London orchestras seal peace

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THE lengthy battle for survival between London's subsidised orchestras took a new turn yesterday when the South Bank Centre announced joint residency for erstwhile rivals the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Philharmonia.

From September1997 the two orchestras will each perform about 40 to 50 concerts a year at the Royal Festival Hall, and share rehearsal time on the concert platform. The LPO has had sole residency since 1992.

Bob St John Wright, chairman of the LPO, said the orchestra had difficulties with its commitment to the South Bank because of its yearly commitment to Glyndebourne and lack of money: "We've experienced problems with the original contract presented to us because of increased shortage of funding due to the recession and cuts in subsidies. The ambitions of the residency just could not be met." As a result the LPO invited the Philharmonia to join it.

Since the mid-Eighties the four London orchestras have fought for survival, pitching against each other. The London Symphony Orchestra is fairly secure in its well-funded Barbican residency, but for the LPO, Philharmonia and Royal Philharmonic, funding has been tight.

This led to tension between the orchestras, particularly the LPO and the Philharmonia, which had acrimonious disputes over the LPO's successful bid for the RFH residency.

Details of the residency, including funding, have yet to be finalised. At present the Arts Council gives the LPO pounds 300,000. Mr St John Wright said that he expected the funding to be divided into different projects planned for the Festival Hall. David Whelton, general manager of the Philharmonia, said he expected funding to be "level".

The new relations between the orchestras is further complicated by the LPO's overtures to the Royal Philharmonic three weeks ago concerning a management merger, which is seen as a step towards a "super-orchestra" for London.

But all the participants dismissed suggestions that past acrimony could upset future relations. Nicholas Snowman, chief executive of the South Bank Centre, said: "Peace has broken out between the orchestras and that's the simple truth."