The LSO has been back in the black since 1987. Since then Gillinson has introduced a series of major organisational changes. He has launched an endowment fund - a half-million-pound kitty of "rainy day money", raised by gala concerts and sponsorship, so that if a crisis ever strikes again the orchestra will have something to fall back on.
He has also cut working hours and negotiated much better concert fees for the musicians. While the orchestra was straining to pull out of its crisis LSO musicians were working a six-and-a-half-day week, which left them exhausted. The comparatively low concert fees also meant that if musicians needed time off (and the sheer physical strain of performing meant that they did) they would move mountains to make sure that it was the concerts they dropped, not the highly lucrative film or recording studio work - which was artistically a ludicrous way of working.
Today LSO players make between £26,000 (for the more lowly members) and £36,000 a year and Gillinson has tightened the "release" procedures so that skipping concerts is much more difficult.
He has never regretted his career change. What he does regret are the early compromises. Perhaps they had to be made so that the really big artistic risks, like the Mahler and Rostropovich concerts, could be taken, but the memory of them still upsets him. "All I know", he says, "is that I never want to experience the feeling that I had in those days. Sometimes I'd go into the hall and I'd actually be ashamed of what was happening that night, because it wasn't an artist that we should have been associated with. Even though there were some terrific things then (the Mahler and so on), the fact of the matter is that there was probably about 25% of what we were doing that we shouldn't have been doing."
At the end of the day, says Gillinson, who now feels very proud of the LSO, orchestras have no right to exist unless they are doing things that matter, things that give people's lives another dimension. "If all you're doing is churning out a product, you shouldn't be here."
(Malcolm Brown is a freelance writer.)