an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me | Advertise | Follow me:

Dutch orchestra plays its last notes

The Radio Chamber Philharmonic will play its final concert at the Concertgebouw on Sunday, led by Frans Brüggen. Founded in 2005, the orch is being shut down after Government cuts. Book here, more in sorrow than in rage.


photo(c) Annelies van der Vegt

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. PK Miller says:

    Good grief–they’re dropping right and left. NOT being facetious. It seems like orchestras across the world are going out of business. We almost lost the Philadelphia of all orchestras here in the US. It’s scary. The New York City ballet residency at Saratoga Performing Arts Center is down to one week again for 2013 & 2014 from the 4 then 3 then 2 it used to perform at SPAC. Again, financial reasons. NY City Opera is in a nomadic, reduced existence. We really need to look at funding the arts in general, here in the US and throughout the world. One of the difficulties with government funding is its capriciousness. If it’s something powers that be don’t like–Mapplethorpe, or “Dung Virgin,” e.g., funding can be withdrawn abruptly. If said government–local, state, national–develops financial difficulties as seems to be universal, the arts are the first cut.

    Albany (NY) High School locally, may face the loss of a much vaunted music/drama program because 2 music teachers have been laid off. Public broadcasting here in America has become more and more commercialized every day. A five minute newscast on a local public broadcasting station has FIVE “supporters.” And of course, if one of those sponsors is “offended” by something on that program they can–and have–yanked their funding. (When a former NY Governor tried this approach WAMC FM listeners came to the aid of the station.

    There needs to be some universal system of supporting the arts including public broadcasting, keeping them going, insulating them from political whims and winds In this country we also need to find a way to reduce the number of “supports,” and de facto commercials as I see on our local public TV station all the time. We HAVE to support the arts UNIVERSALLY. The alternative is unthinkable.

    • You mention some very sad cases of arts orgs struggling in the US. None of them, however, is struggling because of government cut backs because the government funding wasn’t that all that generous to begin with, and certainly in New York City, government arts funding is stronger than nearly anywhere else in the entire country. Even if state and federal sources suddenly saw the light and decided to double or triple their arts funding, lord knows it wouldn’t save City Opera or the Philadelphia Orchestra from their poor management and ingrained structural deficits.

    • Greg Hlatky says:

      Public money without accountability to the public: every artist’s dream.

      • Fabio Fabrici says:

        Public funds mean you have to perform for the public. That’s the accountability of an artist, performing for the public. It’s not a dream, it’s a necessity for an artist.

  2. Another European arts organization in dire straits (worse, really) because it was completely dependent on government funding. This is why funding needs to be more diversified.

  3. Please understand: Dutch orchestras were subsidized for 85% of their operating costs. That’s an awful lot, and allowed them to program music that had no business being played, resulting in pathetic ticket sales. And now they wonder why the taxpayer has turned on them….

    • The orchestra in question,the Radio Kamer Fliharmonie, is where I work.As a member I can assure you that the concert halls are filled to capacity or near capacity.As a radio orchestra we reach a much larger number of people(40-50,000) per concert than a traditional orchestra.We play a wide variety of music,including modern music.Playing modern music is the function of a radio orchestra.”Concert orchestras” play standard repertoire and are essentially museums.Radio orchestras explore the lesser known work of the great composers and new music.
      Tax payers never voted on funding cuts,they were imposed as a concession to a far right politician in a time of deep budget cuts.,Geert Wilders, as a way to prop up an unstable government.Other conditions were a speed limit of 130kph and a new “animal cop” police corps.Both of these initiatives failed.
      Sadly, the supposed saving are an illusion.There will be no real decrease in government spending for the next 10 years,due to the social program mandated by Dutch law.
      Such a waste….

      • Don’t delude yourself: there was broad public support for these cuts; go back and read the papers if you don’t believe it. The cultural elite alienated themselves even further by arranging public stunts such as the “March for Civilization” (Mars der Beschaving) so they could moan bitterly about the end of their lucrative publicly-funded gravy train.

