Rattle Rattled By State of Music Funding

LONDON -- Sir Simon Rattle, firing a parting shot before taking up the baton at the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, said Britain fell woefully short of the United States and Europe in orchestra funding.

Rattle complained that every orchestra in Britain 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 organization," he told The Radio Times magazine.

The tousle-haired 44-year-old was named last month as the youngest chief conductor in the 117-year history of the Berlin Philharmonic, following in the footsteps of such classical greats as Herbert von Karajan.

Rattle complained that Britain's Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, which he had run for 18 years, was the victim of "ludicrous cheeseparing." He said it had been forced to sell a grand piano and impose a recruitment freeze.

"No one asks to be featherbedded but not one player in the New York Philharmonic is paid as little as the highest paid leader of an orchestra in England," he said.

He said the Berlin Philharmonic's annual public subsidy was twice the Arts Council grant to London's four independent orchestras.

He said that underfunding and the poor quality of British concert venues were two of the reasons why he took the prestigious Berlin $1.5 million a year post as "The Pope of Music."

He said British orchestras received a fraction of the funding given to U.S. and other European orchestras.