The London Symphony Orchestra’s music director, Sir Simon Rattle, was so moved by the plight of freelance symphony musicians over the pandemic that he held a concert in their honour. The concert, which will air this Friday, April 9 on BBC Radio 3, marked the first time a large number of freelancers had been engaged in a full-scale symphony concert with the LSO since March 2020.
The all-string orchestra was made up of 36 members of the LSO and 32 freelance players. The idea came from LSO musicians who wanted to support colleagues who have had no symphonic work over the pandemic and little to no government support as freelancers.
Rattle told the Financial Times, “The problem is that some people have been looked after, while others have been left to sink or swim. The government’s help for freelancers missed people at both ends, older ones who may have been earning just over the limit and younger ones who were starting out. They all fell through the cracks. The LSO players are better off because they have an institution looking after them, but for freelancers each concert now is like a drop of water in the desert.”
The LSO has said that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on musicians in the UK, and ongoing restrictions have meant that many of those without permanent contracts face further months without work.
“Over the last year, cancelled concerts and more recent social distancing measures – with fewer players able to fit safely into the same space – have meant that we have been able to offer work to fewer than 20% of the usual number of freelance musicians we would have employed in a normal season,” said the LSO.
As LSO Chairman and Principal Second Violin David Alberman said of the concert and its support for freelance musicians, “It is with excitement and enthusiasm that we reunite with many of the extras we have played alongside for years, sharing in music-making once again. We have been lucky as Members to be able to continue recording our programme of concerts. But our extended family of invited freelance musicians have missed out. They are key to putting on our rich and varied programme of performances each year, and they have been sorely missed.”
Alan Davey, controller of BBC Radio 3, described the concert as as “a symbol of solidarity with freelance musicians and a sign that we are on the way back”.
Grieg Prelude from ‘Holberg Suite’
Herrmann Psycho – A Narrative for String Orchestra
Barber Adagio for Strings
Vaughan Williams Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis
Sir Simon Rattle conductor
London Symphony Orchestra
Tickets: free to listen