Shock victory in orchestra contest

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The Independent Online
THE PHILHARMONIA has won the controversial contest to be London's new 'super-orchestra', beating the London Philharmonic, which was hot favourite, and the Royal Philharmonic, writes David Lister.

The surprise result means that the Philharmonia stands to have its public funding dramatically increased, and the LPO and RPO could lose all their public subsidy, putting their futures in doubt. It also ensures that London's musical life will be thrown into turmoil.

The contest between the three orchestras to be a new super-orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall to match the success of the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican was instigated by the Arts Council, which felt that London had too many symphony orchestras and they were of an insufficiently high standard.

The council stepped back from making the decision itself and appointed a committee under Lord Justice Hoffmann to hear evidence from the three orchestras involved. The Independent on Sunday learned last night that the Hoffmann committee had chosen the Philharmonia. The Arts Council will meet next week to decide whether to stick to its original objective of depriving the losers of all public funds.

The Arts Council's strategy has been dogged by controversy. One member of its music panel resigned in protest on Friday, and the composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies is threatening to send back his knighthood. It is understood that Lord Hoffmann will insist that the details of his judgment are made public.

At present the LPO receives pounds 1.2m in public funding, the Philharmonia pounds 700,000 and the RPO pounds 400,000. None of the interested parties was prepared to comment publicly last night. An Arts Council source said that the council would find it difficult now not to carry out its threat of taking public subsidy from the two losing orchestras next April, and doubling the public subsidy of the winner.

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