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The results: Best and Worst Orchestras of 2012

A rush of votes by members and supporters of a jeopardised Spanish orchestra distorted the process towards the end. We decided to discount all votes from that locality – and yet the Spanish orch still squeaked into the list, albeit at a more appropriate rank. Votes were received on site, via social media and direct by email and other comms. Three votes came through the door in unmarked envelopes.

Voting numbers were low and the results may in some cases be distorted by handful of personal grievances. The outcome cannot be taken as being more than a general, imprecise impression of how well or badly orchestras performed as public and commercial entities during the calendar year 2012. Those that stumbled have a chance to redeem themselves in the year ahead.

Here are the final results, and the reasons. Remember: it was not enough to play well. This is a judgement of how well and badly an orchestra performed as a brand.

Best Orchestras of 2012

1 Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra The most talked-about and widely-travelled US orch, carrying Brand Dudamel to all four corners of the earth, split a Mahler cycle between US and Venezuela, advanced tremendous outreach work across its own urban area.



2 Tonhalle Zurich Late appointment of 26 year-old conductor Lionel Bringuier turned a dormant ensemble into an international eye-catcher.

Detroit Symphony Brilliant streaming programme with Russian broadcaster, $25 season ticket for students, new talent coming into the ranks, Leonard Slatkin’s orch has come bursting back out of the doldrums.

Sao Paolo First Lat-Am orch to go global

 5 Chicago Despite short strike, attracting the best new players and sounding happier under Muti than it has for years.

Orquesta de Extremadura In the least accessible region of Spain, this ensemble was designated for closure under government cuts. Fierce resistance by the community saved the orchestra and made it a national emblem of cultural hope and renewal. 


Worst orchestras of 2012

1 Minnesota Orchestra Locked its musicians out saying it could not afford the wage bill, while spending $50 million on a new lobby.


Malaysian Phiharmonic Fired 9 foreign players, got placed on international audition boycott

3 Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Geneva Fired new manager within weeks, lost a large part of its board, mired in squabbles

=4 London Philharmonic Lost 15% of its business, gave up player self-governance.

=4 Vienna Philharmonic Lost the foreign part of its trombone section, remained resistant to women*

6 Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Struggled to recover from brutal lockout


* result adjusted due to uncounted vote

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  1. The victory of the LA Phil leads to some interesting thoughts. It is the highest paid symphony orchestra in the USA. And the CEO, Deborah Borda, is the highest paid orchestra manager. She makes about 1.5 million dollars a year with benefits, while the average salary for musicians in regional orchestras is only a little over 13k per year. Nevertheless, these regional orchestras serve the largest part of the American population, and often in large urban Areas. The NM Philharmonic, for example, servers metro Albuquerque which has about 900,000 residents. The orchestra recently emerged from bankruptcy, and musicians are paid well below even the 13k norm.

    We see how our patronage system by the wealthy concentrates funding on lavish buildings and wages in a few financial centers while the rest of the country is neglected. The USA is the only developed country that relies on a system funded by the wealthy. We need to join the rest of the developed world and begin the long process of creating a comprehensive system of public funding diversified on the municipal, state, and federal levels. The arts would be far better funded, and far more democratic.

    • I would like to see a list of the best and worst conductors. There are many has beens or under achievers who need to retire.
      There are also some extremely youngish bright conductors who are waiting for a genuine breakthrough

    • Petros Linardos says:

      You repeatedly stress in this blog how few of the US orchestras are full time. LA Phil probably is, NM Philharmonic probably isn’t. Comparing salaries between full time and part time jobs is not comparing apples to apples. How about comparing fees per concert? That way we’ll understand better how exceptional salaries in top tier US orchestras truly are.

      • Petros, the point is that regional orchestras are parttime exactly because they are under funded. They would like to be fulltime if they could.

        • So? That still doesn’t make it a valid comparison. At least pro-rata the regional salaries into an annual figure for full-time working.

          • If the measure is adquately funding the arts, it would be a valid comparison. One region lavishly funds an orchestra, the other can barely even afford one.

          • I agree with William. From a professional musicians POV, that’s also the perspective you must have if you want to make a living (or even raise a family in relative security, oh what luxury demand…) just like anyone else. Being treated like a part-time dispensable luxury does not instill the confidence a musician needs to give excellent performances over his whole professional life. A musician needs perspective, social security and a decent pension, just like anyone else.

        • Paul Ellison says:

          The New Mexico Phil deserves to make a living wage.
          Among It’s ranks, in fact most members are excellent, well trained, highly skilled professional players.
          They have made the best of a very difficult and complex situation — and remain upbeat and artistically vibrant.

    • Mr. Osborne,

      You have got to be kidding or smoking something that makes you drift off into Wolkenkuckucksheim.

      The Republicans in the Congress aren’t even able to agree among themselves on tax increases and budget cuts, and you propose that the U.S. joins the European system of government funding, which is a complete mess as well due to political ineptitude on the federal, state and municipal levels.

      I can only imagine a U.S. congressman/woman of either party reading your comment and collapsing into a state of hysterical laughter.

      In a country where assault rifles are selling faster than hotcakes in the wake of a massacre of young children by use of an assault rifle, I’m afraid that your hopes are not going to be fulfilled in either of our lifetimes. Indeed, if the politicians can’t agree by January 1st, the U.S. is projected to have a 2.9% contraction of its economy. That will mean more orchestras going belly up, salary cuts for musicians and losses in audience numbers. So the state of classical music in the U.S. will likely continue to resemble the state of classical music in Europe.

      I think that voting for the best and worst orchestras in the world is somewhat irrelevant and uninteresting. The vote should rather haven been about which countries are the best and worst for the thrift of classical music. I wonder which countries would end up on the “worst” list. No doubt the U.S., Germany, Holland, the U.K., Spain, Italy and Malaysia would fight for top spot on that list. However, I wouldn’t dare predict which one would come out on top as the winner of “worst country for classical music.” Perhaps it should be a 7-way draw.

      • There is no substantial evidence that Europe’s public funding systems are in a mess. Funding has remained stable and in major countries like France and Germany it has risen. There have been some reductions in smaller countries with ecomonic problems, but these have affected all areas of government and do not reflect a change in arts funding philosophy.

        We have to keep our eyes on public funding because over the long term it is our only viable option. Societies can change in ways people thought impossible. Imagine telling people in the 1930s we would have a black President some day. Dreams are only realized when people begin the work to make them happen.

        • Why does the presence of funding mean things are somehow better? Doesn’t it merely demonstrate that the populations don’t consider classical music something worth spending their own money on (but hey, fine if it’s someone else’s money)?

