A sad day for the EU as Abbado’s orchestra is abolished

A sad day for the EU as Abbado’s orchestra is abolished


norman lebrecht

May 12, 2016

The European Union Youth Orchestra was the brainchild of Claudio Abbado, a means of bonding young musicians from different countries. In almost 40 years it has helped 3,000 musicians to find their voice.

The EUYO’s Honorary Patrons include heads of Government of all 28 member states, as well as the President of the European Commission and the President of the European Parliament.

Today, these worthies abolished the orchestra.

UPDATE: We’ve been informed that the member governments are each prepared to continue their national subsidy. But the EU Commission withdrew its support. The resistance is organising.

First responses:

Sir John Tusa, Co-Chair said: “For 40 years the EUYO has been the musical expression of European unity, artistic collaboration and partnership. It is a tragedy that the European Community seems no longer to value such work as a key part of the European project.”

Ian Stoutzker, CBE, Co-Chair, said: “I and others became Trustees in 2014 with the sole aim of helping the EUYO to fulfil its mission at the highest level. Recent critical acclaim suggests that we are on our way. Should the Orchestra be abandoned at this point by the EU, the European Union will have scored a spectacular own-goal.”

Marshall Marcus, CEO of the European Union Youth Orchestra said: “If the EU is not able to help fund its own youth orchestra, an orchestra which is the only organisation in the world that recruits and brings together young people every year from all 28 EU member states in support of the ideals of the Union, then the Orchestra will cease to exist. A sad day for the EU”.


If you have personal experience of playing in the orchestra, now is the time to speak out.


UPDATE: What else you can do.


  • Bram Mergaert says:


    A true European feeling was never more tangible than when on tour with EUYO. To me, the orchestra represented what Europe could and should be like.

    It’s a damn shame.

  • Derek Warby says:

    As a former manager of the EUYO, I find this devastating news. The EUYO is the very epitome of what international friendship and co-operation can achieve. The EUYO is the best youth orchestra in the world and the equal of most professional outfits. Its members have always been guaranteed a place if they pass the rigorous audition process, regardless of the student’s financial position. Former EUYO members can be found in principal positions in all of Europe’s most prestigious orchestras and on the solo platform. This is a sad day for the musical world, Europe, the EU and all the young musicians and staff who have made this the wonderful and unique organisation it had been for nearly 40 years; the face of knowing the cost of everything, but the value of nothing. I sincerely hope that some kind of rescue package can be found.

    • J. says:

      It’s not the “the best youth orchestra in the world”. The Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester is better.

      • Edmund Coxon says:

        J – this is not about competition and oneupmanship! The GMO was borne out of the success of its parent orchestra and creator, the late great Claudio Abbado. If he were to read your words in light of the subject matter at hand, like any loving father, he would not permit a younger brother in his attempts to put down or devalue his older sibling.

  • Christoph-Mathias Mueller says:

    This is shocking and a disgrace!

    Christoph-Mathias Mueller, Assistant Conductor to Claudio Abbado with the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester 2001-2005

  • Olassus says:

    List of conductors:


    This comes a couple of days after Vasily Petrenko took the guesting job in Moscow. He must have been aware.

  • Don Fatale says:

    It’s a pity to see such a worthy organisation disbanded; and a clear lesson to any organisation dependent on EU funding that this could happen to them next. Perhaps it become the EYO with the support of interested countries, including those not in the EU?

    • Derek Warby says:

      The individual countries already make a contribution to the overall EUYO budget, but that would have to increase at least tenfold to match the approx 600,000,000€ given by Brussels each year.

    • reuflet says:

      as Great britain…;wants to get off the EU .;”Brexit”…let’s use the funds received by Prince Charles as a Farmer ( he owns one of the biggest company in England…) ans give them to this orchestra…I know it is stupid to say such a thing…

  • Ljubisa says:

    So sad…..EU? Arts? Music?..

  • Larry W says:

    This shocking and short-sighted move has bolstered support for Brexit.

    • Tim says:

      And how exactly would leaving the EU improve the situation?

      • Luk says:

        that wasn’t the purpose of the comment, I believe. I think the idea was more “look at the EU, wasting all that money and not even able to support their own music excellency!”.

        Said this, I think such a news would have an impact on the vote of, say, 10 British citizens and not more…

        • Dr Jane Marguerite Andrews says:

          We need desperately, to at least attempt, to drag back our independent right to govern each our own finances, large and tiny, don’t just listen to me, a cursory glance at the ‘track record of funding decisions’ should provide anyone with more than enough good reasons to return to ‘managing ourselves’- foibles and all!

          I am doubly annoyed because I just typed a scathing piece addressing this appalling matter, but the tech. somehow lost in the ether, with as yet no trace!!!!!!

          Dr J M Andrews

  • John Wilkinson says:

    Surely 600,000 Euros p.a. is achievable via private sponsors???

    • Derek Warby says:

      Easy to say – and you’d think the answer would be ‘yes’, but the truth is very much harder. It’s like pulling teeth to get anyone to part with money these days – especially if there’s not obviously something in it for them.

  • This is the saddest news .
    EUYO is one of the strongest symbols of what could be the philosophical reason to be of Europe: cooperation and cultural exchange, this being the only way to a real brotherhood between peoples.
    I’m proud to have been part of what I call the “Abbado’s generation” or the “Abbado’s sons”.
    Thanks to EUYO I really knew how to share music with others, I met the most important teachers of my life and I met my future wife. Useless to say that without EUYO my life wouldn’t have been the same, probably poorer and with a narrower horizon.
    Probably as narrow as the horizon that allows rulers to think that such an institution is not worth to exist anymore while they are building walls to cope with immigrants.

