In the new issue of Standpoint magazine, I have written a short essay on the aftermath and implications of the John Galliano imbroglio at Christian Dior.

Much ink has been spilled on the subject. I have tried to provide cultural context. It is my view, expressed elsewhere, that a floodgate has been opened. Anti-semitism has become once again socially admissible. The consequences are unforseeable.
You can read the new essay here.

I have received an email from Deborah Cheyne, a viola player in the OSB and president of the Sindicato dos Músicos Profissionais do Rio de Janeiro, clarifying the latest situation. She was writing also on behalf of Luzer Machtyngier, president of the OSB musicians.

Here’s what Deborah has to say:

On Monday, we had a final round of negotiation. Prior to it, we attended a call
from the Ministry of Labour to sit in a round table with the ministry’s
mediator, where a proposal was offered. The employer’s side did not show

The proposal was, to review the performance evaluation test with the
collaboration of the Ministery of Labour. This was a personal proposal of the
Minister, and the FOSB declined it.

Later this day, a informal and definitive
negotiation happened between Union and FOSB.
The FOSB offered a “plan of
voluntary dismissal” and the musicians refused it, believing that this plan only
transfers the onus of dismissing such a large number of

On Tuesday, the management called and/or communicated by e-mail,
31 musicians to attend to the office next day. Two of them attended the call
and they were communicated about their dismissal. The other 29 did not
appear. Which does not mean that they will not be fired, it is just a matter or

Nine musicians received a statement to attend a re-scheduled audition,
since they were on medical license before. Four musicians did not receive any
communication at all till this moment. Calculating, this means 44 musicians.
At this moment 31 will be soon or later be dismissed for sure.

To my European eyes, this kind of confrontation management belongs to a very dark and distant era.

In the current issue of The Strad, I give encouragement to young recitalists who face half-empty halls, scattered with the elderly and disinterested (and that’s just their families). 

Music has never shirked engagement with popular culture and, since stand-up is now one of the busiest draws at the box office, why shouldn’t a good string player entertain his or her audience in other ways? Break a lance. Crack a smile.

Here’s part of what I suggest.
Forget what the Blessed Dorothy told you in Juilliard
Cathedral never to crack a smile on stage and always to thank (preferably, to
shag) the conductor. Those days are over. String players need to get with the
rhythm and act as if they inhabit the same millennium as the rest of us. If
that means cracking a few warm-up quips, so be it. In a year or two, you may
have enough material for a Saturday-night TV show.
Your thoughts, please?

Read all about it in The Strad. 

Right here.
And more here in German.
Rumours have been swirling for months and we have been unable to report them without hard evidence. here’s some background from Der Spiegel (in English)
The charges are fraud and misappropriation. 

Late yesterday, I received the following analysis of funding cuts from a distinguished and successful orchestral manager who has asked to remain anonymous. His statistics are deadly accurate and mortally revealing.

The question he puts is simple: if the ACE, contrary to its assertions, has merely spread equal misery across all orchestras – who needs an Arts Council at all? The job could be automated.
Here is his report:

Major Orchestras in England


Grants have now been  determined up to


By that
time grants will be:


Philharmonia   £2,131k


LSO                     £2,302k


LPO                     £2,131k


RPO                     £987k


CBSO                   £2,278k


RLPO                   £2,172k


Halle                     £2,174k


Bournemouth     £2,666k


In other
words, all will receive roughly the same (apart from RPO)- irrespective of their
geography or artistic policies.


All represent a cut of around 11% in real
terms – equal misery for all which could actually have been determined by one
person with a calculator.




  1. What’s the point of all the
    form- filling that all these orchestras had to undertake in order to bid
    for development funding or  demonstrate
    plans for innovation and adventure 
    or claim distinction as beacons of excellence which need to be
  2. Where’s the evidence of any
    assessment or judgement behind these grant figures?
  3. Where’s the evidence of any
    real orchestral strategy for the country?


the same thing happened in 1999 when orchestras drowned themselves in paper
setting out their strategies and plans which resulted in no changes whatever.


Important Question


Now that
the Arts Council have set the grants for the next four years, what’s the point
of employing a Music Department?


What’s it
going to  DO?


How many
more years of monitoring and assessing are there to be  without any real change in structure of the
orchestral scene which has been the fundamentally the same for half a century?




whilst everyone in the business breathes a sigh of relief that it “could be
worse”, give some thought to the longer term implications of all this. For how
long will we be able to expect people to devote their careers to playing in
orchestras at the highest level now expected for £28k per annum in a contract
orchestra or £93 per day as a freelance? And in view of the above
across-the-board cuts these musicians can expect these figures to go down in
real terms to something like £25k and £83. 

(NL: Great British orchestras, indeed.)

One of the most irritating responses to the Arts Council’s grant allocations has come from company chiefs like the South Bank’s Jude Kelly (in the Guardian today) who describe their diminished cut or slight increase as ‘a vote of confidence’ in the work they are doing.