          Inevitably it is a mess. Sure, extant ensembles receive their funding, but at what cost, musically? New ensembles, perhaps with exciting ideas and new interest, find it difficult to find any sort of public funding, because the old guard have it sewn up. The presence of said old guard restricts the interest of an audience too, and makes it even harder. Steady public funding is more a recipe for a few successes and a lot of mediocrity, plus a fair bit of direness with money handed out depending on who is friends with whom. That isn’t a successful method of funding – it’s a mess.

          • New music is far better funded in Europe. Examples would be the Ensemble Modern in Frankfurt and the Ensemble Intercontemporain in Paris. There are no fulltime chamber orchestras like these for contemporary music in the USA.

          • Public funding means, that culture is democratic. Simple as that.
            Private funding means, that culture is aristocratic or feudalistic. Simple as that.

            With that in mind it’s not surprising, that the pseudo-democracy – in reality plutocracy – USA does not have substantial public funding of culture and the arts.

            It’s always a big puzzle to the people looking from outside, how the mainstream public in the US is so supportive of a ridiculously high public military spending, but against public spending for the arts (the actual essence of man vs monkey) that is less than 1% of the military expenses. It’s a strange miracle.

        • “There is no substantial evidence that Europe’s public funding systems are in a mess.”

          There are orchestral musicians from Freiburg/Baden Baden to Neustrelitz in Germany, in Holland, in Italy and in Hungary that will beg to differ with you.

        • Huh? Have I been asleep in class?

          Wasn’t there a merging of orchestras recently in Germany? Did the number of orchestra positions not decrease from about 14,000 to 9,000 over the last decade? And I think I heard something about nasty government funding cuts in Holland, Italy and the UK, which have thrown all of artdom into confusion. You’re probably right about France, though. They seem to be going stronger there, so vive la republique!

          Spain has a mess with one of its opera houses, ditto in Denmark, etc. etc. etc.

          But I may be wrong, and all may be sunny in the great EU kumbaya bureaucracy.

          • In response to both GW and B.R. It’s true that Germany closed quite a few orchestras, but this was due to technical issues involving unification. Both East and West Germany competed in the support of the arts to show which system was better. As a result, East Germany had the highest ratio of fulltime orchestras per capita in the world. It really was excessive and some were eliminated after unification. Another problem was that orchestras were often close together that had been separated by the wall. They were merged. As a result of this situation, Berlin, for example, still has three fulltime opera houses but the city has decided to maintain them. The SWR is a different case. Baden and Württemberg were united after the war (Baden was a French protectorate and Württemberg under the Americans.) Each ended up with its own radio orchestra. No other state in Germany had two radio orchestra for entirely different regions of the state. (All that said, I still think it is a mistake to merge the SWR with the Sudfunk in Stuttgart.) Germany has one 52 week season orchestra for every 550,000 people while the USA has one for every 14,000,000. This illustrates why I think public funding systems are better. Like France, Germany has actually increased its public funding for the arts in recent years. (If necessary, I can look up the numbers. Some of them, on the Federal level, were reported here on SD a few months ago.)

            After Franco died Spain was allowed to join the EU. Money flooded into the country and the government over spent on cultural infrastructure and is now facing problems that are intensified by the weak economy. The same thing happened in Greece and Ireland. The cut backs in these countries are due to economic conditions and not to a change in philosophy about funding, or because something is inherently problematic about public funding systems – even if neo-cons opportunistically howl otherwise.

            Holland and Italy are good examples of countries that are relenting against neo-liberal pressures – coming mostly from the USA. And naturally, we see their cultural infrastructures being disbanded.

            One irony is that the current slump in the world economy was caused by the abuses of the American financial industry. Neo-cons are now using the problems this slump has caused in Europe to attack social democracy. They hypocrisy could not be greater. (Unfortunately, no amount of reasoned argument or hard data will suffice for anonymous political ideologues, so I probably won’t bother with tit for tat arguments here unless something substantial and important is said.)

          • William Osborne wrote: “After Franco died Spain was allowed to join the EU. Money flooded into the country and the government over spent on cultural infrastructure and is now facing problems that are intensified by the weak economy.”

            Whoa. William, Franco died in 1975. Spain joined the EU in 1986.

            Spain was well-established as a democracy by the time it joined the EU. Their joining doesn’t have a whole lot to do with Franco’s death and it is certainly not the sole reason for increased arts funding in Spain. 11 yrs. had passed and the transition to democracy had been achieved. Many of the arts infrastructures you mention were already in place by the time Spain joined the EU in 1986.

            I’m no expert on Spain’s arts funding prior to Franco’s death but it certainly did exist. Because the country functioned under his dictatorship, from what I understand, areas of the arts which were best funded followed Franco’s personal tastes. He was NOT a fan of classical music or orchestras but he did love cinema, which flourished under his regime.

            Raphael Frubeck de Burgos was Music Director 1st, of the Orquesta de Bilbao and later Madrid’s Orquesta Nacional under Franco’s regime. Fruhbeck made it clear to politicians at that time that
            Spain’s training of classical musicians would have to change dramatically in order to survive. The presence of foreign players would be necessary, he insisted. This, of course, was impossible under Franco’s nationalistic regime which viewed foreign influences with great caution and generally prohibited foreign workers.

            When Franco died in 1975, according to Fruhbeck, 19 new orchestras were established in Spain. Foreign players could finally be added and Franco’s indifference to classical music was no longer an issue in funding. THIS is the time when new funding for orchestras, at least, peaked. NOT when, or because of Spain’s joining the EU, if I understand correctly.

            I can only speak for orchestra funding, not arts funding in general, in Spain, but my point here is that Spain’s investment in the arts during the past 3 decades is not all directly a result of having joined the EU.

            During these past 3 decades Spain has transitioned from a dictatorship which did not view classical music favorably to a democracy eager to catch up with the rest of the world, particularly with respect to its orchestras. This transition, in addition to having joined the EU, is a very big factor in the arts infrastructure which now exists in Spain.

          • Thank you for your interesting comments, “Carmen.” You seem to be misreading my post. Spain joined the EU after Franco’s death, but I didn’t mean to imply immediately afterwards. The integration of the EU’s economic policies into Spain’s was a slow process that had begun even before Franco’s death. Already in 1970, for example, Spain signed a preferential trade agreement with the EC (as it was then known) as part of wide-spread economic liberalization programs that had been in progress since 1957.

