Thursday, 22 September 2011

Letter to the Guardian: the LPO Four, 23 September 2011

Many thanks to the musicians and academics (some of them both!) who signed this letter to The Guardian: click here.

The text and signatories are reproduced below:

The plight of the four musicians summarily suspended from employment with the London Philharmonic Orchestra (Letters, 19 September) continues. LPO chief executive Tim Walker and chairman Martin Hohmann announced this move as a response to the musicians' signing a letter asking the BBC to rescind a Proms invitation to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra on account of that orchestra's role as an "ambassador" for the Israeli state. To identify themselves, the musicians said they were members of the LPO. They did not claim to speak for the orchestra; nor could anyone reasonably thus have read their signatures, four out of many, in which other affiliations were similarly stated. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Chilingirian Quartet, for instance, have not seen themselves similarly implicated.

The LPO's action raises serious issues of freedom of speech. Yet the management went further still, stating: "For the LPO, music and politics do not mix." The most cursory glance at musical history and, indeed, contemporary musical practice would demonstrate otherwise. As Daniel Barenboim's work with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra has shown, the contribution of many musicians to create a performance that is greater than the sum of its parts could hardly constitute a more political act. We also note the LPO was happy earlier this year to make a film, introduced by Mr Hohmann, voicing solidarity with Dutch arts organisations facing hardship and extinction from swingeing government cuts: what is that if not mixing music and politics? Whatever our respective views on cultural boycotts, citizens of a democracy should be free to identify themselves with a cause without fear of discipline or silencing. We call on the LPO to reconsider its decision and reinstate these musicians.

Dr Rachel Beckles Willson Royal Holloway, University of London
Théo Bélaud Music critic, Le Petit Concertorialiste
Dr Mark Berry Royal Holloway, University of London
Dr Julie Brown Royal Holloway, University of London
Dr Gavin Dixon
Dr Michael Downes Director of Music, University of St Andrews
John Fallas
Dr Lucy Grig University of Edinburgh
Dr JPE Harper-Scott Royal Holloway, University of London
Professor Michael Harris University of Paris VII
Dr James Helgeson
Maxim Kosinov Violinist
Professor Erik Levi Royal Holloway, University of London
Jonathan Manson Cellist
Barry Millington Editor, The Wagner Journal
Dr Anna Morcom Royal Holloway, University of London
Dr Cornelia van der Poll St Benet's Hall, University of Oxford
Gavin Plumley
Professor Julian Rushton University of Leeds
Professor Jim Samson Royal Holloway, University of London
Roderick Swanston Music historian
Dr Jeremy Thurlow Robinson College, University of Cambridge
Dr Ross Wilson University of East Anglia

P.S. For any French-speaking readers - though I assume if you are readers, you have some English at least! - there is a French translation of the letter at Le Petit Concertorialiste (click here).