Did Baltimore save a BBC Prom?

Did Baltimore save a BBC Prom?


norman lebrecht

July 24, 2019

Sources in the BBC Philharmonic said there were two extras from the Baltimore Symphony in their expanded brass section at the seventh BBC Proms last night. Baltimore lists five horns on its website. This concert employed seven in its horn section.

(London can afford that; Baltimore can’t.)

Unfortunately, no Baltimore names appeared in the programme book.

If you know who our Balti-guests were, tell them they sounded terrific.



  • Confused says:

    I am not sure how you constantly get facts wrong Mr. Lebrecht. The Baltimore Symphony actually lists its full section of 5 horns on their website. And how does employing 2 brass extras save an entire Proms?

  • fflambeau says:

    From someone who has been bashing the Proms (for not including tributes to some minor composers), on the very first night of the BBC Proms, you’ve gone to giving them headlines and accolades.

    Well done Norman!

  • Anon says:

    How can American musicians sub over in London with the BBC Phil? Where’s the MU? Sounds very suspicious to me, or its an old boys club type of booking….

    • SVM says:

      Very simple. In the UK, ‘closed shop’ is illegal (and has been since the 1990s). In other words, it is unlawful for the BBC Philharmonic (or any other orchestra) to discriminate on the basis of union membership (or lack thereof) and unlawful to require a musician to be (or become) a MU member.

      These days, many professional musicians in the UK are not MU members, for various reasons, which may include: they think the MU ineffective; they disagree with MU policies; they object to joining an organisation affiliated to the Labour party; they find other professional associations (such as the ISM) better value for money (in the UK, there are a lot of associations relating to the music profession or part thereof, offering broadly similar member benefits, so it would make little or no sense to join all of them).

      Many unions in the UK are out of touch with the views and interests of a significant proportion of the people working in the profession or sector they claim to represent. They should either accept that they do not speak for all, or adapt their policies so that they are more representative. Why should a professional musician submit to the authority of a union if he/she disagrees with it? Why should a union be entitled to have a monopoly over a profession?

      • Anon says:

        Perhaps you are not a professional musician working on the London scene, but believe me, it is very much union controlled despite the choice of opting out! And a very active session section. As for Americans subs, it is mostly out of the question. I know Philip Smith from the NY Phil was a guest with the LSO many moons ago whilst the orchestra was on tour there – first trumpet. Yet non principals don’t have a chance, due to the visas for a Right to Work/Green Card stipulated by both countries.

  • Garry Humphreys says:

    It can work the other way: I recall a couple of British trumpeters (I think Michael Laird was one of them) playing in a Concertgebouw Proms performance in London of Janacek’s Sinfonietta – mind you, that was in 1970! Didn’t cause any hoo-ha though.

  • CA says:

    Very often names of subs/extras do not appear in program books owing to either time (ie perhaps they are late additions to the roster, after going to print) or just as a matter of policy. It’s also not that easy to just sub in the U.K. from USA (and vice versa) unless one has a legal right to work here.

  • doubloon says:

    There were no Baltimore brass players for this prom; your BBC Philharmonic source is wrong, and this would be why they were not in the programme. My own BBC Philharmonic source was in the horn section that night.

    I do believe that Baltimore’s Principal Horn played Guest Principal in the Bournemouth prom a few nights earlier.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Thank you! This rumour was rife that night among the upper echelons of the British orchestral industry, two of who reported it to me. I thought it worth reporting as a symptom of present orchestral inquietudes.