            One of the basic tenants of the EU is that it can only function if all member states have similar economic policies and standards of living – it’s called the EU Cohesion Policy. To ensure this, and to put it in a very simple way, money is transferred from the wealthy countries to the poorer ones until a reasonable parity is achieved in their ecomonies. Spain greatly benefited from these policies, as did Ireland, Portugal, and Greece. After entry into the EU, the per capita income in Spain rose to 90% of the EU average, up from 70%. These same policies are now being directed toward the EU’s new members in Eastern Europe. There is a good summary of the changes that took place in Spain and Portugal in this NY Times article, along with the imbalances that were created and that are now being addressed:


            Both Spain and Ireland were notable for how much of this new wealth they used to increase their arts infrastructures.

            It would be interesting to see a timeline for the founding of the 19 new orchestras you mention since Franco’s death. Do you know where I could get that information? I doubt all popped into existence right after Franco died. I think it was a slower process, and was funded to a considerable degree by the agreements with the EU/EC that took place both before and after Franco’s death that improved Spain’s ecomony.

            In any case, my point stands that Europe continues its commitment to public arts funding, as evidenced by the 19 new orchestras that have been founded in Spain in recent years. I see very little evidence that Spain is changing this commitment, even as it deals with terrible economic conditions.

          • @ Carmen,
            thank you for the interesting read. Wasn’t that Franco protectionism also the main reason, why Frühbeck adapted the suffix “de Burgos” to his German name, so he would sound Spanish enough to Franco, despite both his parents being German immigrants to spain?

          • To William: thanks for the interesting NYTimes article and your perspective on this. You make some excellent points.

            The only way I can think of to research the founding date of each of the 19 orchestras which Fruhbeck mentioned would be to go to the website of the Asociación Española de Orquestas Sinfónicas, where the web pages of each of Spain’s 27 prof. orchestras are listed.

            I’m afraid you’d have to check one by one. Or perhaps AEOS could compile that info for you. Considering that Maestro Fruhbeck de Burgos made this point in a public interview recently, it would be a fascinating point to document.

            To Realist, I hadn’t heard that before, but it makes perfect sense. Many issues regarding Franco are still not openly discussed in Spain to this day. This sounds like it might be one of them.

        • Hello, William Osborne!

          Out of curiousity sparked by your question about founding dates of post-Franco Spanish orchestras, I made a timeline. It would be pretty nerdy to post it, but it turns out that you’re right: the founding of these orchestras appears to be directly connected with Spain’s acceptance into the E.U. in 1986.

          And Raphael Fruhbeck de Burgos, in naming exactly 19 orchestras founded after Franco’s death was 100% correct. 2 happen to be the main youth orchestras of Spain, but both are members of the Asociación Española de Orquestas Sinfónicas (AEOS) & I’m sure receive significant govt. funding.

          Of the 19 Spanish orchestras founded after Franco’s death in 1975, only 4 were established before 1986 , when Spain joined the EU. 15 of these 19 post-Franco orchestras were established 1987-2006, appearing, as you point out, to be a result of Spain’s membership and new subsidies from the EU.

          It’s important to understand that when considering founding dates of Spanish orchestras, as any Spaniard will tell you, orchestras have existed in most major cities since at least the mid 1800′s. Because of changes in the government which fund these orchestras, they often change names, membership and management.

          Only 8 Spanish orchestras have operated continuously under their original names and management structure since their original founding date. The oldest being an opera orchestra, Orquestra i Cor del Gran Teatre del Liceu (Barcelona), established in 1847 & still going. Orquesta Sinfónica de Navarra, Pablo Sarasate in Pamplona claims to be the oldest continuous symphonic ensemble, founded in 1879.

          Many other Spanish orchestras have undergone transitions and existed in various incarnations before their post-Franco “founding”. So it’s important to consider that when Maestro Fruhbeck refers to the establishment of 19 orchestras after Franco’s death, this includes the restructuring of several already existing orchestras to function under the new government.

          But in short, yes, it seems that you’re right, William. The modernization, or founding, or whatever one might call it of these 19 post-Franco orchestras does appear to be directly related to Spain’s 1986 acceptance into the E.U.

    • Does this suggest that one needs an exceptional leader to take an orchestra places, to put the right cogs in gear to make it all happen (appointing the right musical director(s), artistic planning, touring…), and that therefore a high salary to attract the right candidate – Borda in this instance – is therefore worthwhile?

      If so, let’s stop carping about ambitious bands currently not doing so well who offer a high package to would-be leaders; surely they’ve seen the light and want someone to help them?
      And if not, would the LAPhil be topping this list for the reasons given if they had had a lesser leader? I imagine if the board thought it could be done for less they would do.

    • For some hard data to prove my point, in 2011 the European Commission proposed the world’s largest-ever cultural funding program under the title Creative Europe. The initiative, will disperse a €1.8 billion ($2.4 billion) between 2014 and 2020, which represents a 35 percent increase in European Union expenditures on culture. See more here:

      Europe’s individual governments spend even more on the arts — about 13 billion in both France and Germany where funding has also risen in recent years. Please bear this in mind when reading the comments in this thread that Europe’s public funding system is failing. That’s ideologically motivated nonsense.

    • I don’t believe a proper assessment of the success of the LA Phil can be made without considering the Hollywood Bowl. The fortunes of the Phil would be different without this money maker. It gives them many more options than other orchestras have.

  2. Richard Hallam says:

    Interesting, William. We, in the ‘rest of the developed world’ are heading your way in terms of funding, with public funding going out of the window and organisations being urged to look to ‘the great and the good’ for future funding. If as you hope, the US moves towards public money, we’ll look to pass each other in the middle!

    • In continental Europe, the belief in public funding remains strong, as proven by funding numbers. (See my comment above. I can dig up some actual numbers if needed.) Neo-cons in America are essentially conducting a culture war against Europe’s social democracies. They have done a good job in spreading false propaganda that Europe is abandoning its public funding system for the arts. The claim is a bald faced lie used to discredit public funding in the USA.

      The UK and the rest of the Commonwealth have always taken a middle road between America’s unmitigated capitalism and Europe’s social democracies. The UK thus has one of the lowest rates for per capita public funding in Europe, but still many times over America’s per capita rate. And I seriously doubt public funding will ever be lowered to American standards. (We should also note that the politics of privitization were begun by Thatcher, Reagan, and Pinochet beginning in the later 1970s, but that Britain still remains a social democracy. There are limits to how far they will let we Yanks drag them.)

      • Mr. Osborne,

        The Neo-cons in America don’t even know the meaning of the word “socialism.” They’re barely capable of agreeing internally, viz. Boehner’s Washingloo. As far as waging a culture war against European social democrats goes, Neo-cons are as capable of that as American forces were in creating a Western democracy in Iraq and potentially as successful at reaching their objectives as American forces in Afghanistan.

        Actually, I haven’t heard or read anywhere that Neo-cons are spreading false propaganda that Europe is abandoning its public funding system for the arts, so they’re not doing a very good job at that. The couple of nickles and dimes that are left in the NEA’s coffers are peanuts barely worth the work of writing a humongous application anyway, as wisely observed on this blog some time ago.