        • I am not convinced there was a much public support for this meaningless vandalism. Neither am I convinced that papers are evidence for this. The majority didn’t and doesn’t care. And even if there was a majority, what does it mean? You’ll probably find a majority for the death penalty in the Netherlands. It doesn’t mean that it is a good thing or that it should be implemented. It is about time that we in the Netherlands raise educational standards so that rationality and appreciation for real values in life returns to that country. We should realise that democracy does not mean that one’s ignorance is as good as another’s knowledge. Yes, there’s nothing wrong with a real elite…

          • John Borstlap says:

            Spot on. The lack of a cultural elite in Holland is, it seems to me, the main cause of the current destruction of cultural instituions. If some understanding of what culture is and what it means to a society, is built-in in the educational system, maybe some change would be possible over the years… if Holland still exists.

          • Right, the key to this everywhere is EDUCATION.

          • Of course: the solution is for the hoi polloi to listen to their betters. Is that your point?

    • Luciano says:

      So what music should orchestras play? I always found their programs to be fascinating. Sometimes ‘cutting edge’ but they never performed rubbish. In their heyday, they were a truly unique ensemble, not just in the Netherlands, but the world. This is not the death of just any old orchestra.

  4. As an orchestal musician I had the honor to play with them last february, under maestro Andrew Manze. I lived for 6 years in Holland, and all I can say is that we are suffering not from a financial crisis but a lack of sensitivity and understanding towards Arts. The musicians of the Radio Kamer are truly professionals that get paid very reasonable fee’s and give their country an outstanding amount of music at the highest level, please respect for them and support them at this horrible moment. After spending all their lifes performing music and bringing culture to all kind of audiences the last thing we want to listen is about tax and money stuff… LANG LEVEN DE RKF!!

  5. Jan van Dooren says:

    Yomama above is talking nonsense! Subsidy was higher and rightly so. The orchestra played for full halls both in Utrecht and in the Concertgebouw. A registration of Handel’s Solomon has more than 80.000 views on Youtube, the Radio Choir in this live recording is also victim to the vindictive cuts in the funding of the arts by the previous government, led by a populist right wing group that hated anything that smacked of high brow or only for the ‘elite’.
    Which of course is a load of bs if you consider the audiences in the Concertgebouw Saturday matinee series and the Friday series in Vredenburg in Utrecht. The biggest disgrace is that the new government has done nothing to save some of these groups. The orchestra is much much older, they were reorganised and renamed in 2005, it is famous for both baroque and contemporary repertoire and their orchestra culture will be sadly lost forever and greatly missed by thousands of concertgoers and thousands and thousands of radio listeners and tv/internet viewers. We should hang our heads in shame!

    • Make no mistake: if RKF were making a profit, they wouidn’t have to rely on subsidies, right? And they wouldn’t be subject to the whim of the voters (aka: them that pay the bills). YouTube hits hardly fund pensions or pay salaries.

      • Jan van Dooren says:

        When was the last time you heard of an orchestra making a profit? Catch yourself on! No,Youtube does not fund pensions or pay salaries but concertgoers have an enormous impact on the economy of a city. Joop van den Ende stated that supporting the Arts was not a left wing hobby but good sense for business. The destruction of capital that is now taking place cannot be repaired. And yes, to quote another writer here:
        You are ignorant, because you seem to know the price of everything but the value of nothing. But as they say here in the States DFTT!

        • Yes, by all means: “Catch yourself on”. (whatever that means).

          You probably missed the NRC article several years ago where they revealed the TRUE cost of tickets to orchestra concerts if they weren’t made artificially cheap by enormous government subsidies: all over 100 euros apiece, and some over 200! Simply cannot be justified any longer…

          • John Harding says:

            From ’90 until ’95 I was co-concertmaster of the Residentie Orkest. At one of our “modern music” series there I counted an audience of 27. At the following artistic committee meeting I said that at a subsidy of 8000 gilders per patron I couldn’t believe there was much future for this kind of programming. The principal oboe stood up wagging his finger and told me I was never to talk like this again – it was only because I was Australian that I could possibly mention it in the first place!

