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New York Phil’s new boss leaves a deficit behind

The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra went A$798,816 into the red in the year ended 31 December 2012. Its managing director  Matthew Van Besien left in February 2012 after less than two years to join the New York Philharmonic. He was succeeded in November 2012 by André Gremillet.

Here’s the unadorned statement.


The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra today announced a deficit result for the financial year ended 31 December 2012 of $798,816.


“The MSO’s consistently rigorous financial management over a long period means the Orchestra has a balance sheet that allows it to absorb a deficit for 2012 whilst still retaining reserves in excess of $3 million going forward,” said MSO Chairman Harold Mitchell.


The year ending 31 December 2012 was a year of transition for the MSO. Following the departure of Managing Director (2011-2012) Matthew VanBesien in February, two major artistic appointments – Chief Conductor Sir Andrew Davis and Principal Guest Conductor Diego Matheuz – were announced in July, and new Managing Director, André Gremillet, joined the Company in November.


Financially, 2012 was also a year of transition, as the MSO completed the end of its two-year relocation to the Melbourne Town Hall, during the extensive renovation of Arts Centre Melbourne, Hamer Hall.


“While the MSO was able to post a small surplus in 2010 and 2011 due to the generous business interruption funding that was provided by the Victorian Government to help offset the negative impact of the relocation on revenue and costs, the funding that was provided in 2012 was not sufficient to make up for the loss in revenue and the increase in costs following the return to Hamer Hall,” Mitchell said.


MSO Managing Director André Gremillet said that the MSO is addressing the implications of its financial result swiftly and rigorously. “We are working on our audience development programs and allocating more resources to attracting philanthropic donations, while looking carefully at our costs and our mix of activity,” Gremillet said.


“We are confident that we are putting the right foundations in place for a more sustainable platform going forward. While 2013 is likely to be another challenging year financially, the significant increase in ticket sales in 2012 is a sign that we are moving in the right direction, as is our growing philanthropic support,” he continued.


The MSO benefits from the generous support of the Australian Government through its arts funding and advisory body the Australia Council, the Victorian Government through Arts Victoria, and the City of Melbourne as well as the Orchestra’s corporate partners and donors.


The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s audited 2012 financial results and annual report will be available for download from its website,, from Thursday 9 May.

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  1. Rupert Murdoch’s mother was known as a patron of the arts in Australia. Maybe the Symphony should hold its nose and approach him to contribute in her memory to clear the deficit. And, if it were smart, and hasn’t done so already, it might seek out sister city orchestral relationships with one or more cities in China. That might nudge Rupert’s wife who is Chinese to kick in a few extra Aussie bucks and also bring in some investment from the CHinese mainland. (Another idea- create a few internships in the orchestra for symphony players from China and, better yet, an exchange program to place some good Aussie players in Chinese orchestras. The Chinese might see that as a good enough educational investment to pay something for it.) For the Murdochs it would also be an investment of one sort or other, but it’s not as if they would be installing surveillance devices next to every seat.

    To encourage the small contributor to shell out, the Symphony Association might consider programming concerts large and small, and in multiple venues, of people’s “revolutionary music”, contemporary and classical – even old standbys like the Eroica – for a joint fundraiser with Wikileaks. (Imagine Julian on the super screen narrating Peter and the Wolf – it could take on a new political meaning.)

    The key is to engage the community and make the music relevant in a way that makes the relationship so passionate that one doesn’t want to spend one’s money on any pleasures other than “sex”, that is to say music, and not those overpriced candy bars and other frivolities that can damage one’s health physical and mental.

  2. They have done well for themselves and have a big reserve. And there are perfectly good reasons for their drop in revenue over the past few years, mainly being homeless. (Ask NY City Opera what that did for their bottom line). Also, since more than half their revenue comes from the government, a reduction in that funding can often mean a direct hit to the bottom line. You are trying to imply some kind of indictment of Van Besien’s management, but it’s hardly that.

    Anyway, the NY Phil has been running nonstop deficits for many, many years and they have been well over A$800,000. He should be so lucky to balance their budget, the way he did in Houston for at least 4 years in a row.

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