Leading Article: Orchestral manoeuvres, poorly conducted

Share
Related Topics
THOSE who wield the axe should do so swiftly and ruthlessly. Yet when the Arts Council decided last July to stop giving money to two of the four London orchestras it now subsidises, it took upon itself the easy job of telling the London Symphony Orchestra that its subsidy was safe.

The painful choice between the London Philharmonic, the Philharmonia Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic was subcontracted to a committee - whose six men wrung their hands for a while and then, with three abstentions, chose the Philharmonia. Now the council has lost its nerve, and seems set to reverse its earlier policy by restoring partial funding to the LPO and RPO.

This absurd turn of events has demoralised all three orchestras, and given the concert-going public the wrong impression that London's orchestras are second-rate. But the Council's original ambition to create a super-orchestra in the first place was mistaken.

The argument in favour was that outbidding the purse of the Berlin Philharmonic requires subsidies of tens rather than odd millions of pounds. Unfortunately, there is no precedent for forming a great orchestra with a single cheque. It is also doubtful whether any orchestra under a single conductor, however great, could outshine the breadth of talent that London now enjoys from the likes of Dohnanyi, Slatkin, Salonen, Welser-Most, Tennstedt and Ashkenazy.

London's concert attendances are falling. But that is inevitable, for listeners can now hear great performances in their own living rooms for the price of a CD. The trend has hardly harmed Sir Neville Marriner or John Eliot Gardiner, who have thrived on the income from recordings. If it is looking for economies, the Arts Council should start its search at the South Bank, which spends more money on publicising its grimy concrete landscape than the subsidies of all four orchestras combined.

The Council's instinct was right in only one sense. The disparity between the subsidies to London orchestras is due more to history and to politics than to an aesthetic decision, and an intelligent review under a senior judge might have put that right. But a wiser solution would have been to offer equal subsidies per London concert to all four orchestras, and let them compete for audiences.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: On behalf of a successful academy i...

Investigo: Finance Business Partner

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A solar energy farm in France  

Nature Studies: For all the attractions of solar power, it shouldn’t blight the countryside

Michael McCarthy
Supporters of New Democracy wave Greek flags during Antonis Samaras pre-election speech.  

Greece elections: Where does power lie? This is the question that ties the UK to Athens

Steve Richards
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project