        If recording technology weren’t invented yet, I’d be really depressed by now.

        • It’s true, the NEA’s budget is 1/25,000th of the Federal budget. It is just a place marker and doesn’t even serve as a model of what an effective public system would be. The constant false information about the supposed collapse of Europe’s public funding system (or that it is in a “mess,” whatever that means) when in reality the funding has remained relatively stable is evidence of the propanda of which I speak.

        • “[...] Boehner’s Washingloo”

          I very much like the idea of Mr. Boehner washing a loo, but I have a hard time imagining it. I mean, his suit, it’s very expensive, isn’t it? And the tie would no doubt fall into the bowl at some point.

  3. So interesting! Confirms what I’ve heard about LA, and has sparked my interest in some orchestras I’d like to learn more about, Sao Paolo and Detroit, in particular! Thanks for this eye-opening survey, Norman, which has
    revealed a lot about orchestras everywhere!

    A fascinating observation I heard recently in a comparison of Chicago and LA is that yes, Chicago has some top new talent, but they also have a lot of very old players at the end of their careers. The overall result is not a very homogenous orchestra artistically.

    LA, on the other hand, is apparently very well-blended. They have fine players of all ages, there is diversity and everyone plays well together. It’s a more evenly matched orchestra, and the overall sound in the end is a better quality orchestra artistically.

  4. Robert Fitzpatrick says:

    Agreed that Chicago and LA are in different places concerning personnel. It will be most interesting to see whom they select in LA to fill the co-principal clarinet opening. Probably the prime position for the instrument currently available assuming NYPhil can finally make a decision. I have an idea that it will be someone who speaks their language in LA.

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      “for that instrument” please strike “the” (for the that instrument). Thanks.

    • I agree, Robert. You may have seen this, but here’s a recent assessment with some particularly forthright observations and speculations on the LA Phil clarinet and flute openings.

      • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

        Very interesting, Franz. It’s rare to see such a candid assessment in the Press. If LA has downgraded the co-principal clarinet opening to associate principal, then my personal hunch (who speaks the mother tongue of the Dude) will certainly not be interested. But, that could evolve. The Demarre McGill speculation could be interesting; Jeffrey Khaner, hmmm, that depends on the Phila Orch situation. The next year will tell the tale financially for them. A situation to watch closely…

        • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

          Another comment on the LA situation: The local schools (USC/Thornton and Colburn) will greatly benefit from the LA Phil personnel situation as it continues to evolve in a positive sense.

        • The clarinet opening in the LA Phil was never “downgraded” because it was always for an Associate Principal to begin with. In fact, the orchestra has not had any “co-principal” vacancies in any of its sections for a quarter of a century now.

        • I agree, Robert. Important to consider with this LA Phil clarinet position is that it’s Associate Principal to a Principal Clarinet with tremendous seniority and hopefully influence.

          Michelle Zukovsky began with LA Phil in 1961. While the big brass boys in Chicago are noisily chalking up years of seniority to rival Bud Herseth, she is quietly surpassing Mr. Herseth’s legendary tenure with CSO. She’s going on 52 years of service, and still pulling in great reviews from the critics.

          In imagining who might be a frontrunner to be Ms. Zukovsky’s Associate, you’re right Mr. Morales is out. He’s not going to opt for an Associate job. I don’t see why language would be a factor, but just in case it might be, why not a woman?

          Curtis-trained, Argentinian born Victoria Luperi, for example, is Principal of Fort Worth Symphony. She’s a young talent with Principal experience who could grow with the orchestra. I think she, or someone like her would be a great choice!

          • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

            I think you have a good point concerning Ms. Luperi, Franz. Old, toothless clarinet players like me will be watching with interest. But, who will be appointed at NYPhil? ‘Tis a puzzlement…

    • The opening in the LA Phil’s clarinet section is not for a “co-principal” but for the Associate Principal Clarinet position. There is a difference.

      • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

        Yes, i read the article. But they had auditions and selected no one, I believe. Stay tuned.

        • Actually, according to the most recently published information available, auditions for that position are scheduled to be held in May 2013.

  5. Malcolm James says:

    Zurich Tonhalle -.a dormant orchestra? That’s a rather ungenerous way to sum up David Zinman’s tenure, since he has put them on the map internationally. The trick is to build on this, as CBSO have done after Rattle and Oslo, it appears to me, have not done after Jansons.

  6. I’m glad to hear that public funding of the arts is still strong in some parts of Europe. Certainly this has changed in Italy. Theatres, orchestras and concert societies are producing fewer productions and concerts. Artistic Directors are now ‘consultants’ working from home rather than the theatres. Ticket prices at SCala are prohibitive. Ann

    • It’s true, Ann. I think Italy is the best example of a European country moving toward the American system. Already in the early 90s, Berlusconi merged all of the country’s radio orchestras into one ensemble in Turin – the radio orchestras in Milan, Rome, and Naples were thus eliminated. He has also made major attacks on the opera houses. (I can’t remember the exact number, but Italy has about 12 to 14 state run opera houses.) The Italian government, however, still spends about 2 billion Euros a year on the arts, so the situation is still not even remotely like the U.S..

      Berlusconi is the richest man in Italy and owns all of its private television stations. His motivations for trying to eliminate the state radio and television system (including their orchestras) is thus fairly obvious. Berlusconi has been convicted of corruption charges and many in Italy see him as a common crook. It says something that the one country truly moving toward the American system was led for years by the richest man in the country and who has been convicted for corruption.

      • That said, the Mediaset channels are the only ones with cultural programming. The state TV channels have only horrible variety and game shows as well as San Remo (Sanshamo). The wonderful weekly opera programs taped in the various theatres (12) and their cities with interviews scattered through the performances are on canale cinque. The Rai Torino orchestra concerts are usually broadcast late at night when most people are asleep. Emotions were, and are, very high regarding the slipping of traditions in Italy. Mo Muti’s words at the Rome Opera performance is a case in point. All the Italian newspapers outside of Italy – not just within Italy – carried the text and reaction. All the major current heads of State were there and are aware of the opinion of the general public. It should be remembered also that Italians outside of Italy are able to vote in federal elections.
        Ann Summers Dossena

  7. Detroit.

    Nice to hear them playing so well on a recent Nutcracker. Some new faces..

    I wondered after their first concert back after the strike — an awful New World under Slatkin. They looked and sounded beaten up.

    But, after the strike, just can’t get by La Parsons. Lets hope it’s pleasant atmosphere. But, the wonderful Nutcracker bodes well. It’s on the DSO’s YouTube channel. Cheers.

