OSB.  The newspaper articles make me think that things are not good for the musicians.   I know that the OSB has hired some replacement musicians, and that the striking players are holding some concerts.

Muito obrigado.



June 11, 2011 at 02:15 PM ·

Anyway, I wanted to give a last update. Yes, Delmar, things are rather not good for the musicians. The international auditions have been held and were a "success", according to the orchestra management and to Mr. Minczuk. All other information about it from the bosses is. as usual, very nebulous, but now I think it's for sure that the sacked musicians won't come back any more. What the courts will say, nobody knows...  Another victory of the dry and "wannabe efficient" administration style that is and always was the trademark of the CEO floors of  Brazilian state-owned or state-run companies. I pity Mr. Minczuk, who at his time was a decent (albeit uninspired) horn player, so to say (more or less, I mean... ;-D) a musician, for having "sold his soul" to SUCH kind of people. The Footbal (soccer...?) World Cup 2014 and the Olympics 2016 are being held soon, and the most well-oiled "corruption engines" in the world are ready to roar ...

On the positive side, the sacked musicians are making LOTS of music, and people say that's not of the bad kind... If they would organize themselves better, it could be a glance at a pretty decent future ... To be continued, I hope ...

BTW Elmar, Bojin is doing fine in Brasilia, he got about 0,8 "big buck$" from his firing ... The same lawyer (a REAL artist, albeit some people would despise him for being "afro-Brazilian"... ;-D) is talking about the double amount in the case of a certain fired violinist ... In 3-4 years we will see ... And now beg your pardon, must "have a hear" at some abstract "sotto voce" spots in Bartok's "Melodia" ...

July 17, 2011 at 11:28 PM ·

I hope my translation is correct.  If so I beat Norman Lebrecht to this!


Some very POSITIVE news for the members OSB who were fired!!

 They haven't gotten their jobs back yet, but something GREAT has happened! 

"""The National Migration Board is denying work visas to foreign musicians hired to replace those fired by the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra.""" 

One person who is Dutch (and unfortunately a violinist) is named as a person who was offered a job and couldn't get his visa!!! 


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