Letter: Neglected orchestra

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The Independent Online
Sir: Norman Lebrecht ('Disharmony among the musicians', 14 September) identified two events in the post-war period as contributing to London's emergence as a world centre of music: the first performance of Peter Grimes and the creation of the Arts Council.

More important than either was the founding of the Philharmonia by Walter Legge. By 1950, Karajan was able to call it the 'best concert orchestra in the world'. In 1952, at his own request, Toscanini crossed the Atlantic to conduct it. By 1960 its performances under Klemperer had, according to Virgil Thomson, 'religious intensity'.

Yet, to our shame, Legge became so discouraged by hostile economic conditions that he disbanded the orchestra in 1964. Against all odds, the Philharmonia under Muti in the late Seventies was again a major international band, but the hostile economic conditions remained. Nothing in the arts has so disgraced successive British governments as their failure to fund the Philharmonia adequately for the past 30 years.

Yours faithfully,

D. G. WILLIAMS

Whitbourne,

Hereford and Worcester

16 September

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