Monday, November 12, 2012

“Geld Und Geist"

In a high civilization, the things that satisfy our innumerable desires look as if they were supplied automatically, mechanically, so that nothing is owed to particular persons; goods belong by congenital right to anybody who takes the trouble to be born.

This is the infant's normal greed prolonged into adult life and headed for retribution. When sufficiently general, the habit of grabbing, cheating, and evading reciprocity is the best way to degrade a civilization, and perhaps bring about its collapse.

Jacques Barzun


Peter McGuire, violinist with the Minnesota Orchestra, has announced that he is leaving the orchestra, having accepted a position with the Tonhalle Orchestra of Zurich.

In making his move, McGuire is taking a brutal financial loss. Musicians of the Zurich Tonhalle are paid far less than musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra. Further, Zurich is one of the three or four highest-cost cities in the world, with a cost of living more than double the cost of living in the Twin Cities. The financial sacrifice McGuire is making is considerable.

Why is McGuire leaving? Because he is upset that the Minnesota Orchestra has asked musicians to accept a pay cut.

Why Zurich? Because other U.S. orchestras are reluctant to hire Minnesota Orchestra musicians, as Minnesota Orchestra musicians have long been known within the orchestra field as labor agitators. When Minnesota Orchestra musicians transfer to other American orchestras, they invariably are obliged to move to orchestras with less prestige and lower pay, such as the Oregon Symphony.

McGuire is not a learned or sophisticated man (as the photograph above amply demonstrates). In a news story about the current labor troubles at both the Minnesota Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the local press offered the following quote from McGuire:

There was this kind of “the bully's going to meet you at lunchtime” feeling for at least a year and a half. You say I'm much less valuable than I have been, and what choice do I have but to prove that's not the case? A 42 percent cut? Would you not look for work the next day?

If I found myself in McGuire’s shoes, I would certainly—unlike McGuire—not choose to cut off my nose to spite my face.

However, I am not a hillbilly. It is difficult for me to grasp what goes through the mind of a hillbilly.

(In the back of my mind is one thought: I wonder whether McGuire is leaving the Twin Cities in hopes of improving what clearly is a deplorable housing situation. I would be the first to acknowledge that McGuire’s current abode appears to be truly gruesome, and impossible to endure much longer.)

McGuire, I fear, has a few unpleasant surprises in store once he leaves the U.S.

In Zurich, McGuire will find, very quickly, that the Swiss, as a people, do not take to hillbillies.

McGuire will also find that the Zurich Tonhalle is not an orchestra in which hillbillies are welcomed and made to feel comfortable.

Lastly, I predict that McGuire will be shown the door within two years of arriving in Zurich. The Tonhalle will seize upon some technicality, as the Swiss are prone to do, as excuse for evicting McGuire not only from the Tonhalle but from Switzerland itself.

What will McGuire do then to earn a living? Return to the U.S. and pray for a revival of “Hee Haw”?

More likely, McGuire will simply ask for handouts.


According to Dobson West, President of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the musicians of the SPCO, having rejected all salary cuts, have proposed that the SPCO take the following steps in order to raise revenue so as to sustain their current salaries:

(1) Increase ticket prices.

(2) Raise more donations.

(3) Reallocate and redefine restricted gifts.

(4) Initiate “extraordinary” draws from the endowment.

(5) Borrow money.

I pity Mr. West.

Mr. West is dealing not so much with a musician labor problem, always amenable to solution, as a musician IQ problem.

IQs are determined at birth, and the musicians of the SPCO clearly were not winners in the Great IQ Sweepstakes—and there is nothing Mr. West and the SPCO Board can do to address IQ deficiencies among the Saint Paul musicians.

IQs are fixed, permanent and immutable, not amenable to being improved through encouragement and enticement, no matter the effort.


What kind of person issues public letters full of basic grammatical errors?

In fact, what kind of person issues public letters at all?

Well . . . “Mary Lois Hall, M.D.” does.

“Mary Lois Hall, M.D.” has written two public letters criticizing the Board of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (she very well may have written more than two such letters for all I know). The letters are chilling for the lack of education they evince on the part of the author.

