Classical music concertgoers will tonight be picketed by environmentalists protesting against Solid Energy's sponsorship of the NZ Symphony Orchestra.

Auckland Coal Action plans to protest outside the Auckland Town Hall where the NZSO will be performing composer Gustav Mahler's Seventh Symphony - one of the most complex works of late Romanticism.

The concert is supported by national tour partner The Radio Network but the NZSO also receives funding from the state-owned miner.

Auckland University law professor Klaus Bosselman, one of the action group's supporters, said Solid Energy's sponsorship was embarrassing.


"Enjoying music thanks to Solid Energy's coal operations is perverse and embarrassing and today unworthy of a cultural nation.''

Coal Action spokeswoman Alex Winter-Billington said Solid Energy's sponsorship was immoral and the NZSO should be fully state funded.

"Like tobacco companies in the past, Solid Energy is trying to make itself look like the 'good guy' through association with one of our national treasures. That's not ok.''

Ms Winter-Billington said coal was the dirtiest form of energy in terms of climate and air pollution and was worse for people's health than tobacco.