In the summer of 1904, the players of the Queen’s Hall Orchestra decided to take the outcome of a labour dispute into their own hands. They quit, hired a conductor, rented the Queen’s Hall, and started an orchestra of their own. They called it the London Symphony Orchestra.
The programme from their first concert lays out their manifesto in no uncertain terms. The talk of founding “a musical republic” must have sounded quite inflammatory in 1904, but they were only following in the footsteps of the Vienna Phil, which was founded as a republic in 1842, and the Berlin Phil, who declared independence four decades later when conductor Benjamin Bilse tried to make them travel to Warsaw by fourth-class train.
The recent decision of the Directors of the QUEEN’S HALL ORCHESTRA regarding the employment of Deputies, imposes conditions on its most prominent Members that they find it impossible to accept. About half the Band has in consequence felt it necessary to resign. These performers being, however, unwilling to lose touch with a public that has for many years showed the most generous appreciation of their abilities, have formed and Organization of their own under the title of
THE LONDON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
and have obtained the co-operation of sufficient number of eminent Instrumentalists to complete an Orchestra which they venture to think is second to none in Europe. That this is not too much to claim is evident from the fact that the players are the élite of their profession in London – artists not only of talent, but of experience in the rendering of all kinds and styles of music under the direction of the most eminent conductors of Germany, Hungary, Italy, France and Great Britain.
The objects of the London Symphony Orchestra will be similar to those of the Queen’s Hall Orchestra ; that is to say, it will give COnverts of its own ; and will be open to accept Engagements to play at concerts given by others. For this latter puropse the Orchestra will be available in its full strength or in smaller contingents, in numbers varying from 40 to 100.
This new venture will be carried on as in Berlin and Vienna, where the Members of the Orchestra of the Philharmonic Societies are their own directors. As such they elect their own conductors, and therefore form something akin to a Musical Republic. It is believed that the standing of the artists forming the band of the London Symphony Orchestra is such that the most eminent musicians will not hesitate to allow their names to appear as conductors of its Concerts, and the belief is strengthened by the significant fact that
Dr. HANS RICHTER
has kindly consented to Conduct the
I find the history of the London orchestras to be fascinating, especially once I realized how late all the separate bands were codified.
The dep system, which was completely foreign to me when I arrived in Manchester, certainly has its drawbacks but it has had such a profound effect on orchestral culture in the UK.
The idea that too much practice ruins the fun is such a part of all endeavors – sporting or music – is not really a thing over here, which may be why we have so few quality amateur bands.
Getting back to something more relevant to your post – the self-governing bands seem to have done alright for themselves. Perhaps Detroit should give it a try and see if they can manage it.
Ironically, I’m told that the orchestra committee’s first resolution was to place restrictions on the number of deps because the whole thing got completely out of hand. They’d show up to all the rehearsals and then send somebody else to the concert.
Still, it’s true that sight-reading in a concert is a fairly usual part of orchestral life in London. It keeps things interesting.
I wonder if the players of the DSO seriously think they could make more than $80,000 p/a each by running their own orchestra. It might be a way out from under the institution’s debt burden. It would be nice to see an American orchestra try it. One with nothing to lose. Any volunteers?
It has happened in the US before although the impetus for each instance is arguable. this is due to some legal issues dealing with employees forming competing organizations.
Nonetheless, I would say that the musicians from the former Colorado Springs Symphony Orchestra would fall into this mold when they made the decision not to block the liquidation bankruptcy request. From that moment forward, they (along with some managers and board members from the former group) immediately set plans into motion that resulted in what is now the Colorado Springs Philharmonic.
Regardless, the notion about any new group forming as a result of a dysfunctional environment likely offering wages far lower than what was previously in place is far more accurate than not.
That is an enormous program…
Elgar Symphonic Variations… must be Enigma Variations?
I think so. I can’t find any other Elgar variations. It was certainly more than two hours of music. More, if the heathen masses clapped between movements, which they probably did, since this was the dark ages, shortly after the mythical period in the past when classical music was universally treated with due reverence, but before the not-so-recent nostalgic memory of our youth when things were just done right.