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Tuesday, July 13, 1999 Published at 10:49 GMT 11:49 UK


Government rattles Sir Simon

Sir Simon Rattle: Leaving for Berlin

Conductor Sir Simon Rattle has attacked the UK government's attitude to the country's orchestras - claiming they are all "technically bankrupt" thanks to the way they are funded.

Sir Simon, who leaves the UK to become musical director for the Berlin Philharmonic in 2002, believes British classical musicians have been dogged for years by poor facilities and low pay.

Speaking to Radio Times magazine, he said that during his time in charge of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, it had to sell its grand piano and stop recruiting musicians to clear its deficit and secure funding from England's Arts Council.

He said: "I became like anyone running a British arts organisation - permanently exhuasted.

"Every orchestra in this country is technically bankrupt, but somehow muddles through.

"The important is always edged out by the desperate, which may be the way to run a war, but it's a bloody awful way to run an arts organisation."

'No-one asks to be feather-bedded'

Sir Simon, 44, added: "No-one asks to be feather-bedded, but not one player in the New York Philharmonic is paid as little as the highest-paid leader of an orchestra in England."

He also attacked the country's facilities, calling London's Royal Festival Hall "the worst major concert arena in England".

"The will to live seeps away in the first half-hour of rehearsal," he said.

He also said there would be a future for orchestras in the 21st century, in spite of high prices and technology making possible increasingly "real" recordings.

"Real people are better than virtual friends. It is like saying we don't need children as long as we have snapshots.

"Of course, it is expensive and some people go for social reasons, but it is a damn sight more expensive to hear Barbra Streisand.

"It's so important for music to be available to everyone, and that's a matter of political will as well as organisation."

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