          • John Borstlap says:

            This is so much a typical Dutch story…. The moralistic, quasi-idealistic argument in relation to contemporary music and all the ideological crap in the background. The Residentie Orkest is a perfect example of how in the Netherlands culture is dealt with. Since the sixties, the ‘cultural revolution’ which ‘liberated’ people from the ‘constraints’ of ‘tradition’ (i.e. from the challenges of craft and professionalism), provided the idea that orchestras, these outdated museum pieces, could FINALLY enter the glorious modern age. Now, contemporary music since 1945 has undergone a grave crisis, no need to relate all that here, and very, very much new music has been inferior in terms of artistic and expressive quality to the existing repertoire, however ‘conservative’ progamme policies may have been. The Res Orch decided to dedicate their great prowess, developed over decennia and refined by Willem van Otterloo in the fifites, to unusual and modern programming, thereby destroying much of the delicate ensemble culture of the orchestra, and gradually chasing away the audience. But modern idealism dictated that as long as the subsidies were flowing-in, audiences did not count. And now the Res Orch hardly has an audience and there is talk of merging it with the Rotterdam Philharmonic. I remember a radio talk with Piet Veenstra, one of the worst programmers ever anywhere, who defended his modernist Residentie programming – because he was accused of having missed Shostakovich who was entering the core repertoire everywhere in the musical world, except Holland – by excusing himself that he had so much new Dutch music to attend to, and then named a list of composers who have meanwhile disappeared into the void of oblivion.

            Even Jaap van Zweden, after Haitink the greatest conducting talent emerging from the Netherlands and making a very impressive international career, has not been able to stop the subsidy cuts of the radio orchestras where he was principal conductor, because for the decision makers JvZw does not count. Like the primitive peasant in his backward village, the typical Dutchman doesn’t care a damn what is thought in the world…. for him, only his own backyard counts.

      • YoMama, you are completely ignorant of how western art music was funded. Never in the course of its entire history has it been funded with private capital, with an exception of american orchestras in the 20th century, never in its history, and I’d say we are talking about over 1000 years of history, has been possible to make a profit over an extended period of time. It has always been paid for by monarchs or churches. When parliamentary democracy came to be it replaced the church and monarchs, taking over their functions of, for instance, protecting the people, of welfare and of making high quality cultural expressions possible. This is why, when the state stops supporting such expression, this expression will stop existing: it is impossible to be financed with private capital and be original.

        Secondly: this orchestra does draw full halls of audience. As others have said, this is a hate campaign from far right against leftist hobbies. Forgetting it is not only the leftists hobby.

      • Well, following your train of thought – i.d. the right to exist for an organisation equals the ability to make profit – I cannot but conclude that we have to scrap the soccer arenas/clubs as well. As it is the Arena, FC Utrecht and then some are propped up by public money. To cut subsidies is one thing but why raise the VAT of concert tickets to 21%? Why is it only 6% for tickets to sporting events, such as soccer games? It seems to me if profit is the guiding rule the reverse would be more sensible. Actually we probably should scrap soccer games given the costs of policing those events.

        • FCinGreece says:

          Agreed If the ‘only the profitable survive’ philosophy takes hold then the world will fill up with brothels… a bit like Amsterdam…

          The problem with public (government) funding is that it often comes with strings attached. That is to say if your orchestra is to get 800,000 euros then it must do 50 ‘education’ concerts in the backwoods with no tickets sales. Then the orchesta cannot concentrate either on making real art or making money. If a engineering company would get subsidised then usually it must take on trainees but there is no interference in the actual programmatic work schedule. Why do the governments who give the money try to control the course of cultural education? Firstly because the think that everyone should be given exposure to culture (in this case in the frm of ‘classical’ music). Secondly because they don’t understand how they themselves manged to grow up so unculturedly; a kind of ‘culture-envy’.

          I’m not saying that anyone should be denied access to culture but it is the responibility of the educator and not the artist to bring about this contact. How much of the discount on student tickets is absorbed by the Ministry of Education and how much by the Ministry of Culture? Many questions like this often go unanswered since the labyrinth of econmic law making is uncharted waters for most people in the arts administration business.

          So summing up, yes to arts subsidies but it is up to the artist to exploit them economically in order to sustain his or her or its (in the case of an orchestra) continuing existence. No to ‘dumbing down’ for pseudo-educational purposes, but yes to eduationalists promoting culture in schools.