  8. Therry Neilsen-Steinhardt says:

    Sorry I missed the vote. I would have nominated The Boston Modern Orchestra Project, conducted by Gil Rose. He has an interesting take ion the repertoire of most orchestras, which is that they are museums that make noise. He prefers to program music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. When he programs music of the past, he makes sure it’s repertoire that nobody has heard before. When he programs opera, such as a recent performance of Michael Tippett’s Midsummer Marriage,, he makes sure that the wonderful music gets a first-class performance which unfortunately did not drown out the insufferable libretto.

  9. Whether publicly funded or not, orchestras need to stay in touch with their audiences. Otherwise, the basis for future funding becomes precarious. The audience (like it or not) is really what it is all about. Even series dedicated to new music, while not catering to popular tastes, can find and develop their own particular kind of audience. I remember very well the world premiere of Elliott Carter’s oboe concerto here in Zurich with Heinz Holliger and the Collegium Novum. The hall was packed! Audiences can be very critical listeners, and these people obviously knew that the level would be very high for that concert, and that they were going to get their money’s worth of musical performance.

    Although this “flashmob” was actually organized by a local bank, maybe some orchestras could also take this event as an example of how to do outreach to their audience. It’s wonderful to watch! And a good way to start the holiday season:

    • It’s true that orchestras must remain aware of their public’s needs and interests regardless of funding systems. Since 2009 tickets for classical concerts in Germany have risen 30% and now out sell pop concerts. (If needed, I can post a url for the report.) The Germans seem to be doing something right. My impression is that they are learning from American experiments while still maintaining their public funding system. They get the best of both worlds.

    • Thanks for sharing the flashmob video, Robert!

      This is a Spanish orchestra, the Orquestra Simfonica del Valles, located near Barcelona. Their Music Director is Ruben Gimeno, who you can see conducting toward the end of the video. Here is their website, in English:

      This is not one of Spain’s major orchestras. They are competing with OBC, Barcelona’s main orchestra and the Liceo Opera Orchestra in the same area, which no doubt take the lion’s share of the Catalunya region’s govt. funding for orchs.

      But they are one of the most innovative. As their website explains, they are 70% self-financed. Only 30% of their funding, apparently is from the government. They are a perfect example of how orchestras in Spain, too, are moving toward the American system of private funding.

      • The Orquestra Simfonica del Valles is the *only* private, continuously working orchestra in the Asociación Española de Orquestas Sinfónicas (AEOS). So it does not represent a trend toward privitization.

        • “The Orquestra Simfonica del Valles is the *only* private, continuously working orchestra in the Asociación Española de Orquestas Sinfónicas (AEOS)”

          Yes, you’re right, William. (although there are a number of part-time Spanish orchestras, flying under the radar of AEOS which are privately funded).

          However, privatization is an issue which is at the forefront of discussion right now in Spain. At the
          Nov. 11 & 12 2012 Conference of the Asociación Española de Orquestas Sinfónicas (AEOS), held in Madrid, the subject of privatization was a key issue:

          “”Ana Mateo, acting President of AEOS, describes the European experience, in which strong dependence on public funding, combined with budget cuts, makes the search for alternative sources a matter of urgency. “We urgently need a Sponsorship Law”. Extracted from the following report, in English:

          The “sponsorship law” which Ms. Mateo refers to is Spain’s “Ley de Mecenazgo” which is now awaiting passage. This law, attributed to a French model, will allow up to 70% of contributions to arts organizations as deductible expenses for individuals, companies and organizations.

          Here’s a link describing it in Spanish:

          It is set to be “en vigor” (in effect) by the end of 2013 at the latest. Arts organizations – orchestras in particular – are hailing this new law as a potentially saving force. It represents a new model which will allow incentives for private funding and provide badly needed sources of revenue for struggling arts organizations, orchestras in particular.

          • Yes, Carmen, these moves toward tax deductable contributions for the arts are a result of the pressures put on Europe’s social democracies by the United States and Europe’s conservative, financial elite. Similar laws have been proposed in many European countries. It is part of the culture war I mentioned in one of my above posts.

            Even if these laws exist, their effect is likely to remain limited for the foreseeable future.
            The main reason is that if Europe were to shift to the American system, wealthy donors would not be able to support the continent’s cultural infrastructure as it now stands. Vast reductions would be necessary because the wealthy do not have sufficient resources to support it. When societies develop sizable middle classes that allow skilled labor to achieve good pay, a patronage system can no longer sustain the arts because labor is too expensive and the wealthy class too small. Europe would end up with an impoverished cultural life in the so-called high arts similar to America’s. I doubt Europe’s citizens would accept that.

            America, for just one example, only three cities in the top 100 for opera performances per year. The European arts community is aware of these problems. One indicator is that public arts funding has remained relatively stable.

            Notice that in her talk, Ana Mateo mentions only American speakers and consultants for these new practices. Her main reference is Prof. Robert Flanagan, an economist that American orchestra musicians view as rationalizing the poor treatment and eventual elimination of orchestras. See, for example, this review:


            Notice also how closely the Orquestra Simfonica del Valles is associated with the banking industry as its sponsors. (Even that flash mob in the video was hosted by a bank that is the orchestra’s principle donor.) Note also the comments by financial leaders on the orchestra’s website. It is relatively obvious who is behind this orchestra and why. Please don’t be fooled, whoever you actually are…

        • William, just as a caveat to my earlier post, the Ley de Mecenazgo, which will enable tax credits for contrubutions to arts organizations in Spain, is not necessarily being seen as the Holy Grail by everyone.

          There are plenty of criticisms and skepticism, both from large companies who stand to be potential investors as well as from orch. musicians themselves who look on in horror to what’s happening to orchestras in the US under a private system. The Ley de Mecenazgo is not necessarily a perfect solution, but the fact that it’s being proposed should indicate that there are flaws in the public funding system of financing orchestras in Europe.

  10. If the context is best publicity and PR LA Phil is the easy winner. But if we are going to talk about the actual quality of the orchestra as some commenters have, you would be hard pressed to find a knowledgeable musician other than those employed by the LA Phil that believes they are even in a league with an orchestra like Chicago or Boston, let alone Berlin or Vienna. It is not the fault of Dudamel- it was always an uneven band, with some strong sections and some very uneven ones (e.g. violins) but he has generally not shown many signs of being interested in doing the work of a real orchestra builder. Their grammy winning Brahms recording was embarrassingly poor playing quality for an orchestra of that rank- nowhere hear the quality of Minnesota’s recordings- and rather odd interpretively. They are fairly regularly disappointing to critics outside of the LA orbit. In terms of PR, the original question, they are undoubtedly king, but PR ultimately only goes so far (at least you would hope) and in terms of performance I know of no serious musician beyond those who work there who think they belong in the top ranks at this point. It might be instructive to revisit the words of the principal flute who returned to Chicago after a year in LA…

    • Yes indeed, it may be very instructive to revisit what Mathieu Dufour said himself, in his own words, a few days after returning from LA to Chicago. Here it is: .

