Berlin Philharmonic warns of ‘cultural and political disaster’

Berlin Philharmonic warns of ‘cultural and political disaster’


norman lebrecht

May 24, 2016

Statement published just now by the Berliner Philharmoniker:

The imminent disbanding of the European Union Youth Orchestra (EUYO) from 1  September 2016 due to lack of funding from the EU would symbolically be a cultural and political disaster second to none and a terrible indictment against a background of increasing nationalistic and anti-EU tendencies.

As a result, we call on the political leaders and representatives of the European Union to do everything possible to ensure the survival of this artistically and politically irreplaceable institution.

Since its inception in 1976, the EUYO has been one of the world’s most prestigious orchestras and brings together the most talented young musicians from all 28 EU member states to create a unique orchestra. In the 40 years of its existence, more than 3,000 young musicians from all EU member states have performed in the EUYO.

Through working together with world-renowned conductors and soloists, including our former chief conductors Claudio Abbado and Herbert von Karajan, the orchestra has acquired an outstanding reputation over the years in terms of musical education, and is a unique reservoir of young talent for all the world’s leading orchestras. For example, no less than nine colleagues of our orchestra are former members of the EUYO.

The impressive music educational aspect is nevertheless secondary to the symbolism of this unique EU cultural institution, where the idea of a peaceful and united Europe is lived out and made tangible to the public.

The work in this collective of 140 members provides a perfect example of how different nationalities and languages can be purposefully united towards a joint solution despite differing viewpoints and perceptions.

Sir Simon Rattle                                                          Martin Hoffmann

Chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker/General manager of the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation

Ulrich Knörzer Knut Weber

Members of the Orchestra Board Member of the Orchestra Board


berlin philharmonie

Auf Deutsch:

Die Berliner Philharmoniker wenden sich gegen die drohende Auflösung des Jugendorchesters der Europäischen Union (EUYO)

Die aufgrund mangelnder finanzieller Mittel drohende Auflösung des Jugendorchesters der Europäischen Union (EUYO) zum 1. September 2016 seitens der EU ist – gerade vor dem Hintergrund zunehmender nationaler, europafeindlicher Tendenzen – ein in seiner Symbolik wohl kaum zu übertreffender kulturpolitischer GAU und ein großes Armutszeugnis.

Daher fordern wir die verantwortlichen Politiker und Repräsentanten der Europäischen Union auf, alles zu unternehmen, um ein Weiterleben dieser künstlerisch und politisch unersetzlichen Institution sicherzustellen.

Seit seiner Gründung im Jahr 1976 gehört das EUYO zu den prestigeträchtigsten Orchestern weltweit und vereint die größten Nachwuchstalente aller 28 EU-Mitgliedsstaaten zu einem einzigartigen Klangkörper. In den 40 Jahren seines Bestehens haben mehr als 3000 junge Musiker aus allen EU-Mitgliedsstaaten im EUYO musiziert.

Durch die Zusammenarbeit mit weltweit renommierten Dirigenten und Solisten, darunter unsere ehemaligen Chefdirigenten Claudio Abbado und Herbert von Karajan, hat sich das Orchester im Laufe der Jahre eine herausragende Reputation hinsichtlich der musikalischen Ausbildung erworben und ist ein einzigartiges Nachwuchsreservoir aller international führenden Orchester. So sind allein in unserem Orchester neun Kolleginnen und Kollegen ehemalige Mitglieder des EUYO.

Dieser beeindruckende musikpädagogische Aspekt wird durch die Symbolik der einzigen EU-eigenen Kulturinstitution noch überragt: Hier wird die Idee eines friedlichen und vereinten Europas gelebt und für die Öffentlichkeit erfahrbar gemacht. Die Arbeit in diesem Kollektiv aus 140 Mitgliedern veranschaulicht auf ideale Weise, wie trotz verschiedener Nationalität und Sprache differierende Standpunkte geäußert, wahrgenommen und zielführend vereint werden können.


  • Milka says:

    What sort of cultural and political disaster ?

  • Orchestral Player says:

    I was a founder member of the then called ECYO. The first ever concert took place in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam in March 1978. Mahler 6 with Claudio Abbado. I even got the chance to perform under Herbert Von Karajan and play the Beethoven Viloin Concerto with a very young and extraordinary Anne Sophie Mutter the following year in Salzburg.We had to re-audition every year to stand a chance of being re-selected. I was with the orchestra for 3 years then went on to join professional orchestras.
    EUYO was the most amazing experience. Claudio Abbado actually rehearsed the orchestra himself for days. For a young future professional musician it represented all of one’s Christmasses come together.
    Professional orchestras around Europe are full of ex-EUYO players.
    The amazing Chamber Orchestra of Europe is the product from a group of EUYO players who dreamt of continuing the dream and did just that.
    Thanks to the Berlin Phil and Simon Rattle for publicly supporting the future of EUYO.
    Finally, in this current period of uncertainty re UK and the EU I hope the UK does stay in the EU because should EUYO exist beyond summer 2016, it would be a shame to deprive numerous young brithish musicians from that life-enhancing experience.

  • Edgar Brenninkmeyer says:

    This is what happens when bean counters are allowed to run amok. Throw out any and all culture which brings people together in enjoying art and be inspired by it, so as to discover more deeply, fascinatingly, and, yes, also disturbingly, our shared humanity. Not important if the only thing that counts (pun intended) is money. Imagine what Kafka would have written had he had the chance to portray EU burocrats – it would be something much more terrible than Das Schloss. The Berlin Phil is right: once a precedent is set, anything can be thrown out anywhere in a Europe that continues to fall prey to unhinged fascist nativism and nationalism. The bean counters don’t care. They count beans, and that’s the only thing they know and do. They destroy Europe while thinking they save it.

    • Milka says:

      Perhaps the likes of orchestral player (3000 we are informed ) should get together
      and contribute financially to the saving of this so called cultural shared humanity.
      One can only imagine what 3000 ex members could do to save this training orchestra
      by giving back a portion of their yearly salaries to its survival and we must not forget
      to include 9 present members of the Berlin Phil least of all “orchestral player ” who
      considers the experience one great Xmas present . Bean counters will forever be bean counters and will always be with us as will those who think the world owes them a
      living .

  • David Nice says:

    The EUYO shouldn’t have had to go through the competitive tendering process to renew (or not) their funding from the EU. Of course it’s a bad aspect of the bureaucratic procedures that need changing, and Juncker must acknowledge that.

    Nevertheless, certain elements in the EUYO’s own bureaucracy have not done their best to fundraise for the orchestra. Worth noting that Abbado got fed up with aspects of it and set up the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra (how’s that doing?)

    I applaud Rattle’s move, but I wonder why he has been so dismally absent from protests against the dismantling of ENO. Anything to do with the millions possibly going towards the new London concert hall, a luxury under the circumstances? In fact the only other major conductor who stood up for Wigglesworth and Co was Vladimir Jurowski, and he made a splendid statement.

  • Frano says:

    When the benefits are expected form everything, even with something so non-profite as a culture, the next step is closing the theaters, libraries, orchestras… The following step is impoverishment of culture on a level of society and loss of empathy. Which leads into a cultural and political disaster, of course.

  • Hilary says:

    What a beautiful photo of Hans Scharoun’s concert hall.
    In the long term I suggest improving the surrounding area which isn’t so pleasing to look at.

  • Rodney Friend says:

    == I wonder why [Rattle] has been so dismally absent from protests against the dismantling of ENO. Anything to do with the millions possibly going towards the new London concert hall, a luxury under the circumstances?

    That’s a smart point you make and you’re probably drawing the right conclusion.