A VETERAN violinist has spoken of the moment a conductor “stormed off” hours before a performance.
Natalia Luis-Bassa walked out on Huddersfield Philharmonic Orchestra on Saturday afternoon and failed to show up for a concert that evening.
But another former conductor said yesterday he believes sexism among “hard-bitten Yorkshiremen” in the orchestra could be behind the row.
Ms Luis-Bassa walked out at around 2.50pm on Saturday during final rehearsal for a performance at Huddersfield Town Hall.
The orchestra decided to go ahead with the concert with three of the musicians standing in as conductors.
Yesterday Richard Bottom, who has played violin in the orchestra for 30 years, described the moment when Ms Luis-Bassa left.
He said: “Rehearsal started around 2.30pm and she walked off about 20 minutes later.
“She was unhappy with some of the playing because it hadn’t been rehearsed. There were some misunderstandings but she wasn’t giving any clear guidance.
“Someone asked her: ‘Please, Natalia, what do you want us to do?’ and she just stormed off.”
Mr Bottom, 56, of Crosland Moor was happy to see her go.
“My attitude is good riddance,” he said.
Mr Bottom, who works as headteacher at Wilberlee Junior and Infants School, thinks Ms Luis-Bassa had failed to understand the needs of an amateur orchestra.
“This has been building up for a couple of years because she’s not happy with the way the orchestra has rehearsed,” he said.
“There are some professional and semi-professional musicians in the orchestra, but a significant number of us are teachers who come to rehearsal after a hard day’s work.
“She’s not capable of working with an amateur orchestra which needs coaching, encouragement and praise.
“She was full of criticism, which is very unfair.”
But Arthur Butterworth, who conducted the Huddersfield Philharmonic Orchestra for 31 years, said yesterday that sexism could be the reason Ms Luis-Bassa walked out.
He said: “Natalia is a brilliant conductor but there is still some resentment from hard-bitten Yorkshiremen because they don’t want a woman.”
Mr Butterworth, who was conductor from 1962 to 1993, believes the orchestra’s standards have slipped.
The 87-year-old said: “We had 95% attendance at rehearsal every week for 30 years. Why can’t this generation of musicians do the same?
“Natalia was right to insist that they should attend rehearsal. You can’t rehearse properly unless the whole team is there.”
Ms Luis-Bassa, 44, grew up in Venezuela, where she studied the oboe at the world-famous El Sistema school at the age of 15.
She is a part-time lecturer at the University of Huddersfield and also works as musical director of the Haffner Orchestra in Lancaster and the Hallam Sinfonia in Sheffield.
Ms Luis-Bassa, who lives in Hade Edge, was awarded the Elgar Society Prize for conducting a Huddersfield Philharmonic performance of Elgar’s Second Symphony in 2007.
On Sunday she told the Examiner she had walked out the day before because members of the orchestra were questioning her conducting and at least one of the musicians had been rude to her.
Ms Luis-Bassa could not be reached for further comment yesterday.
Orchestra president Peter Lewis said yesterday he was “not available for comment” while subscription and ticket secretary Chris Leyland also declined to comment.
However, an announcement was posted on the orchestra’s website yesterday.
It read: “Unfortunately Natalia Luis-Bassa, our retained principal conductor since February 2004, simply walked out of a rehearsal just a few hours before a public concert performance, which let everyone down very badly.
“This was not the behaviour one could anticipate. Notwithstanding, the evening with the four scheduled pieces conducted by instrumentalists from within the Phil’s orchestra was a huge success.”
The statement added that Ms Luis-Bassa had “clearly compounded” the situation by talking to the Examiner.
A second statement posted on the website yesterday afternoon invited people to apply for the position of conductor.