This morning, in strict confidence, you will report to the Arts Council's music panel which one of three orchestras should share with the London Symphony the honour of higher public funding while the remaining two suffer the humiliation of having their subsidies dropped.

I bet you wish you'd never accepted this nasty, divisive and destructive brief. You must realise there is so little to choose between the London Philharmonic and the Philharmonia that no choice should be made. The LPO has a substantial advantage, being officially resident at the South Bank, which means it receives more public subsidy; but in practice this has proved a poisoned chalice, provoking boardroom crises, sacked management and a horrid year for the orchestra's music director, Franz Welser-Mst.

Even the fact that the Arts Council did not endorse the South Bank's choice of the LPO as the super orchestra, but asked you to chair this committee, shows how indvidious such choices are. This is the most unnecessary arts politics muddle in years, and musicians will go on telling tales of Hoffmann, whatever the outcome.

I hope your deliberations have included precedents for what makes a great orchestra. You should have heard of Sidney Sax's session band, to which the best players in London flocked when Sid called. Sid would have run a mile at your committee's talk of outreach and education.

Then there was the founding of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields by a second fiddler who wanted to play without a conductor. And don't forget John Eliot Gardiner's English Baroque Soloists, who have won numerous international awards in the past five years thanks to the sometimes charming, sometimes intolerable Gardiner. Personally, I'd forget the 'super symphony orchestra' and increase the peanuts given to Gardiner's ensemble so they can give more performances in the UK and fewer abroad.

I suppose the Arts Council asked you to chair this orchestral hit squad because you did a brilliant bit of arbitration when orchestras which formerly played at the South Bank objected to Nicholas Snowman, chief executive of the South Bank Centre, saying they could no longer use his halls as a garage. And I dare say you were tempted to follow in the footsteps of your old mentor, Lord Goodman. But he earned the nickname 'Blessed Arnold' because he believed in fixing things, and is inclined to take the positive line.

I can't imagine Lord Goodman approving of your role in the current debcle. He would be the first to say that such draconian measures are inappropriate, and would regret the Arts Council's fondness for setting its clients at each other's throats.

Yes, perhaps it is time for the Royal Philharmonic to leave the table - its subsidy of pounds 400,000 is a mere 7 per cent of its income. However, these things should be done gradually, in a climate of mutual respect. So please throw the case out of court, Lord Justice, and advise the music panel to think again, perhaps funding projects rather than institutions.

(Photograph omitted)

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