MUSIC / Upbeat: Losing pace

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WORD of 30 per cent pay-cuts for orchestral players has blown in on the latest chill economic wind from across the Atlantic, writes Andrew Green. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra narrowly averted closure with a last-minute agreement by players to accept the cuts, which are phased over the next three seasons. Its 1992/93 season, which features guest soloists including Yo-Yo Ma, Midori, Kathleen Battle and Vladimir Ashkenazy, will now go ahead.

Some are seeing the deal as a moment of reckoning with the players' union - regarded as one of the toughest bargainers in North America. Minimum salaries currently amount to Can dollars 57,000. TSO managing director Max Tapper insists that '. . . everyone is making financial sacrifices, not just the players'. The deal with the orchestra members was none the less made the deciding factor in whether or not management filed for bankruptcy. Offices were even being readied for evacuation in that expectation.

Ronald Hurwitz, chairman of the orchestra's negotiating committee, is bitter: 'We feel we were threatened.' He blames the financial plight to a substantial degree on the reported dollars 500,000 loss made on a Pacific Rim tour in 1990. 'We told the board we shouldn't be doing it. And the board members have simply failed to set aside their egos and admit we need professionals to tackle the orchestra's fund-raising.'

Tapper is unimpressed. 'Mr Hurwitz's knowledge of what's possible in a recession seems to me naive.'