‘I spent more on my pi­ano than on a car’

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Fame & Fortune -

Are you a saver or a spender?

A spender. My wife is bril­liant at help­ing us with our fi­nances. The or­gan­i­sa­tion of money and how it should work for you baf­fles me.

I buy wine through a wine mer­chant and over the years he’s in­ter­ested me in dif­fer­ent things. I love all that. And hol­i­days are a big ex­pense for us ev­ery year.

Do you use cash, debit cards or credit cards?

All three. I feel se­ri­ously im­pov­er­ished if I haven’t got much money in my wal­let and em­bar­rassed if I see some­body putting a tube of tooth­paste on a card. It must be my gen­er­a­tion. If it’s a big item I pay on the card.

Have you in­vested in prop­erty?

Only where we live. We have a loft apart­ment in Manch­ester and a house in north Lon­don.

Have you ever had trou­ble pay­ing your bills?

Yes, par­tic­u­larly in the Nineties. In my pro­fes­sion you’re paid spo­rad­i­cally. You might do three con­certs in a week but you’re not paid for three to four months. Some or­ches­tras now have it in their con­tract that you will not be paid un­til three months af­ter the event. You talk to the bank, but the peo­ple there change so fre­quently you have to keep ex­plain­ing ev­ery­thing. It’s rather dispir­it­ing.

What’s the hard­est les­son you’ve learned about money?

If it’s not in the con­tract you haven’t got a leg to stand on. If you’re con­cerned about the de­tails it has to be dis­cussed up front what will be put in the con­tract. If they refuse you have to de­cide, do I want to do this or not?

I have al­ways been paid even if I’ve had to wait for it. But fa­mous artists used to ask for their cash be­fore they did the last act of an opera. Maria Cal­las shoved the lire down her knick­ers so that she could go on stage con­fi­dent that she’d got the money. At the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Opera in New York I get a cheque in the sec­ond in­ter­val of ev­ery per­for­mance.

Have you saved for re­tire­ment?

We have stocks and shares through a fi­nan­cial ad­viser. Con­duc­tors don’t re­tire, they just take more time off – that is the the­ory.

Does money make you happy?


What has been your best fi­nan­cial de­ci­sion?

We bought a lovely house in Barns­bury, north Lon­don, in 1979 that cost so much money (£197,000) that it was a year be­fore we told any of our friends how much. We stayed there un­til we moved to High­gate in 2000. By then it was worth over a mil­lion – it was in­cred­i­ble to realise that we’d been sit­ting on a nest egg.

We’d had to get a mort­gage for that Barns­bury house. We were liv­ing on the edge and were of­ten over­drawn.

What are the best and worst things you’ve ever bought?

The best, our house. I’d never had to buy a pi­ano be­cause the one we had was in my mother’s fam­ily, but last year I got rid of it and spent about £42,000 on a new Stein­way. The guy there said, “Just think of it like a car” – but I’ve never spent any­thing like this on a car.

The worst? I lived for two years around 1973 in Syd­ney with a girl­friend and bought this mus­tard yel­low suit that I thought was chic. The flares and lapels were enor­mous. I mar­ried her in this suit. I sup­pose I was try­ing to learn how to be a bit hip­per – in the Six­ties I was so square I didn’t know what square meant. To wear it up the aisle was a bold move.

Why does opera get 62pc of Arts Coun­cil Eng­land’s mu­sic fund­ing when pop gets 8pc and jazz 2pc?

Opera is very ex­pen­sive and the more sub­sidy there is the cheaper the seats can be. The prob­lem is that Eng­land has never had the op­er­atic foun­da­tion you find in other Euro­pean coun­tries.

In Ger­many ev­ery town the size of Wolver­hamp­ton has its own opera house and opera com­pany. That’s why young mu­si­cians who want to be­come a con­duc­tor will get into the Ger­man rat race. It’s enor­mous – like our foot­ball league. The per­form­ing arts any­where in the world will never sur­vive with­out govern­ment sup­port and a coun­try with poor cre­ativ­ity is much less en­riched.

What’s the odd­est thing that has hap­pened in your ca­reer?

I did this fab­u­lously thrilling piece by Rach­mani­nov in China with the Aus­tralian Youth Or­ches­tra. It lasted over an hour. As usual, at the end

I got the or­ches­tra up on their feet and we took the ap­plause to­gether. I bowed and smiled and as soon as I walked off the stage for the first time the ap­plause stopped im­me­di­ately. The au­di­ence thought I’d gone home.

Sir Mark El­der says his worst buy was a mus­tard yel­low suit in the Sev­en­ties– ‘I was try­ing to be a bit hip­per’. Con­duct­ing the last night of the Proms in 2006, left

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