A vote for what, and by whom? Jude ought to know as well as anyone that the process by which these cuts were made was not rational or empirical. Many of the decisions were last-minute fudges. Her own South Bank, an Arts Council protectorate, was meant to get off even more lightly than it did – but, after the final meeting, when all C
ouncil members had gone home
, executive officers led by Alan Davey found a million-plus hole in the budget. The only way they could plug it was by a clawback from the South Bank, amid assurances that all would be put to rights once the present fuss had died down.
As I said last night on BBC Front Row, the methodology of Arts Council funding stands totally discredited. We need to get away from the Prize Day hysteria and adopt something closer to the German model, where funding is managed quietly, consensually and, on the whole, without much corruption or mutual back-scratching.
When we have a Government that is bold enough to address real reforms, it should consult someone like Peter Jonas, former head of ENO and the Bavarian State Opera, on how to make the arts work without so much otiose and artificial fuss.

Riccardo Muti’s back – well ahead of schedule and on top of his game.

He tells Andrew Patner in the Sun-Times that seven weeks was quite long enough to get over heart surgery and a broken jaw. He has been left with a pronounced sibilance in his speech, but has been assured that it will fade in due course. If I were a player in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, I wouldn’t ask the maestro in rehearsal where that hissing noise is coming from.
The full interview will appear at the weekend.
Story Image

photo: Tom Cruze~Sun-Times, all rights reserved

The Brazilian Symphony Orchestra has dismissed 44 players for ‘insubordination’, according to representatives of the musicians who have contacted me by email.

See here for details.

The orchestra is now officially a war zone. Foreigners might be well advised to stay away.

– London Review of Books did not apply for renewed funding after being warned it would not get.

– Fellow-publishers were amazed at £40,000 for ‘not-for-profit’ Faber and Faber.
– Poetry Book Society, which manages the T S Eliot prize, was scrapped altogether. ‘I’ve not idea what they’re trying to tell us,’ said PBS chief Chris Holifield. Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy called it ‘a disgusting decision’.

– Southwest England got left out again. And again. And again.
– Southwest London also also screwed. Sir Peter Hall’s Rose Theatre at Kingston was turned down. Its artistic director Stephen Unwin told The Stage:
“With cuts announced for the Waterman’s in Hounslow, the Orange Tree in Richmond, the Battersea Arts Centre in Wandsworth and Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, the funding situation in south west London is now worse than ever and the contrast with east London – especially the Olympic Boroughs – is stark. It’s clear that a large part of the Mayor of London’s cultural strategy has been ignored.”
Ockham's Razor
Ockham’s Razor at the Rose

– Hampstead Theatre was saved at the very last minute, after a majority wanted to cut it off for being too Hampstead, meaning too white and middle-class. Hampstead is run by Ed Hall, Sir Peter’s son.

– The Almeida Theatre, also in prosperous north London, was penalised by 39 percent, partly (I am told) due to bad blood between its director Michael Attenborough and ACE officials. ACE chief Alan Davey said: ‘they can do the same on less money.’

– Debate was suppressed on Welsh National Opera, which receives most of its funding from England. Why? Just don’t ask.

– Information about the cuts was released with what appeared to be deliberate disorganisation, avoiding a simple alphabetical catalogue and burying some of the biggest changes in small print. It may not, of course, have been deliberate. Never rule out incompetence as a factor at the ACE.

Ummentioned in his acclamation last week as the new head of London’s Royal Opera, Kasper Holten’s first film opens next week in Copenhagen.

Titled ‘Juan’ and based on Mozart’s Don Giovanni, it opens with a rather fetching man in a hot shower (rear view) and seems to treat the subject with serious intent.
Here are some promo shots.
Christopher Maltman with Maria Bengtsson
Elizabeth Futral
Holten himself
And here’s a smashing video clip in the shower.
Don’t miss it.

Not all of my analysis during this hectic day has been pinpoint accurate, and I have had to adjust some of the earlier posts according to information that has rushed in later. Such are the risk one takes when reporting at the speed of light.

The overall picture, however, is as I described it: the ACE has performed a paper-pushing exercise in which bureaucratic convenience took precedence over artistic merit and need. Much of its work could have been done by a robot.
But what’s this from the BBC’s arts editor, Will Gompertz? Read it, blink, and then ask yourself what planet Will Gompertz inhabits:
It didn’t need to be like this. Arts Council Englandcould have chosen to apply a 15% cut across the board and thereby avoid the inevitable hullabaloo of those who have had all their funding taken away questioning the decision.

Will Gompertz

Gompz, who had previously written a puff piece on the ACE’s lacklustre chief executive Alan Davey, does not seem to understand that the ACE exists to make choices. If it made no choices, as he recommends, it would have no function whatsoever and his ‘heroic’ Davey no desk to sit behind.

Gompz has not lost the plot. He never got it in the first place.

Dame Liz Forgan, chair of Arts Council England, has been asked to justify her cuts live on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row programme this evening.

I was asked by the programme’s editor to appear opposite her.
Liz has just told the BBC that she won’t appear with Lebrecht – ‘and you can tell him I said so’.
Unlike her to run scared of a fight. She must be feeling on very shaky ground.

                                          photo: ACE
Either way, one of us will have to record our comments beforehand so that Liz does not have to face me.
Appropriate conduct for a public official? Hey-ho.
LATE  EXTRA: Arts and Business chief Colin Tweedy tells me she made the same condition with Radio 4’s World at One when he was due to debate cuts with her last November.