Paris downgrades its orchestra

Paris downgrades its orchestra


norman lebrecht

April 30, 2018

The Orchestre de Paris, independent since its foundation in 1967, has been made a department of the Philharmonie de Paris at the stroke of a minister’s pen.

The orchestra loses its independence immediately.

One ambitious bureaucrat will benefit, the music will lose out.

Laurent Bayle, president of the Philharmonie and now overall master of the orchestra said the move will give the orchestra ‘a stringer resonance at international level.’

He does not mention that Berlin, London, New York and other cities have all considered integrating their best orchestra with the arts centre and all rejected it for the same reason – it damages the orchestra.

The impending merger may have been a factor in Daniel Harding’s resignation earlier this year.


  • Horace says:

    Without more details as to what this administrative change entails, it is difficult and unfair to say that, “the music will lose out”. That said, French administrative decisions usually have to connection to what is actually needed and usually those most concerned, the musicians themselves, the orchestra’s administration, the audience are not even consulted or asked for their input. France still runs a bloated and outdated system of “management”, which is top down and maintaining a contempt and disdain for thise most concerned by administrative decisions. Macron is supposedly trying to reform this archaic, primitive and very out-dated system and way of doing things. This may be a step in the right direction, although without further detail or analysis as to what impact it has, it is difficult to draw many conclusions.

  • SVM says:

    According to the Le Figaro article, the orchestra is funded 60% by the French Ministry of Culture and 40% by the Paris City Council. In that context, I suppose it is unsurprising that the “the stroke of a minister’s pen” is so powerful.

    As for other cities, the reasons why such mergers have not happened is a combination of governance and funding structures.

    The Berlin Philharmonic, although it receives state subsidy, is decidedly self-governing, with decisions determined by a vote of the players.

    The New York Philharmonic is funded overwhelmingly by private philanthropy, and is governed by a board consisting mainly of big donors.

    The London orchestras, although they do receive various forms of state subsidy, are not reliant thereon to the same extent as Paris, since they also have a significant income from philanthropy and studio work. Furthermore, sources of subsidy in the UK is not as centralised as in France. State subsidy operates ostensibly on an “arms-length” principle, and the UK is awash with independent charities/trusts/endowments big and small, many of them with very idiosyncratic and specific terms of reference (often the product of the founding donor’s will) which tend to have the effect of excluding organisations under state control or organisation fulfilling statutory functions of the state.

  • Brian says:

    How does this damage an orchestra? The last time I heard the Concertgebouworkest and the Gewandhausorchester, named after the respective halls they play in, didn’t exactly seem to be playing too badly…

    • Pedro says:

      +1. And none of my favourite conductors has worked with the Paris orchestras on a regular basis, and none in the next season: No Haitink, no Baremboim, no Gatti, no Thielemann, no Yannick, no Muti, no Nelsons, no Mehta, no Chailly, no Pappano,, no Mirga. Sometimes we get Salonen, Blomstedt and Gergiev but that is not enough. Pourvu que ça change !

  • Saul Davis says:

    A stringer orchestra, indeed. Mainly for hire?

  • Patrick Gillot says:

    The Orchestra is victim of the piunitive level of taxes in France and the leverage it gives to unelected public “servants” who are actually Public Masters