Orchestra Strike in Cleveland?

The gloves are off in Cleveland, where labor talks between management and musicians of the Cleveland Orchestra are stalled. Public relations firms are being retained, statements from indignant musicians and scolding orchestra administrators released. Although the pressures of a severely depressed economy may be unique to our time, the rhetoric is the same as usual: Management wants cuts, citing the musicians' average compensation of $152,000 a year for an "official work week" of 20 hours; musicians are countering by portraying themselves as guardians of artistic quality.

"We are disappointed that management is not willing to give proper consideration to our offer of a one year salary freeze." said players in a statement release by their publicist. "They want drastic cuts. If that were to happen, it would be the beginning of the end of the Cleveland Orchestra as one of the leading ensembles in the world."

Executive director Gary Hanson told the Plain Dealer that musicians had not "agreed to share in the sacrifice that everybody else has." Cleveland's staff and music director have taken pay cuts of 10 to 20 percent, as have musicians and staff at several other orchestras.

Management released a statement today saying talks had ended with no settlement, while claiming musicians had said they might strike as early as Jan. 18. The current labor contract expired in September.

Regrettable things get said in the public-relations battlefield of orchestra negotiations, but it's curious for management to suggest that it's paying players for the hours they work rather than the talent they possess, which isn't very smart when you're in the business of promoting the idea that what you have is the best.

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra principal guest conductor Donald Runnicles will step down after the 2011-12 season, the orchestra announced yesterday. The post, which Runnicles started in 2001, has typically brought him in for four weeks each season. After 2011-12, he's expected to appear for two weeks each season as a guest.

Symphony magazine, the League of American Orchestras monthly, is joining the free + online realm: see it here.

Russian-born pianist Kirill Gerstein has been named the recipient of the 2010 Gilmore Artist Award. He receives $50,000 cash outright, plus $250,000 over four years for "projects and activities that will enhance the artist's musicianship and career."