More self-mockery at London’s worst-run concert hall

More self-mockery at London’s worst-run concert hall


norman lebrecht

February 02, 2023

Under the headline ‘New series brings musical excellence to South London’, Croydon’s Fairfields Halls announce their new ‘international’ series.

Want to know what’s in it?

Just one event so far.

The Armenian State Symphony Orchestra will launch the venue’s 2023/24 International Orchestral Concert Series with a concert in honour of the 120th anniversary of renowned Armenian composer, Aram Khachaturian.

Held under the auspices of the Embassy of Armenia to the UK, this event celebrates the power of classical music and culture in bringing communities together across borders.

The venue is also giving young people the opportunity to be inspired by international music excellence, by making tickets for under 18s free (when accompanied by an adult), with a view to inspiring the next generation of classical music lovers.

You put on a one-off ‘international’ concert, can’t sell tickets and have to give them all away.


  • Petros Linardos says:

    How is Fairfield Hall acoustically? How does its acoustics compare to, say, RFH or RAH?

    • pjl says:

      everyone believes the acoustics are miles better: Stokowski, Previn et al But it is just too far from central London to be fully viable these days, the Paris Philharmonie is much closer to the centre for comparison. Lovely old wooden hall unless the refurb has spoiled it…

    • Graham Elliott says:

      Basically far the best acoustic in London. Small stage though.

    • Edvard says:

      There’s a good DG DVD of Artur Rubinstein and André Previn in the Grieg Concerto there. You see the hall and get a sense of its sound too.

    • Mercurius Londiniensis says:

      This is the really sad thing. Fairfield has the best acoustics of any large hall in Greater London. (When he was music director of the LSO, Abbado insisted that his broadcast concerts came from Fairfield rather than the RFH, because the sound there was so much better.) One just wishes that there was more to enjoy there.

    • Musician says:

      It is actually better than either of those places. Also better than the Barbican.

    • mikealdren says:

      Miles better than either, possibly the best in London

    • Siegfried says:

      Far superior to both RFH and RAH, an opinion expressed by a number of conductors who have led at all three

    • Brasso says:

      It’s the best hall in London by a country mile. The only problem is is location.

  • La plus belle voix says:

    Terrible policy. Bums on seats. Means the series has absolutely no future.

    But if you think that is bad, take a look at “This is Croydon”, the offerings for the 2023 London Borough of Culture. They have not even announced the programme yet! Beggars belief. It’s February already. Link here:

  • pjl says:

    FAKE NEWS AGAIN there are 3 more concerts, so only a mini-series but 4 concerts NOT 1as NL claims and it has the fine GAVLE symphony orchestra (Swedish Philharmonia is the bizarre touring name) with Radoluvic; the most exciting violinist I have heard since Vengerov.

    • La plus belle voix says:

      Yes, to be fair, four promising evenings amidst the dross offered on most of the 361 other ones. But a long way to go before Fairfield Halls is a draw as a classical music venue once more.

      The problem is BH Live, based in Bournemouth of course, an organization that understands how to run a swimming pool but wouldn’t know a string quartet from their elbow (or another certain part of the human anatomy).

  • ls says:

    The Armenian Philharmonic is historically an excellent orchestra. Their old MD Tjeknavorian led wonderful recording projects, and I would be more than happy to purchase tickets for this if I were in the area. As someone who used to spend my entire allowance to attend performances at that age, I am more than happy that tickets for under 18 year olds are free.

    • Musician says:

      You are confusing two different entities. Armenian Philharmonic has been the most prominent orchestra in Armenia for almost 100 years.

      On the other hand, Armenian State Symphony Orchestra mentioned in the article started as the Armenian Youth Orchestra 15 years ago as a private orchestra for Sergey Smbatyan – the son of Armen Smbatyan, who used to be the Armenian ambassador to Russia. It is interesting that the orchestra and its conductor enjoyed some huge financial support. They could afford to invite some of the most expensive international artists, go on extensive international tours and enjoy promotional support from the top international music agencies. How could one of the poorest post-Soviet countries afford this? That would be a very interesting question. But let me mention some (maybe unrelated) facts. AYO/ASSO has been enjoying support from a Maltese-Armenian European Foundation for Support of Culture whose founder was linked to projects run by the Russian Centre for Culture and Science, which was in turn often accused for being a front for Russian intelligence operations. Also, AYO started in 2008, which was quite a significant year for Russian cultural diplomacy. It was the year when Russia attacked Georgia and Gergiev performed a concert in the occupied South Osethia, when Medvedev set up “Rossotrudnichestvo” – the key organisation for promoting Russian influence abroad and which organised a number of pro-Russian rallies in the West after Russian attacked Ukraine, it was the year when Gazprom set up Baltic Youth Philharmonic for Kristjan Jarvi – the orchestra which was used for lobbying for Nord Stream which made the war in Ukraine possible, the year when Russia set up the CIS Youth Orchestra and the year when top 5 Russian music institutions (including Mariinskyi Theatre) got huge financial boost to match their budgets with Western orchestras. Pure coinscidence?

    • Musician says:

      Here you can read more about the things I have mentioned. The ASSO artistic director is also mentioned in this article:

  • Musician says:

    It looks like they are probably really struggling for money. ASSO and their conductor (son a former Armenian ambassador to Russia) enjoyed for years generous support from Malta-based European Foundation for Support of Culture which supported many Russian artists. At some point that foundation (set up and run by a former Russian oil company executive) was investigated by the Maltese parliament for having many millions of euros from some mysterious sources. I wonder who will be footing the bill for that concert this time. “this event celebrates the power of classical music and culture in bringing communities together across borders” – this is the kind of statement so often used these days by artists and promoters who are trying to go around the ban on Russian artists who supported Putin.

  • Pete says:

    Free tickets for under 18s when accompanied by an adult. Thats not an unusual arrangement.
    How does that square with the claim of giving them all away ? Surely the under 18s offer can result in giving away a max of 50% of the tickets.
    Good accurate reporting, again ?