Top news: Irish PM blocks orchestra merger

Top news: Irish PM blocks orchestra merger


norman lebrecht

November 23, 2017

The culture-friendly Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, has sent a strong signal to the RTE to forget plans about merging two orchestras.

‘I certainly would share your concerns about any diminution of the RTÉ orchestra or any other orchestras,’ he told a Labour TD.

Varadkar has pledged to double Ireland’s arts spending over seven years.

We might all have to move to Ireland after Brexit.


  • Jörg Birhance says:

    We might all have to move to Ireland!

    • Edgar says:

      Yes, the US and its colony, the Tory UK, have turned into cultural watelands are committed to become Fantasyland. With disastrous effect not only for culture. Ireland is, in these dark and ominous times, the beacon on the hill.

      • Mark Henriksen says:

        Wasteland? You don’t know what you are talking about. The US has 20 orchestras that can compete with the best in Europe. The private funding model works fine the US; no reason for government control or interference.

      • Una says:

        Ireland’s population is under 3 million and one of the most expensive European countries to visit – and that’s just going oner to see them family. They got and took every EU grant going, and they get money from all the millions of Irish around the world who emigrated, like my parents, and still have Irish passports. You would soon run out of money if you went to live over there and not got an Irish income or a lot of money. And how they support two radio orchestras, God only knows!

    • John Groves says:

      A lovely idea! Then we would all have passports that we could use all over Europe still!

      • Una says:

        If you gave one grandfather who was Irish, you are entitled to an Irish passport. So many, many Americans have Irish passports too and the Irish government make a fortune!I have one along with my British one as both my immediate parents were Irish. And until about ten years ago, got me out of £270 of multiple visa fees to Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi for my voluntary work. Now all passport holders have to pay.

        You have never needed a passport to go to Ireland or vice versa if yiu are British, or outside of Britain when checked on entry here because of the common travel freedom of 1922. That is proved if you go over by boat with a car. You only need a passport as it is the only acceptable form of ID to get on Ryan Air and probably Aer Lingus has followed suit.

    • Daniel Walsh says:

      All welcome, if you can sight-read music! :p

  • Person says:

    Just so you know, no definite article required before RTÉ! (THE Radio Television Ireland doesn’t make god grammatical sense)

  • Person says:

    Ah shite. GOOD grammatical sense. Egg, meet face. Sorry.

  • William Osborne says:

    Good to see the orchestra preserved. Many Americans think it’s normal for major cities to have just one full time symphony orchestra, but that is not the norm internationally. In Europe, cities comparable to those where our top orchestras are, usually have about five to eight full time orchestras. For example, London has 8, Berlin 8, Munich 7, Paris 9, and Vienna 7. They usually aren’t as well paid as our top orchestras, but the cities provide full time employment to 5 to 10 times as many classical musicians, which requires a much higher outlay of funding.

    This is possible due to Europe’s public arts funding systems. With so many more orchestras per city, they reach a much larger demographic. They also provide a much richer training ground for conductors and composers, which is one of the reasons Americans are relatively rare at the top in these fields, especially for a country our size. (Corrections are welcome.)

    + London Symphony Orchestra
    + London Philharmonic
    + Royal Philharmonic
    + Philharmonia
    + BBC Symphony Orchestra
    + BBC Concert Orchestra
    + Royal Opera Orchestra
    + Covent Garden Orchestra
    + English National Opera Orchestra

    + L’Orchestre National de Radio-France
    + Orchestre de Paris
    + Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France
    + L’Orchestre de l’Opéra de Paris
    + Ensemle Intercontemporain
    + Orchestre de Chambre de Paris
    + Orchestre des Concerts Pasdeloup.
    + Orchestre Colonne,
    + Orchestre Lamoureux

    (The Paris Opera Orchestra has 170 members since the services must be rotated to meet demand. The last two orchestras are more marginal and have lesser status.)

    + Bavarian State Radio Orchestra
    + Bavarian State Radio Unterhaltungs Orchestra
    + Munich Philharmonic
    + Bavarian State Opera Orchestra
    + Gärtnerplatz Opera Orchestra
    + Munich Symphoniker
    + Munich Chamber Orchestra

    + Vienna Philharmonic
    + Vienna Symphoniker
    + Vienna State Opera Orchestra
    + Vienna State Radio Orchestra
    + Volksoper Orchestra
    + Klangforum Wien
    + Tonkünstlerorchester

    (The VPO and State Opera Orchestra use the same personnel, but the ensemble has 149 positions so that they can rotate the services.)

    + Berliner Philharmoniker
    + Konzerthausorchester Berlin
    + Rundfunk Orchester
    + Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
    + Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin
    + Orchester der Staatsoper Unter den Linden/Staatskapelle Berlin
    + Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin
    + Orchester der Komischen Oper Berlin

    • Moochie says:

      While the Taoiseach might be concerned, his government has just decided to leave the current Television Licence fee of 160 Euros per household alone. The collection of the fee is woefully inefficient, with an evasion rate of between 14 and 15 per cent.

      RTÉ posted a deficit of 20 million Euros for 2016. It’s close to bust. Somethings gotta give and it looks like the smaller RTÉ Concert Orchestra is going to become a freelance gig band.

      The brand will continue but the old style terms and conditions for the players will melt away. On paper there’ll still be two orchestras and that’ll be enough for Mr. Varadkar to get over his concern.

    • William Osborne says:

      Just noticed an error in my post due to an un-updated version: The Royal Opera and Covent Garden are the same thing.

    • Mark Henriksen says:

      It is obviously a great thing to any music lover to see so many professional orchestras in these European cities. But number reflects demand only. Here, in the US, anyone who wants to, can find a good symphony concert to attend. In addition to the full-time orchestras, there are regional orchestras all over the country that play demanding literature at a high level. There isn’t a paucity of culture here; supply reflects demand and the demand is met with, in my opinion, more technical and artistic depth and flexibility than in any other country. It would be fantastic if there were 3x the number of professional orchestras because there would employment for more professional musicians. But to bemoan the fact that there are more classical music lovers in Berlin than Bagdad, or wherever, is interesting but sort of pointless.

  • Alexander Platt says:

    I think you meant “Baghdad” — a city which, in any case, is “pointless” to this discussion. Supply-and-demand, while always a factor, is not the predominant one. Ultimately cities have orchestras for reasons related to their value-system, and to civic pride, and to the natural role that the arts play in revitalizing communities; and in that regard, some wonderful things are still happening with American orchestras.

    • Mark Henriksen says:

      No, I meant Bagdad, WI. But either way, my comments refer to the number of full-time professional orchestras that a large city can support. I’m certain that building civic pride and the other factors that you mention are impacting concert attendance and both private and public financial support in a significant way.