      • so given the choice between A) he chose to return to Chicago for musical reasons, spoke too freely to the first reporter and when caught, had to write a CYA retraction or B) He loved it there and thought they were amazing, but decided to have surgery in Chicago and since he was already back there, to stay forever, and the Chicago paper made up an outrageous quote out of thin air … you believe option B? I love your optimistic attitude! I have a relative in Kenya in desperate need of a place to park $300,000- could you help her out by wiring your bank account information to hold it for her? ;-)

        Look, I wish LA all the best, and I’m glad the musicians there are well looked after and that any orchestra is getting publicity in the US these days. They set a gold standard in these good things. But they still have a ways to go in building the quality of the orchestra to compete with the best. Maybe they will get there eventually, but it’s definitely not an unusual opinion to believe that they really aren’t there yet PR=success, but it is not an indication of quality…

        • You have not described the options correctly. 1. If Andrew Patner invented the quotes or “grossly misquoted” Mathieu, then the latter’s letter is probably true and we can believe it fully. 2. If AP quoted MD accurately, that means the latter’s letter is a shameless lie, and he is therefore a liar who has no credibility in which case there is no reason to believe that he told the truth to AP.
          Many of Mathieu’s colleagues in both orchestras know about the real reasons for his return quite well. They are mostly, if not completely, PERSONAL, which is precisely why neither he nor his friends wanted to reveal them publicly. It would be quite natural if upon returning from his “treasonous” stay in LA he would have chosen (instead) to say something that sounded good to his local interviewer and to his CSO colleagues, in order to be welcomed back into their collective open arms.

        • Excellent point, Sam. Very well expressed.

          But just to play devil’s advocate here, if we’re basing orch. quality of the choices/movements of Principal wind players, Chicago was wooing clarinetist Ricardo Morales long before he made his short-lived move to NYPhil. Chicago was apparently never a serious consideration for him, although he was certainly offered the job. Chicago, then comes in only at third place after Phila and NY if we’re going by top wind players’ choices. CSO is better than LA, maybe, but definitely not the top of the line by wind standards.

          I love that the press made this big Hollywood thing out of Mr. Dufour’s departure. Brings a lot of high drama and intrigue to the orch. world. But notice this just happens in LA. Mr. Morales quietly did the same thing between Phila. and NY nearly undetected.

          MarK is right: Mr. Dufour’s motives are most certainly personal. As one of the top Principals in his field, it’s his perogative to work where he chooses, for whatever reasons he sees fit.

          • However, this “contest” was not about the playing quality, so in that sense all of these arguments are irrelevant anyway.

          • MarK your enthusiasm in defending what seems to be your orchestra is admirable and you are likely right about Mr. Dufour’s motives being personal. It was kind of a side issue though and does not change the fact that LA considered by many to be an uneven band compared to some of their peers. It is no reflection on any individual player, and doubtless there are some players there that are among the best in the world. The same could be said of he world famous New York Philharmonic. Philadelphia has had some very off nights in recent years. My point was that ultimately PR is not the same thing as quality, otherwise Lang Lang is the best pianist in the world.

          • Sam, as MarK has pointed out, this contest was not about playing quality.

            And even if it were, your criticism about LAPhil’s “uneveness” is not necessarily valid. I’ve heard the same criticism of Chicago right now. They’ve got top young talents at the top of their game mixed in with very old players who are taking a lot of heat for sloppy playing lately. The result, according to
            many, is a group which is not at all homogeneous. The overall artistic quality of the orch. suffers.

            LA, on the other hand, doesn’t have the high number of superstar players you see in the other top orchs. but they play together well. They’re well matched, they are an ensemble.To me, that’s a top priority for any orchestra.

            I get what you’re saying about LA. But their endowment is up, they’re managed well, musician salaries are the highest in the US and as much as I loathe the concept of an orchestra as a “brand”, they are bringing theirs to the forefront.

            It’s no coincidence that LA and SF are in the top 5 orchs. in the US for musician salaries. These orchestras live under the stigma of always being thought of 2nd best to the east coast orchs. Because of this, they pay more and they try harder! LA is putting more money, thought, creativity into
            their operations than many of the more established orchs. you’ve mentioned.

            This effort, rather than actual playing quality, is what I think is being assessed in Norman’s call for “best orch.” nominations.

          • There is no “defending” anything in my comments here. There is only an objection to taking statements included in an article, that were subsequently categorically denied by a person to whom they were attributed, at their face value and calling them “instructive” of anything. But I do agree that practically every orchestra is uneven. This contest, however, was definitely not about playing quality which is underscored by the fact that NL did not even include Berliners among his top six, in spite of so many votes for them. As for PR not being identical with quality, that fact is so universally obvious that one would be hard pressed to find any sane person who thinks otherwise.
            There is one misleading statement in NL’s brief description of his top choice’s accomplishments in 2012: rather than “splitting Mahler cycle between US and Venezuela”, the LA Phil actually presented two full Mahler cycles – one in Los Angeles and one in Caracas – all of those performances conducted by Gustavo Dudamel.

  11. wake up Vienna!

  12. What’s the point of all this? First the question is not clearly formulated (best, or most improved?). Then there are “votes” by people who name their local heros and know not much more. Then Mr. Lebrecht doesn’t like some votes and makes his very own list in the end. Where is BPhO for instance? And the “winner” is LA Phil, the band of Mr. Lebrecht’s darling Dudamel.
    I hope nobody takes this nonsense serious.

  13. Paul Mounsey says:

    There are certainly a lot of Italian immigrants in São Paulo but the language there continues to be Portuguese. Why do so many UK journos insist on spelling it ‘Paolo’?

  14. Francisco Ferri says:

    Dear Norman

    So you decided to remove all votes for Orquesta de Extremadura that came from its own region. I do not understand the logic that makes you think that is fair. I do not think you have a way to know if the voters are members of the orchestra, which they probably are not (at least not in a significant number) and, if a lot of votes come from supporters it means that the Orquesta de Extremadura has a much stronger impact in their community than the others, they care more. And that is a legitimate reason to win. As you say, it is not all about music.
    But that does not matter, what matters is that people has given their vote, and then you decided to remove all votes you thought were not “sound” or “fair”, which is manifestly wrong. If you are going to remove all votes that you do not consider appropriate (and you have done so just by their geographical location!), I recommend that next time you use a jury or find a way to select voters a priori. Honestly, if I were a voter from Extremadura, I would feel insulted right now.

