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Last Updated: Monday, 24 May, 2004, 12:59 GMT 13:59 UK
London is 'classical music capital'
By Darren Waters
BBC News Online entertainment staff

London remains the classical music capital of the world, according to the leader of one of the city's most prestigious orchestras.

LPO in rehearsals
The LPO is based at the Royal Festival Hall
Timothy Walker, artistic director of the London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO), was speaking following a sell-out performance of The Lord of the Rings score, conducted by its composer Howard Shore.

"London's five great orchestras all thriving and successful," he said.

More than 3,000 people attended the performance of the Rings' Oscar-winning soundtrack at the Royal Festival Hall on Sunday.

The sell-out event has now been booked for a repeat performance in September.

Mr Walker said the concert was an example of how the orchestra was finding new audiences.

Howard Shore
Howard Shore recently won Oscars for best score and best song
"We have to do great symphonic repertoire. But film music is a great part of our musical life.

"We are funded by the taxpayer and we have a duty to appeal to as wide an audience as possible."

Clive Gillinson, chief executive of the London Symphony Orchestra, agreed that there was "more happening" in the classical music world in London than any other city.

Mr Walker pointed to London's "five great orchestras and two opera houses" as proof of the city's musical pre-eminence.

"New York has just one symphony orchestra," he said by way of comparison.

Paris has four main orchestras and two opera houses, while Berlin has two leading orchestras, the Berlin Philharmonic and Symphony Orchestras, and three major opera houses.

Mr Gillinson said New York was "extremely important" as a centre for classical music because of the number of visiting orchestras.

The LSO has set up a residency in New York.

London Philharmonic Orchestra
London Symphony Orchestra
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
BBC Symphony Orchestra
The LPO, which was founded in 1932, sells about 82% of all tickets for its concerts, and many events are sold out.

It will move home from the Royal Festival Hall next year as it undergoes refurbishment.

The orchestra will play concerts at the nearby Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Royal Albert Hall and St Paul's Cathedral instead.

Mr Gillinson warned there was a creeping conservatism in the musical tastes of audiences.

"In the last two to three years audiences have become slightly less willing to take risks with contemporary repertoire.

"The South Bank orchestras are definitely programming very conservatively. There is very little contemporary music in the programme."

The LSO is celebrating its 100th anniversary and Mr Gillinson pointed to last's George Benjamin festival and this year's Prokofiev Cycle as examples of the orchestra still taking risks.

Orchestras are very fragile organisations
Timothy Walker, LPO
He added: "But we are all having to respond to the marketplace."

The LPO, which is one of the South Bank orchestras, was still taking risks, said Mr Walker.

He said it would be possible to raise attendance to 90%, but he would be "worried that our programme was not adventurous enough".

"If we programme in a conservative way, with great conductors and soloists were are confident we would sell out the concert hall.

"With new, edgier work, and younger artists, the risks are higher.

"Orchestras are very fragile organisations. It is always difficult to balance the commercial and creative aspects of the orchestra."

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