The fate of two Paris orchestras ‘hangs in the balance’

We have reported over several months the disintegration of music structures at Radio France, leading to the present state of chaos where the head of music is believed to have been fired and an orchestra was obliged to play before an empty hall. Several top administrators have gone, one fleeing as far as Chicago.

An accurate summary of recent events appears today in Le Point under the headline quoted above. Le Point predicts a forced merger between the Orchestre Nationale de France (md: Daniele Gatti) and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France (md: Myung Whun Chung). Together, the two orchestras employ 250 musicians. This looks like a disaster movie with no-one in the director’s seat.

Is Paris burning?

radio france fire2

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  • When troubles started at the beginning of the season, it was repeatedly announced that a merger of the two orchestras was “not on the table”. However, last week, Radio France CEO Mathieu Gallet announced coldly that there were three options: the Orchestre National moving in with the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées (very improbable), a merger (equally improbable considering the power of unions), or cutbacks in personnel (most likely). But the orchestras are only a part of his problems, and he does not seem to have a clear strategy on how to deal with them. An important meeting is being held today, we should probably know more after that.

  • Didn’t they just open a new hall – Maison de Radio France or whatever? Saw a concert with both orchestras from there on Mezzo a couple months ago. Interviews with the head of Radio France, with culture minister (?) Fleur Pellerin, etc., about how great everything is. How quickly things change.

    • I would like to clarify that I “didn’t flee” my position as artistic director of the Orchestre National de France (ONF).
      I was offered a very interesting position with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Maestro Riccardo Muti, which I accepted back in the Fall.

      At the time, the situation at Orchestre National de France was clear and calm, I was working very happily with Maestro Daniele Gatti and the musicians at ONF.

      I do believe that with the beautiful new Auditorium at Radio France, there is a place and need for every musician.

      If anyone would like to know more about the musical achievements of ONF, I would recommend they listen to their multiple recordings, including the latest set, their regular broadcasts and webcasts on Arte Concert, Medici, etc.
      They contains some real gems !
      All music lovers, especially in France, should listen to this wonderful orchestra which serves a very large audience (as it should be for any public service).

      Musical treasures, such as orchestras, should be revered and protected – like we do with art treasures: monuments, paintings, etc.

      Paris is a very lucky city with a great musical past and an hopefully an equally radiant musical future to which ONF should be a major contributor.

      Cristina Rocca
      Vice President for Artistic Planning
      Chicago Symphony Orchestra

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