With five concerts from September 21 to October 1, the Liepāja Symphony Orchestra will go on a Latvian concert tour. In Jelgava, Auci, Limbaži, Madona and Daugavpils, the orchestra and its artistic director Guntis Kuzma together with clarinetist Anna Gāgani will lead an inspiring program of Viennese classics.
At the moment, it is more important than the orchestra’s creative plans and ideas to talk about the salary of the orchestra’s musicians. An open letter has been distributed by the Association of Professional Music Groups of Latvia. It especially emphasizes that professional musicians go to work outside Latvia due to their financial situation.
From left: Uldis Lipskis and Guntis Kuzma
Photo: Santa Lauga / Latvian Radio
“It is good news that there is such a letter that all the professional collectives in Latvia have united in a professional organization, an association, because our daily life consists of the fact that we give out extremely positive and beautiful news all the time, what excellent soloists, what good music, everything is so very beautiful. And so for decades, but in fact the situation with the remuneration of Latvian professional musicians and not only musicians, but also ballet artists has slowly, slowly lagged behind the context even in the Baltic countries.
At the moment, the salary difference is already so big that we are losing real musicians – every year there are some who move to work in Estonia or Lithuania,” said Lipskis.
According to him, the industry is currently being harmed by the patience and obedience characteristic of Latvians, so it is necessary to pay the attention of both the government and society to this problem.
“In principle, Latvian orchestras and choirs have been leaders in the Baltic countries in terms of artistic strength and professionalism, but we can see that if this wage gap continues, it is only a matter of time when this leadership will go to the north or south of Latvia. Therefore, we want to publicize the problem It is not only the problem of the artists themselves, management or leadership, it is the problem of our people, the problem of our country, that we cannot adequately, decently pay professional artists, that they participate in competitions in neighboring countries or further afield, and slowly the brains and talents are draining away,” emphasized Lipski .
In addition, the selection and cultivation of these talents requires 10-15 years with individual working hours of pedagogues, but later this invested work is gifted to Estonia, Lithuania or Germany.
“That’s why we’re raising the alarm, because I think it’s really the last moment to start taking rapid steps to correct the situation and equalize the remuneration of artists, at least among the Baltic states,” Lipskis said.
He mentioned an example he observed in the competitions announced this summer for concertmasters. Concertmasters in Latvia are offered a gross salary of 1,600 euros. At the same time, in a similar competition in Estonia, the concertmaster is offered a gross salary of 2,900 euros.
“Professionals reported about one of Lithuania’s leading orchestras that there are 1,800 on hand, we don’t even have that many on paper. We are not bluffing, we really see threats to our industry in the future and fulfill our duty to report it,” emphasized Lipskis.
It gets worse over the years
The criticality of the situation was highlighted in the Latvijas Radio “Labrīt” program by the head of “Latvijas koncertu” Guntars Ķirsis: “When we have all happily returned from the Amsterdam “Concertgebouw” concert, where “Sinfonietta Rīga” performed, I meet one of the musicians in a supermarket, because she is forced to work there, because you can’t really live on the salary of an orchestra musician. It’s not a bad thing, because that job is also respectable, but in any country that considers itself a cultural country, that can’t happen, because a professional musician has to work in a music group, he time should be given to him so that he can improve himself, so that after you and other listeners come to the concert, he can fully fulfill what we expect from him.”
The low salary of musicians
The artistic director of the “Sinfonietta Rīga” orchestra, Normunds Shne, admitted that – even though fanatics work in his orchestra and conspicuously no one leaves the orchestra, the situation is becoming more and more critical,
which also creates more and more uncertainty about the future: “Actually, all these years it’s getting worse and worse, and it’s not only related to the salary of the orchestra players, but also to the budget of the orchestra in general. That’s why I say at the end of every word – I hope we can do it , I hope we can do this and that and that as well. That’s the situation right now.”
One of the problems – the lack of musicians in specific instrument groups – is also faced by the Latvian Radio big band, explained its leader Kārlis Vanags: “The situation in the instrument groups is catastrophic. We have once thought that – God forbid, if any of the musicians of the big band for some reason can’t take part in the concert, then often the situation can become such that there is simply nothing to take instead. Because for less than two million, in principle, we can’t find another first trumpet of that level in Latvia, who, for example, we have Andris Augstkalns, and it is with most musicians.”
In the context of everything, it seems almost paradoxical that, for example, the Latvian Radio choir will go to London at the beginning of October, where the prestigious British magazine “Gramophone” annual award will be presented, for which the choir’s performance has been nominated, while at home there is already uncertainty about what will happen. in the coming months, when the winter billing season will begin. Sigvards Kļava stated:
“As never before, musicians now feel extremely vulnerable and maybe even killed, because there are so many different events and details that appear in our everyday life. I can’t say it clearly, but there are big soaps, there are really big soaps.”
The head of “Latvijas koncertu” Guntars Ķirsis emphasizes that the situation is so bad that it must be resolved as soon as possible, hoping for a productive dialogue with the new government: “It is clear that the minister of culture and the prime minister will be talking, that this issue must be resolved immediately, we cannot don’t wait a moment. You ask the question – do we see anyone coming back? The reality is that there is no one who has gone abroad to study at the moment who comes back and says they want to play here. Won’t come back here until we we won’t be able to offer them anything real.”
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