          • John Borstlap says:

            Indeed the tasks of art education and art production are two different types of activity. Although individual artists can, if gifted for the purpose, take part in education, institutions like orchestras should not be forced to waste their time on educational projects, like the Berliner Phil going into the subburbs and have children dance to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring (that should be a task for other institutions). The reason that governments (also in England, Germany, the USA) want orchestras to justify their existence in other ways than their own task: performing music, is that in the wider context of Western societies art – and especially classical music – is increasingly seen as a parasitic highbrow entertainment of an elite and no longer related to modern times. Populism and a primitive notion of modernity undermine the art form, which still is a powerful symbol of cultural identity. Classical music institutions need to reformulate their function in society to defend this kind of criticism, which result from ignorance and lack of education.

          • PK Miller says:

            I could not disagree more strongly. The two are inextricably intertwined. Several times a year, David Allan Miller, Music Director of the Albany (NY) Symphony does a “Cowboy Dave” show with the ASO. It’s geared, of course, toward kids. I used to think it hopelessly corny. My “kinderapathy” is the stuff of which legends are made. I am a one-man rebuttal of the myths of Gay men lusting after children! My niece and I took the middle girl to one of the Cowboy Dave shows and she ate it up! Members of the Albany Symphony go into schools and let kids play w/instruments, often discerning innate talent. Much can be said about Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts. Performance AND education.

            I will always be grateful to the late Allen Mills, long time organist for a now defunct area choral society for cheerfully bearing with my insatiable curiosity about the organ and myriad “stupid questions.” The immortal E. Power Biggs gave a recital in Albany’s Roman Cathedral when I was a boy and I was entranced. “Someday I’M gonna play like that!” I never reached that pinnacle. I became a singer, even more spellbound by a scratchy 78 of the immortal Lauritz Melchior, declaring “Someday I’M gonna SING like that–and the rest is history!” Many organists and singers took time to answer my questions, validate what I was doing, “Why not!” declared one internationally renown organist when I asked him about doing things like playing a verse of a hymn 8va, etc. The late James McCracken was of invaluable support to a budding young heldentenor, helping me gain control over a sometimes unwieldy instrument,

            Thus, the education component for ALL of us, is critical. Lenny Bernstein was a consummate musician/director/pianist/composer. Yet he was also a first-rate EDUCATOR. He gave back 100 fold what he got. It was a dreadful, soppy movie, proving 6th Sense was a fluke–Joel Haley Osment CANNOT act–but we all MUST, absolutely have to, PAY IT FORWARD.

  6. Jan van Dooren says:
    Is the link to the Solomon by the Radio Chamber Filharmonic Orchestra and the Radio Choir
    Is the link to a compilation of the orchestras (over a hundred from all over the world) that protested against the cuts in the arts in the Netherlands.
    I also should declare an interest, I work for the conductor who did the Solomon and worked many times with the orchestra and was chief conductor of the choir.

  7. Alexandros Rigas says:

    Terrible news, all the more due to the artistic value of this ensemble. Let’s welcome the new values in our world.

  8. Richard Barker says:

    All this has nothing whatsoever to do with the financial crisis. The financial crisis is however a very convenient excuse for the triumph of ignorance over culture.

    • The gradual increase of influence of ‘the masses’, through the policital system and through commercial contemporary capitalism, means increase of ignorance and erosion of civilization. For a majority, culture is meaningless because of the lack of education that includes cultural values – as somehting different from economic and/or practical values – and the result is cattle to be exploited by corporate powers.

      But part of the problem is also the idea of ‘progress’ and ‘modernity’ which was so much cultivated in the last century and which devalues all art from the past, which form the core of our cultural institutions (museums, concert halls, orchestras etc.).

      Either we live through a serious temporary cultural crisis, in which we have to fight for a renaissance of cultural values, or we experience the eventual disappearance of a way of life, and witness the appearance of a new breed of men, the Modern Primitive, the very type which was such an excellent breeding ground for the disasters of the 20th century.

      • Ah: everyone who disagrees with you is “ignorant”, and as a result, civilization is eroding.