    • I disagree. Norman was right to discount what was patently a crass and deliberate attempt to skew the results. In my view those ‘supporters’ were not posting here spontaneously as individuals – they were an organised claque whose only purpose was to distort the voting in Extremadura’s favour. Mass voting by pressure groups is a common problem in opinion polling. In this instance it was so transparent that Norman – and the rest of us who don’t live in that region of Spain – immediately saw through it.

      • Oh, for heaven’s sake, Drew. You make it sound like some masterminded plot. There was nothing to “see through”.

        The story was run in the local newspaper. Most of the community doesn’t read English, so several reader comments after the article as well on the Extremadera’s fb page explained in Spanish that it was a contest and it would be judged by internet viewers. It gave the link and described step by step how to vote.

        With most of them with limited English, this is what the OEX voters understood was the correct procedure. And they were right. Perhaps you can explain why they shouldn’t have reacted that way.

        The blog specifically asked for readers to vote. It didn’t say how or who should vote, it just said VOTE. Had any of it been translated for the Brazilian orchestra nominated, we would have seen the same thing from them. In fact, we started to towards the end.

        Every other ensemble on the nominated list had the right to do exactly as the Extremadura people. Just because Chicago Symphony members and their supporters, for example, chose not to send in votes doesn’t make it wrong that Extremadura did!

        Community support is exactly how Extremadura won their very difficult battle. They took to the internet in large numbers and campaigned to save their orchestra. They are accustomed, when asked to show their
        support, to do so. It saved them. Why should they not have done the same here, especially when specifically asked to vote?

        • Carmen may not realise it, but the second paragraph of her post does confirm my contention that the Extremadura voting was organised (“It gave the link and described step by step how to vote”), and not some spontaneous local outburst of musical fervour.

    • Totally agree, Francisco. I´m either from Extremadura nor a voter, but I do feel insulted… All voters for the OEX should come here and express their opinion about what happened.

      • I’m not sure it was necessary to state when giving the results that all votes from Extremadura had been discounted. We could have lived without that bit of information.

        Let the results be what they may – this contest unto itself gave us a fascinating overview of orchs. around the world – but it is, indeed, rather offensive to the Extremadura voters to declare that their votes were disregarded. If this had to be announced (I don’t think it did ) it could have been stated a little more diplomatically and placed perhaps at the end of the blog instead of in the opening lines.

        It was a very confusing voting system. If I were in Extremadura, not able to follow in English what this blog is all about and why the nomination was made, I would have done exactly the same. You’re asked to vote,
        and you vote! Then you’re told your vote doesn’t count because too many people did the same. It doesn’t make sense.

        The results are interesting and informative. I doubt that OEX voters would ever protest – first, because most don’t speak English, 2nd because it would be very ungracious and uncharacteristic of these lovely people to to do so. I’m sure they are thrilled to be named in the top 6!

        But I have to agree with Paula and Francisco that it did cast a shadow over the results by announcing that their votes would all be discounted. I understand that this announcement appeased certain irate readers who didn’t stop to think why the many OEX votes were appearing. But the results could have been announced as they are sparing us this detail, IMHO.

        • There is a simple point that seems to be eluding Carmen, Francisco and Paula. I’m pretty sure that Norman’s intention was to address his poll to the day-to-day readers of this blog and particularly those who had been following the current discussions about orchestral management, funding and performance quality. He was not issuing a voting invitation to the entire population of the world!

          It appears that only devotees of the Extremadura orchestra saw fit to publicise the poll in their local press. As Carmen’s earlier post makes clear, the newspaper encouraged its readers to get on the bandwagon as if they were voting for a local candidate for Miss Universe, which accounts for the deluge of votes recorded here.

          Have Carmen, Francisco and Paula ever wondered why no other orchestra adopted the same tactics to drum up votes? I suggest that was due more to common sense than to apathy or lethargy.

  15. where does the flint symphony orchestra from flint Michigan stand in this poll.

  16. Saginaw bay symphony too.

  17. Thank you to the Slipped Disc readers for voting us number 3 here in Detroit. Now through January 2 that “brilliant streaming programme” is on display at or with our free holiday webcast marathon of Act II of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. It’s our holiday gift to everyone who helped make 2012 such a big success!

  18. Paul Chaffee says:

    How about the best small regional orchestra? I nominate the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra in the Great Lakes Bay Region of Michigan. In 2003, it was going under: playing in churches because it was booted from the symphony hall for missing too many payments, dispirited board, 78 season tickets sold, $285,000 historic debt, barely functioning office, drawing maybe 300 to concerts, board spent the meager endowment.
    But the musicians kept coming from all over the Midwest to play … and play well.
    Fast forward to 2012: Debt paid off, $1.4 million endowment, engaged and excited board, playing in a beautiful and historic hall — restored to its 1927 sparkle during a $8 million project — charismatic and accomplished 33 year old music director and drawing sell-out and near-sellout audiences of enthusiastic music lovers young and old.

  19. Greg Hlatky says:

    “Public funding means, that culture is democratic. Simple as that. Private funding means, that culture is aristocratic or feudalistic. Simple as that.”

    In short: everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state. Where have I heard that before?

    Mr. Osborne says, “East Germany had the highest ratio of fulltime orchestras per capita in the world.” All publically funded. Would you call East Germany democratic, its name notwithstanding?

    • You mix up political systems and (access to) culture. East Germany actually did have democratic access and contribution to culture and arts, particularly when it came to classical music. Of course political art was a different matter in East Germany and not funded by the government.

      But the state support in East Germany was not “public”, it was state sponsored by a state that was not democratic. East Germany was way too short lived to show it’s true climate for the arts. Much of what lived there culturally was the traditional extremely rich classical art scene which survived the 40 years well intact. And the government liked to give money to prestige classical art.

      The US on the other hand is a long living political entity to being able to judge it’s artistic and cultural climate: materialistic uneducated desert with a few oasis in between.

      • Greg Hlatky says:

        Considering how many German orchestras are descended from royal and court ensembles – paid for in gold sweated from the brows of serfs – it takes some gall to describe the US model, flawed as it is, as “aristocratic” or “feudal.”

        At the Federal level, a consensus has developed about funding the arts: it’s not going to happen beyond a nominal level. Democrats haven’t greatly increased funding for the NEA nor have Republicans abolished the agency regardless of how much either party has dominated Congress. And no matter what some low-level staffer says, President Obama doesn’t care either.

