Rattle issues ultimatum on orchestra's funding

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SIMON RATTLE, the brightest star in classical music in Britain, yesterday threatened not to renew his contract as principal conductor with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra if the latter's funding is not increased, writes David Lister.

The 39-year-old conductor has given the city's orchestra a world-class reputation. Undoubtedly, it would find it hard to maintain that if Rattle left. The conductor, who has led the CBSO since 1980, would be in demand from orchestras not just in London but in Europe and America if he does not renew his contract, which expires in 1996, and which should have been renewed last month.

Rattle's ultimatum is an embarrassment for the Arts Council, which has decided not to increase the CBSO's pounds 1.15m grant next year.

Despite audiences averaging 90 per cent capacity, the CBSO will have a deficit of pounds 250,000 by April. Birmingham council gives it pounds 1m a year but will not give it more unless the Arts Council matches the increase.

Last night, Rattle said: 'I am not prepared to lead this wonderful orchestra into decline. The problem in this country is that arts organisations that do really well are penalised. Birmingham has been tremendously supportive. But I think that the Arts Council believe that the arts will be all right in Birmingham whatever happens.

'That's wrong. The Arts Council have to put their money where their mouth is.'