PATRICK Maxwell observes that classical music “is under threat”, partly because of government cuts and a lack of general public interest (Scottish orchestras are under-rated and neglected south of the Border, Apr 15). It’s certainly true that, in the UK, classical music and opera are not generally popular, often branded as highbrow and elitist and, perhaps as a result, deprived of state support.

Yet among the countries of Europe this lamentable state of affairs pertains only to the UK. In Berlin, for example, the total audience in 2023 for the Berlin Philharmonic was 241,770, with a seat occupancy of 86.4%. For Deutche Oper, it was 243,649 with exactly the same seat occupancy. Thousands of people also flocked to performances at the Konzerhaus, Statsoper, Komische Oper and the Berliner Ensemble.

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How to account for this popularity of serious music? Obviously, an education system which supports it instead of, in the main, ignoring it. Moreover, European governments give generous support. A ticket for the Berlin Philharmonic is 50% subsidised. For Deutsche Oper, the subsidy is 80.4%. In Germany, every small city has its own opera house. Theatre is also heavily supported, to the point that in places like Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich you can see a different classic or modernist play every night of the week.

Countries like France, Italy the Netherlands, the Ukraine and Russia also think that classical music, opera and ballet are important enough to subsidise. In this regard, even a small country like Finland puts the UK to shame.

In 1983, I was fortunate enough to attend a double production of Stravinsky’s Firebird and Petrushka ballets at the Palace of Congresses in the Kremlin. The audience comprised thousands, due in part to the extremely low ticket prices.

Given these examples, it must be the case that serious music could potentially be as popular in Scotland and in the rest of the UK. All it would take for this to happen is strength of political and educational will. With regard to internationally renowned performers, Scotland already punches far above its weight, thanks to the like of Karen Cargill, Catriona Morison, Sir Donald Runnicles and Nicola Benedetti. Think what it could do if people like Angus Robertson put their minds to it.

Alastair McLeish

ONE of the biggest problems for orchestras is Brexit. It’s harder to get talented musicians from other countries to come here. But worse, the red tape and cost of bureaucracy makes previously lucrative European tours unviable. Yet the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra continue to produce first-class work and get top reviews for their recordings. I agree with Patrick Maxwell about the unadventurous RSNO programme, however. Their repertoire is focussed on the tip of the musical iceberg, with nine-tenths of the best music hidden from view.

Michael Lloyd

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I WRITE in response to Tuesday’s letter from Dr D R Cooper, about Brexit not being a disaster. We have left the largest trading group in the world, GDP down 2-3%, we longer have a veto in the European Parliament, there are nearly two million fewer jobs in the UK, according to Goldman Sachs the UK economy is 5% worse than it would have been if we had stayed in the EU. I could go on, but Brexit continues to be a disaster.

Norman Robertson
via email

IT has been revealed that both MPs for Dumfries and Galloway have failed to speak on our behalf in the corridors of power, with David Mundell speaking just seven times so far in 2024 and Alister Jack 19 times, compared to the average of 32.

They have been elected, nay, re-elected on promises that they would speak up on the issues that concern people in Dumfries and Galloway yet all they ever seem to do is criticise the Scottish Government (which is not itself above criticism) while failing abysmally to offer positive or constructive suggestions as to what their masters are going to do to improve matters.

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Remember how they have overseen the transfer of jobs and businesses to other parts of this so-called United Kingdom. The only unity about which they care is that of their masters in Downing Street. Keep them out of the line of fire while keeping us peasants in our places.

Surgeries etc must be advertised in the pages of the Tory press because I have failed to see a single one of these things advertised anywhere, and the other parties need not crow. Their actions lead me to think that they do not care about representing people, only their parties.

We need a better form of democracy. One in which real people, with real needs, are given the opportunity to influence matters and not have their views shunted down some sideline to be forgotten. Representatives should represent – and not forget who put them there.

Chick McKenna