I offer two sentences, one each from the letters signed “Mary Lois Hall, M.D.”:

Please re-read the excerpted paragraph above, especially the part about how an organization can be debilitated, damage its reputation, and loose its focus at a strategic and operational level.

Now I am truly scared that the SPCO will loose many of these extraordinary artists, which will destroy the soul of our beloved and unique chamber orchestra.

Would someone please offer assistance to this foolish woman, and explain to her the difference between “lose” and “loose”? And bring her up to snuff on the rules of parallel construction?

That there are people like “Mary Lois Hall, M.D.” out there, running loose, writing idiotic letters, is what makes ME feel “truly scared”.

According to state records, there is one physician named Mary Lois Hall licensed by the State Of Minnesota. Mary Lois Hall, according to such records, obtained her medical degree from Rush University.

I suppose that explains everything.


There is something sordid, creepy and cancerous running through the world of music today.

Last night, I read a dumbfounding statement on the website of a major American orchestra that just wrapped up a tour of Europe.

Yesterday, the concertmaster of the American orchestra wrote his own personal weblog entry on the orchestra’s website. In his entry, the concertmaster, among other things, praised the guest artist, a European instrumentalist, that had joined the American orchestra on its European tour.

The guest artist in question, from 2002 onward, had faced numerous allegations of pedophilia in his home country, with the result that a summer music camp he personally founded was first seized and later shut down, permanently, by his nation’s government.

It is inconceivable that the concertmaster of the American orchestra, who studied in Europe at the time in which the investigation was coming to a head (and being widely discussed among musicians and lawyers all over Europe), was not fully aware of what had happened.

Nonetheless, this particular concertmaster wrote on his orchestra’s website yesterday:

It has been a real pleasure to work with [so and so] on this tour. He is a fabulous [instrumentalist], as well as a very nice guy.

I managed to restrain myself from submitting a comment: “And I bet the 11-year-old boys he raped (and later paid off) think he’s a real nice guy, too!”


  1. How tacky. Criticizing Peter's appearance and house (are you a stalker?) because he's leaving for the Tonhalle? Does his decision personally offend you? I say, good for Peter--the Tonhalle audition is notoriously difficult, and I know several international competition winners who have not made it out of the first or second round. This is further indication that he is a fiddle player of great quality.

    The only redeeming feature of this blog (and your partner's as well) is that no one reads it. I would never have found this blog had your partner not proudly flaunted his ignorance on Norman Lebrecht's website.

    1. I'm so sad: I'm officially "no one" now.

  2. You sound really sophisticated.

  3. Where have you been, stranger? Andrew and I wondered whether you had dropped off the face of the earth.

    A few days ago, Andrew talked about sending you an email message, just to say “howdy” and to make sure all was well, but he decided against it, fearing you might not want to hear from him.

    I hope all IS well with you, and I know Andrew feels the same.

    We have been exceedingly busy of late, attending lots of Minnesota Orchestra concerts . . .

    1. Thank you. I'm flattered. I'm fine really.

      I continue to read both blogs regularly. In fact, yours are the only blogs I EVER read anymore.

      Andrew is welcome to write whenever he wishes. I'd be delighted (why would I not?). But use my regular address: (I never check Tony's box anymore).

      I am aware of the silent concert scene in the Twin Cities. It must be frustrating.

  4. I’d accuse you of being cold hearted if the photo wasn’t so funny. Peter McGuire is a weird guy. Most people know that.

  5. I hate to say this, but the man in that photo is white trash through and through.

  6. Your post fails to be taken seriously after your unsupported mention that musicians of the Zurich Tonhalle are paid far less than musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra.

    Given the Tonhalle's reputation and Zurich's highest take-home pay city in the world, anyone with a bit of international work experience gets you're just after the guy for personal reasons.

    You sound just like a clueless hillbilly. I bet people in Oklahoma miss you.

  7. Why do you keep visiting this particular post over and over and over, always coming to me via a variety of “Peter McGuire” searches?

    You’ve packed an astonishing amount of ignorance into three sentences.

