John Eliot Gardiner: ‘My orchestras are in peril’

John Eliot Gardiner: ‘My orchestras are in peril’


norman lebrecht

October 16, 2020

Jumping in for David Zinman at a French radio orchestra, the British conductor has bewailed the lack of UK financial support for his freelance ensembles, the English Baroque Soloists, Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique and Monteverdi Choir.

‘Mes orchestres sont en péril,’ he cried.

He claimed the recent £257 million Government handout was not intended for independent ensembles like his own, which seems strange since other independent baroque groups such as the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment received generous grants.


UPDATE: The German Requiem that JEG was meant to conduct was replaced at late notice by Brahms 3rd symphony after a member of the chorus tested positive for Covid-19


  • Charles Clark-Maxwell says:

    Ahh, he’s upset a lot of people over the years.

  • Darrell says:

    It seems to me that the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique are actually the English Baroque Soloists with some additional musicians. In other words, it is largely the same orchestra with a different name. It would be interesting if someone can provide some information about this.

  • Doc Martin says:

    The doctor and the artist have much in common. The doctor tends to the weaknesses of the flesh, the infirmities of the mind and artists too are healers. Their art is nourishment for the human soul, without it we wither and die.

    The current Private Eye arts correspondent, Lunchtime O’Boulez is very much on the ball on page 19.

    Chancellor Rishi Sunak explained that his extension of post-covid job support would only apply to people who were still able to work one third of their normal hours. Anybody else was apparently engaged in non-viable activity and should find something else to do.

    As most singers, actors and musicians are barely able to work at all in their customary professions just now, Sunak’s message seemed pretty clear: the performing arts are unsustainable, so HMGs suggest you redirect yourself to something more worthwhile – like supervising entry queues at supermarkets, perhaps, which is emerging as a career area with growth prospects!

    Actors and musicians condemned Sunak’s comment on Twitter. As one post put it: “Amazon UK – 33k jobs contributes only £293m in tax, viable. Theatre UK – 140k jobs contributes £2.8bn, not viable”.

    In what was effectively an open letter to Whitehall, soprano Louise Alder known for roles at Glyndebourne, ENO and ROH posted, “ I am British. I cannot work in the UK because my industry does not exist. Last night I sang (at the Bavarian State Opera) to an SD audience. In Germany I am ‘viable’ I choose to stay there”.

    Unless Sunak and co wake up to the desperate situation of the performing arts in Britain, artists will have no choice but to leave for other countries that are dealing more effectively with cov-19 and that don’t consign the arts world to the scrapheap.

    (Doc Martin is a retired GP, amateur composer, antiquarian and Irish harpist based in Belfast).

    • Anon says:

      It’s a shame that Lunchtime O’Boulez chooses to quote a tweet which compares unrelated numbers.

      – The “Theatre contribution” of £2.8bn is I think an aggregate estimate of various tax contributions across the whole of arts output, not just theatre. [p9 of the CEBR report].

      – The Amazon number is corporation tax only, and fails to include other taxation Amazon UK pays or generates in one way or another, such as Employer’s NICs, Business Rates, VAT collected and passed through to HMRC, income tax from employees, and more.
      A real comparison to either the entire Theatre sector or the entire Arts sector would compare the entire ordering/delivery sector which Amazon is a leader of, rather than comparing to one lone firm (which is clearly commercially viable since it is busy doing what it does with no Government support.)

    • Micaelo Cassetti says:

      Surely some mistake?? P. 94…

    • YoYo Mama says:

      And he is considered a likely successor to Boris? Stop him.

    • Le Křenek du jour says:

      “The doctor and the artist have much in common. The doctor tends to the weaknesses of the flesh, the infirmities of the mind and artists too are healers. Their art is nourishment for the human soul, without it we wither and die.”
      ——Doc Martin, 2020-10-16

      “Writers, the engineers of the human soul”
      ——Iossif V. Stalin, Greetings to Maxim Gorky, 1932-10-26

      “Writers and artists should conscientiously study Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought to enhance their own ability to understand and analyse life and to perceive, through outward appearance, the essence. We hope that more and more comrades in their ranks will become real ‘engineers of the human soul’.
      In order to educate the people, one must first be educated oneself; in order to give nourishment to the people, one must first absorb nourishment oneself.”
      ——Deng Xiaoping, Greetings to the 4th Congress of Chinese Writers and Artists, 1979-10-30

      “Art and literature is the engineering that moulds the human soul; art and literary workers are the engineers of the human soul.”
      ——Xi Jinping, Keynote Address to the Beijing Forum on Literature and Art, October 2014

      The month of October seems to bring out a totalitarian penchant for questionable similes, be it in Soviet-style autocrats or in regular forum contributors.

      Art is art, artists are artists, and we must beware of instrumentalisation through the assignment of tempting but invariably fallacious social roles.

  • Costa Pilavachi says:

    These ensembles are national treasures and should be at the top of the list to be saved.

  • Peter says:

    Can his agent, in receipt of Government funds (see earlier post), not promote a concert or two?

  • Cerddor says:

    Boo Hoo

  • UK Arts manager says:

    Although Arts Council England do not reveal which organisations were unsuccessful in their applications for funding, and neither do they let those organisations have any indication as to why they were not amongst the chosen few, now coming out of the woodwork are indeed some surprising omissions of those who put in strong applications, but – with no reasons given – were turned down by ACE.

    OAE, mentioned by NL, are regularly funded ACE clients (“National Portfolio”). Very few of ACE’s NP recipients appear to have missed the cut. “For whoever has, to him more shall be given” (ACE, 13:12).

    Amongst the English* period instrument orchestras (*English because this was funding from Arts Council England) it’s perfectly right that OAE should be supported: but ACE made much of the fact that this extra funding would also go to help organisations who aren’t regular ACE clients – in the period instrument world, those orchestras who manage, one way or another, to support their work without going cap in hand to the state funders (often by virtue of having significantly slimmer managements and/or generous private donors). Amongst the top level UK period instrument orchestras who aren’t regular ACE clients but produce equally world-class results, it seems that a fair number seem to have been turned down by ACE. And, despite this being public money, the public – let alone those organisations – won’t know why.

  • E says:

    well, one question is, did he even bother to apply, or just expect it to be handed out to him? i think i know the answer. you make enough enemies being a total ass and well, you kinda get back what you deserve, and i mean this with no disrespect to his marvelous musicians…

  • Ken says:

    No one can bear Sir Him, is it any wonder?

  • yujafan says:

    Ah, this millionaire gentleman farmer/conductor doth protest too much. Maybe he should at last become more like one of his beloved Friesians, and finally be put out to pasture so he can chew his own cud some more.

  • anon says:

    Did he actually apply for funding?

  • YoYo Mama says:

    Good riddance! If he’d not had his own orchestras, he’d have disappeared from view. Now that would be revolutionary.

  • Another orchestral musician says:

    This lack of financial support to the arts goes way back before the pandemic, way back… the UK has a lot to learn from Germany.

  • Le Křenek du jour says:

    Apart from being prompted to — briefly — ringing an alarm bell, which frankly cannot be described as ‘crying’ or ‘wailing’ when one has listened to the podcast, Gardiner had much else to tell that was musically noteworthy, despite being interviewed by a journalist more noted for his daftness than his deftness.

    Deflecting cues for piquant anecdotes and ‘petits mots’, of which the current flock of Radio France journalists are so fond, Gardiner managed to place quite a few insights, while bearing his learning lightly.
    Recommended listening, online or podcast.