LSO director Simon Rattle speaks out about ‘desperate’ situation for UK classical music ahead of protest concert


Conductor Simon Rattle has spoken out about the existential threat facing the UK’s classical music scene.

Rattle, who currently serves as the music director of the London Symphony Orchestra, is set to conduct at a protest concert this week that will object to planned cuts by the BBC and Arts Council England (ACE).

It was recently revealed that the BBC Singers, a longstanding vocal ensemble that Rattle describes as the “best in the world”, is facing abolition as part of wider predicted cuts across the BBC’s classical music ecosystem.

Speaking to The Times, Rattle said: “The BBC and Arts Council England, the two largest funders of musicians in the country, seem to be operating a pincer movement against our art form.”

The BBC Singers are performing at the protest concert on Sunday, which will be held at London’s Barbican venue.

“I said I would like to pay for them to take part in an LSO concert, as a gesture of support,” Rattle said.

“Although they were very happy about the idea, they were also deeply worried about appearing unofficially outside the BBC umbrella.”

After the conductor consulted with the BBC, the organisation gave their permission for the group to perform.

Among the other proposed cuts was a 20 per cent reduction in the playing size of the BBC’s three English orchestras.

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The English National Opera also faces defunding from the ACE if it doesn’t relocate to outside London.

“So many decisions seem to have been made by people who don’t have a clue how the classical music business works,” Rattle added. “So of course many of those decisions are starting to unravel – which may almost be a mercy.”

Speaking about the forthcoming concert, he continued: “We need to remind people that an entire art form is threatened. This is a desperate moment, and it’s not the time to be diplomatic.”

In recent weeks, the BBC has shelved its planned cuts for the BBC Singers and orchestras, and ACE has offered temporary funding for the English National Opera.

“It’s obvious that the cuts will all be back on the table as soon as the Proms are over,” claimed Rattle. “They were just worried about protests and demonstrations [at the Royal Albert Hall].”

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