    I’d check those orchestra pay charts if I were you. And you might want to talk to a few competent conductors about the quality of the Tonhalle—and read the dismissive notices from the orchestra’s most recent American tour as well the negative (if not outright nasty) reviews of the orchestra’s playing in its recent Mahler recordings.

    Contrary to your suggestion, I have never met McGuire—nor had I even heard of him until he started showing up in the local news.

    McGuire and I live in discrete worlds; our paths would never cross. To me, McGuire is nothing more than a typical American hillbilly: unbearably down-market, totally uneducated, conspicuously uncouth, with a distinct disreputable rub to him—all of which is revealed, in spades, in the photograph, which is why I find it so funny (and illuminating). Fundamentally repulsive, McGuire exemplifies the unpleasant, sordid streak that runs through America’s lower rungs. McGuire is an obvious target for ridicule—but he is nothing more than that.

    In that sense, McGuire is much like you. Need I point out that it is quite clear you are not a product of Harvard, Yale or Princeton? And that it is obvious you do not work in a field in which keen intelligence and a lucid, analytical mind are prerequisites? You have revealed far more about yourself than you have any idea.

    I may have to post more McGuire photographs. People have been sending them to me, unsolicited, for the last month. The photographs are a hoot—and deserve to be seen.

    1. Your insistence on figures and pay scales you clearly have no knowledge of may reveal a certain arrogance on your behalf. Be careful, your reader(s) might catch on this ;-)

      Tonhalle musicians are among Europe's best paid. It's a fact and you're making a fool out of yourself and this fine blog arguing against it.

      Your obsession with this man's photograph has now become disturbing. If you were a 14-year old girl, I'd say you had a secret crush on him.

      Please do your keen, intelligent, and lucid mind a favor and don't over-analyze everything. Frankly you're not good at it. And it's Friday! So kick back, grab a beer (or a cosmo), pet your cat, and play your favorite Mahler recording.

    2. I invite you to post here the respective pay scales for the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra and Zurich Tonhalle.

      I’m obsessed with McGuire? Hardly. He’s just some damn fool many people have enjoyed making fun of since he hit the local news. It was a major mistake for McGuire to have sought press coverage: it backfired on him, and exposed him as a figure worthy of ridicule.

      I have bad news for you: my pay stubs establish that my powers of analysis are top-of-the-line.

  8. Hey shitbird,
    Far from a step down or even sideways, Peter's move to Zurich is a step up. I'm not sure with what credibility you're posting on this, except to potentially draw a libel or defamation suit. For a lawyer, you seem to play awfully fast and loose with facts. So let me help you:

    1). Peter McGuire is an accomplished and successful violinist who in addition to playing with the Minnesota Orchestra for the better part of the last decade, has subbed for some of the finest orchestras in the world, including the Berlin Philharmonic. He was recently promoted to the associate concertmaster position with MN, effectively the number two player spot in the entire orchestra. He didn't leave because he was uncultured, uncouth or uneducated. He left because a better job playing for more cultured, more educated audiences came up. In short, he left because there are fewer people like you in Zurich.

    2. MN players have not been blacklisted by major American orchestras. Quite the contrary, with players going to not only to the NYPhil and LAPhil, but also subbing in nearly orchestra of note.

    3. You don't know what you're talking about if you think that he's making less money in Zurich. His effective tax rate is probably around 13%, definitely lower than in the US, with a base salary probably in the low six figures (he's the 2nd concertmaster). Even if you assume that this is his only source of income (unlikely for a very talented teacher and performer), he's doing just fine.

    Stick to chasing ambulances.

    1. If I’m uncultured and uneducated, what does that make YOU?

      Your ISP address is You come to me from Rochester, where McGuire has relatives. This is your 38th visit to this particular post. This is the only post on my weblog you ever visit. You spend hours on this post, and have done so for months.

      Aren’t you one of McGuire’s hillbilly relatives? Who else from Rochester would demonstrate such an insane interest in this post?

      Your foolish and ignorant comments typify the tenacious delusional mindset of the American underclass.

      If you were a tad brighter, and not such an indisputable jerk, I’d probably feel sorry for you.