  • Simon Styles says:

    As a former member in the founding years of this illustrious ensemble, I can only say how shocked and numbed I am at reading this appalling news. Quite apart from the wilful demolition of a magnificent orchestra, the EU is sending out a very poor message on it’s on youth and fraternity within it’s boundaries. This decision needs urgently to be be re-thought.
    Prof. Simon Styles Principal Tuba Tonhalle Orchester Zürich

  • Hobbes says:

    It’s incredibly sad news, but bear in mind that we don’t know the reasoning. EU funding is not automatic and needs a strong application, well planned activity and application and reporting deadlines to be met (not unreasonably). I’m as frustrated by funding hoops as anyone else – if not more so – but I’m also aware that to lose funding entirely after a long relationship with a funder usually means that there’s more to it than red tape….

  • Petros Linardos says:


    • Derek Warby says:

      As a former manager of the EUYO, I had to submit more than one funding application and I can tell you they are long, tedious and exacting. One has to account for every penny/cent and present a strong case. And meeting deadlines is just a given – you simply DON’T miss them. That said, with two major Europe-wide tours avery year, additional work for EU functions and their pioneering T2020 project, I don’t think it would have been the EUYO’s lack of planned activities that were the problem here. ‘Traditional’ classical music has been becoming increasingly targetted in recent years as ‘elitist’ and more ‘trendy’ projects such ‘El sistema’ gaining favour. Perhaps this is part or all of the reason for the current sad situation.

      • Miquel Àngel Parera Salvà says:

        Dear Mr. Warby,
        The problem are not the other projects, that make concurence to the EUYO for the EU Funding. You, as me, know that the money is asignet to each project based on a points sistem. then they begin to give the money from the best qualified downwards as long the money reaches.
        The real problem in my opinion is that the Creative Europe Program is exactly designet for Projects and not for stable institutions. The EUYO is not the first having problems. Last year (the first from Creative Europe Program) many other did.
        Until the Creative Europe does not have an own department for Institutions a european level, we will see the same results.
        Miquel Àngel Parera Salvà, Festival director Lux Festspiele

        • Ignacio Martínez-Ybor says:

          Which takes me back to a previous comment in which it was pointed out how this move assists those in Britain advocating Brexit: Brussels has become so bureaucratically fossilized that it cannot see beyond its nose at the dynamic complexity and diversity of the tasks it is supposed to manage. Indeed, it punishes success and stability. It would be a shame if this great institution disappears.

  • 18mebrumaire says:

    perhaps eschenbach could help keep the orchestra afloat by donating the prize money he regularly receives . . . nice gesture maestro!

  • Mark Henriksen says:

    Where are the wealthy music lovers in Europe who can write a check? After all, 600,000 euros ain’t much compared to the 55 million US just given to the Curtis Institute. This is the dark side of the arts depending on government subsidy; bean counters, with little interest in music, making small but devastating cuts.

  • Graham Nicholson says:

    Graham Nicholson
    what is the name of the person who took this decision?

  • Derek Warby says:

    I did some back-of-the envelope calculations. The EU grant to the orchestra in 2012 was 2,400,000GBP (about 3.000.000EUR). The total EU budget for that year was just under The EUYO grant, therefore, represents 0.0002% of the total EU budget, or put another way, less than half of one cent (EUR) per year for all the EU’s 500,000,000 citizens.

  • Lindy G says:

    My wonderful late uncle, Lionel Bryer, founded this orchestra along with his wife Joy (still president/co-founder) and Edward Heath. How sad.

  • Una says:

    And, yes, we in England are part of the EU! Says it all. Can’t blame cultural Germany for this, just because it has about 56 opera companies and we have five! A total disgrace but thank God for the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain here at home, who are second to none, in our land for being noted by most as more into football than classical music.

  • Fred Rabeman says:

    The cause might not be lost.

    EU Corporations and other non EU Corporations operating in the EU could find an interest in sponsoring the emblematic EUYO. Funding Culture can be seen as a tool of Soft Power that could ease bargainings between the EU Commission and the Corporate Sector.

    So perhaps a Committee could be established towards that end.

  • Hans Glas says:

    We are used to look upon history as if it were some sort of evolutionair process. Evolution itself never claimed to be artistic. There is a difference when it comed to art especially music: we just need people like Abado and Barenboïm to keep up appearances of hope. I fear the Barbarians are knocking at our Gates again…

  • Anon says:

    Had their chief conductor been American and not Russian, this would not have happened.

  • Edmund Coxon says:

    EUYO or ECYO (as it was in my day) served as the bedrock of my musical career. Its members were brilliant as were its staff. Those with whom I played are wonderful contributors to society and bring extraordinary benefit to communities across the globe all year round! They deliver talent that has taken years to forge and was inspired during crucial formative years in the EUYO! It is impossible to estimate the value of this cultural fulcrum and the service it provides to all peoples. To kill it, is to kill the union it represents both socially and culturally and those that would have it so, are not blessed with vision!

  • Anon says:

    The man behind the cultural demolition is Tibor Navracsics, a national conservative lawyer from Hungary.
    his wiki bio:

    Holy shit:
    “On 6 October 2014, the European Parliament proposed to reject him as EU commissioner-designate since he was found unsuitable for the post related to citizenship.[1] Instead he was given the portfolio for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport.”

    So they gave him the power over European culture funding as a consolation price, without any previous credits and experience in the cultural sector?


  • Eileen Scrymgeour Rigby says:

    Music joins people together and an orchestra of this nature has significant ties – Europe needs all the help it can get to strengthen its solidarity. Forty years is not a fly by night orchestra. Heritage, culture, unity come together under the universal umbrella of music and some things do not have an intrinsic monetary value.