        What about funding at a lower level of government, as happens in Germany according to Mr. Osborne? Take Chicago, a city with a fine orchestra and opera company. Chicago has had a Democratic mayor since 1931. Every single one of its 50 city council members is a Democrat. There aren’t any Republican death squads in the city brutally quashing the yearnings of womyn, minorities and the GLBT community for all-Stockhausen festivals.

        I am told by the bien pensants that Democratic officeholders are my moral, ethical and intellectual superiors. So what exactly is stopping the city of Chicago – or the Democratic-dominated state of Illinois, for that matter – from fully funding both the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Chicago Lyric Opera? Nothing whatever, except for the inconvenient fact that both the city and state are broke. Not even bastions of the smuggest progressivism like Berkeley, Cambridge, Ann Arbor and Madison – all with populations above 100,000 – have publically-funded, full-time orchestras.

        I must say I like the crack about the US being an “uneducated desert.” With 40% greater population than the US (500 million vs. 300 million), nations of the European Union collectively spend about 40% less on R&D and there are 40% fewer patent filings with EU nations at the priority country compared to the US. 47% of the companies listed in Top 100 Global Innovators as compiled by Thomson Reuters ( are based in the US vs. 18% for EU countries. There’s no European Microsoft, no European Amazon, no European Apple, Intel or Google. However, as anyone with a whit of aesthetic sense knows, there’s no value in any of them; vulgar tradesmen and greasy mechanics have always been held in contempt by impoverished aristocrats.

  20. Sorry, but I still don’t understand why the “spanish local votes” for the OEX where not worth…If you open the voting to social media to get extra publicity you have to live with the results.

    • Agreed. Even if they were organized their votes should have been counted as it only demonstrates their devotion, determination and resolve to save their orchestra. Sadly, sometimes those are the missing factors in some communities.

  21. L.A. Phil….Dudamel.??……surely you have placed them in the wrong catagory..!!….although he has done fantastic things to develop the youth orchestras in S America, nobody in their right mind would have him as more than a promising ‘up and coming POTENTIAL’ conductor of the 2nd/3rd rank……. the role of hype and P.R. is alive and well then…….

  22. My criticism of Dudamel is that he’s using the Dudamel Conducting Fellowship program at LAPhil as a launching post for the careers of his colleagues from Venezuela. This is being funded by a U.S. orchestra, by U.S. donors. The priority should be launching the careers of young US conductors.

    Here, for example, is his pick for this year – 2 from Venezuela, a non-US woman (as if there are no qualified young women conductors from the US??) and, just like last year, one token US conductor:

    This selection, as in past years, is a little over-representative of Dudamel’s home country. There are too many talented young US conductors who are being passed over for this opportunity year after year because of Dudamel’s choices.

    • It’s funny how those who vehemently oppose a public funding for arts on a national level, all of the sudden when it comes to harvesting want these privately funded institutions like the LA Phil to serve national or even nationalistic agendas. Hypocrisy much?

      LA Phil is privately funded and that money is globally earned money. And music in general is a global achievement of mankind. Why should they support young US conductors in particular? I fail to see why. They are not funded by US tax money, they can do as they please. And they are thankfully wise enough to support music as a unifying experience of whole mankind. Not as a nationalistic vehicle some backward thinking people degrade it to.

      • Realist, I’m afraid it’s Mr. Dudamel here with the nationalistic venue. 2 out 4 conducting fellows chosen being from his home country is not globally representative. Is LA Phil supporting “a unifying experience of whole mankind” as you say or is it serving as a well-subsidized US launching point for El Sistema trained conductors from Venezuela?

        Why should US conductors be given priority? Because if we don’t who is going to?

        I am not a critic of the public funding system. But I see very clearly that these publicly funded systems by nature must serve first, the citizens of their own country in terms of opportunities, while in the US our system does not. Countries like Germany, UK, France (take a look at how few Besancon winners there are from the US) are not going to do much to advance the careers of young US conductors. They figure we’re a powerful, rich nation and we can do that for ourselves. Yet our opportunities here seem to be going to Venezuelans.

        A non-UK orchestral musician cannot even TRAVEL on VACATION into the UK in possession of their instrument without raising the suspicion of border authorities. That is how protective other countries are about protecting work opportunities for their own musicians. Yet here in the US, when prestigious grants for young conductors are awarded, our candidates seem to be the last ones considered.

        Yes, you’re right. LA Phil can do as they please. And so can Vienna Phil in not hiring women, apparently. But is it right?

        • Well, in Germany (or France) public tax money from Germans goes to support musicians from all over the globe for the pleasure of global audiences. The music colleges are full of foreigners who study subsidized by the German tax payer. Most of them take their degrees back home. Foreign audiences flock to see and hear operas and concerts in German venues, heavily subsidized by the German tax payer. Positions in orchestras etc., funded by public money, are given to the mod suitable applicant, issues of nationality being irrelevant.
          It seems in Europe we see our public investments into the culture also as a contribution to worldwide culture.

          It seems your POV is a bit outdated and nationalistic?

          P.S. I do find it out of order though, if German Opera festivals are sold out to foreign audiences for ticket prices that are 80% subsidized by the German tax payer. That’s a bit excessive.

          • Realist, in any conducting competition or fellowship program in the world, how would you justify that half of the winners selected are from one country, which happens to be the home country of the conductor who decided the winners?

        • Scott Harrison says:

          The US does provide public subsidy of the arts through the tax deductions available for charitable donations. While that might not equal the contributions of many European countries, it is still significant. Now that we are in an environment when the tax status of orchestras is under question, any smart organization should be doing everything it can to continually prove its public value. That may differ from city to city. So the question is do Los Angelenos feel that the nature of the Dudamel fellowship is a benefit or that it would have more value if it focused on US conductors? LA being an international city, they might find pride and value in fostering international conducting talent and playing a growing role in the global classical music field.

  23. Allen Manzano says:

    I think this is a very revealing exchange. A lot of heat and passion for the arts, but it sounds like a small coterie of specialists rather than a real cultural exploration. Money is the subject proposed as the problem in sustaining orchestras and will remain so. What is being done to expand the audience for their art is just as important and this is a criterion that is not even mentioned. Dudamel and LA have made this a key purpose for its orchestra and the community has responded with money and affection.

    As to the what is the best orchestra, my answer is there can never be such a thing. Every performance is unique; program, players, conductors, site, the cultural and social environment, even the news can play a part in what we hear. I sometimes think that the commitment to community and emotional truth are what I find most compelling. The level of skill and training of musicians seems to have been improving continually over my long lifetime, more and more fine players are being trained and available.

    I live in San Diego and our orchestra, the oldest in the state, is getting better and better year by year. I rejoice in it, and don’t feel at all interested in comparative violin section envy, and financial commitment from a formidable sponsor is a good part of why it is happening.

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