        • John Borstlap says:

          Personalizing arguments to escape their implications is ample confirmation of what I said in my comment…. The attacks on classical music from ‘outside’, from society, stem from ignorance about this art form – who would doubt that? Personalizing defenses is, by the way, also behind the government cuts in art subsidies: ‘Who do these people think they are?’ So, your comment is quite revealing.

  9. Dutch Radio 4 has a few archived concerts of the orchestra available for streaming. Listening to some of them might help keep the recordings (and the vast collection of archived performances at Radio 4) available for all. Even Dutch bean counters do keep track of listening statistics.

  10. Ina Wieczorek says:

    This is yet another step in the long downwards spiral of the Dutch music life! It is tragic!

    • John Borstlap says:

      In Holland, there is not a cultural elite as comparable to France or Germany, where art (and especially classical music) is not considered a superfluous little luxury but a necessary part of the nation’s cultural identity. The Netherlands have no cultural identity… it is a populist country where the arts are merely a façade, which is quickly dropped when economic pressures emerge.

      In fact, Holland is not a European country, in the sense of belonging to European culture. It is a rich little trading nation, nothing more, and all there is of cultural value is imported and rejected at whim.

      • David Wilde says:

        Holland a ‘Rich little trading country, nothing more’?
        What about Rembrandt and Vermeer?

        • John Borstlap says:

          But that was in the past…. couple of HUNDRED years ago. Also today there are fantastic painters in Holland, but they make a career outside the country, sell mainly to collectors from abroad. Dutch realist painter Wim Heldens won the BP Award of the National Portrait Gallery in London in 2011 and suddenly got famous in the Netherlands, the media asking: Why don’t we know you? He had been ignored all his life in his home country, while exhibiting his work in the USA. Marguerite Duras, a feeble artist who cannot draw and produces work which looks like water colours that have been left in the rain for a week, won the Dutch Vermeer Prijs, a joke, if you know what a painter Vermeer was. But Amsterdam recently opened an immense bath tube, which appeared to be an extension of the museum for modern ‘art’, mainly presenting concept art – we know what that means. A book could be written about the extensive joke Dutch cultural life is, and it has been done by various intelligent people. But it makes no difference. If the Dutch government got its way, it would gladly sell the entire contents of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, i.e. the entire collection of old Dutch art, to foreigners, so that the state budget could be made affluent again.

  11. Jean Leunissen says:

    As just an ordinary music lover, I am deeply saddened by the loss of te RKF. It was with the radioconcerts of the Radio Kamer Orkert and its bigger brother, the Radio Folharmosch Orkest (where Bernard Haitink made his début, btw), the forerunner, that i made my first steps into classical music. 5000 LP records, 3500 CD and 1100 Cassetes later, I still cherish the Dutch Radio Orchestras for their enterprising concert programmes. I have many taperecordings conducted by Frans Bruggen, Andrew Manze, Harnoncourt (his first tryouts in HIP Mozart & Schubert), but also pioneering recordings of modern music.

    The simple fact that they are almost 100% subventioned, does not mean that they are lazy, or not working. Every concert is broadcasted, sometimes all over the world. Being free from public money, being independent on the (conservative) taste of the avarage concertgoer, means that they can play a VERY important role in the musical history : playing modern music, experimenting in playing baroque & classical music. I have an almost complete Beethoven cycle incl. pianoconcerts by Ernest Bour from the seventies : he must have been one of the first in conducting LvB woth a chamber orchestra. Those performances were revelatory in their days, and have stood the time very well.

    Everone knows the price of everything, but only few know the value.

    RKF / RKO : hats off for all the pleasure you have given. May you rise from your ashes like a phoenix, sometime in the future.

    p.s.: It seems that the The Hague Conservatory will take over the music library of the radio orchestra. This means thas this priceless collection, a.o. very rare Dutch music, will be saved.
    Anyone knows what will happen to the sound archive. (My dear, will they throw away those recordings by Van Kempen, Van Otterloo, the Young Haitink, Brüggen? The mind boggles)

  12. How wonderful to see my old friend and honourable colleague, John Harding, talking like a true Australian in the midst of the Dutch chaos. I am sure that the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra owes you (and Edo de Waart) as much as the Residentie Orkest.

an ArtsJournal blog