norman lebrecht

September 18, 2023

In the face of stonewall silence from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, here’s what we know so far about the abrupt dismissal last week of young CSO violist Bea (Beatrice) Chen.

Ms Chen was sacked, we are reliably informed, for disciplinary reasons.

Many musicians have told that Bea applied to the CSO for a week’s leave from the Ravinia Festival in order to play a concert in Taiwan. Her request was turned down.

She then called in injured with a doctor’s note. Later she was pictured on social media (see below) on August 22 playing Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante in Taiwan with her father, Robert Chen, who is concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Getting caught was a sackable offence on Bea’s part.

No action has been considered against Robert Chen, a trusted ally of emeritus music director Riccardo Muti.

But questions are being asked all around the orchestra about what Chen knew, and when.

This won’t go away.

To quell the furore, the CSO put out a rare weekend press release about a ‘tentative’ agreement between musicians and orchestra:

Following negotiations that began in June and concluded this evening (Sep 17), the Musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, represented by the Chicago Federation of Musicians (CFM), and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association (CSOA) have reached tentative agreement on a new 3-year contract, through September 2026. If ratified by the Members of the Orchestra and by the CSOA Board of Trustees, the proposed agreement improves working conditions and wages for the musicians of the CSO and operational elements of the contract that benefit the CSOA. Both parties are thankful to their negotiating committees for their efforts to reach a successful conclusion before the current agreement was set to expire at midnight on September 17. Details of the agreement will be released after the changes to the contract are ratified by both parties.

Once again, no substance has been disclosed.

By mrtrv