For more than seven decades the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) has been at the forefront of music-making in the UK. Its home base since 2004 at London’s Cadogan Hall serves as a springboard for seven principal residencies as well as more than forty-five concerts per year in long-term partnership venues across the country, often in areas where access to live orchestral music is very limited. With a wider reach than any other UK large ensemble, the RPO has truly become Britain’s national orchestra.
The regional programme, plus regular performances at Cadogan Hall, Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall and a hugely popular series at the Royal Albert Hall, are conducted by a distinguished roster of musicians: Charles Dutoit, appointed Artistic Director and Principal Conductor in 2009 after a decades-long association with the RPO; Pinchas Zukerman, the inspirational Principal Guest Conductor; Alexander Shelley, the dynamic young Principal Associate Conductor since January 2015, and the esteemed Permanent Associate Conductor Grzegorz Nowak.
International touring is vital to the Orchestra’s work, taking it to many prestigious destinations worldwide. Recent engagements include concerts at the festivals of Montreux, Lucerne and Granada, an extensive tour of the USA, and visits to central Europe and the Far East, including South Korea and China.
In 2018, RPO Resound, the Orchestra’s community and education programme, marks its twenty-fifth anniversary. Throughout its history it has thrived on taking music into the heart of the regions that the Orchestra serves. From Azerbaijan to Jamaica and from Shanghai to Scunthorpe, the team – comprising the majority of the Orchestra – has worked with young people, the homeless, recovering stroke patients (in the award-winning STROKESTRA project in Hull) and in settings ranging from the Sea Life London Aquarium to hospitals, orphanages and children’s hospices.
In 1986, the RPO became the first UK orchestra to launch its own record label. The Orchestra has embraced digital advances and continuing its tradition of entrepreneurial innovation, in 2017 the RPO teamed up with concert-enhancing app, EnCue by Octava, becoming the first orchestra in Europe to offer its audiences real-time programme notes for selected performances delivered to their mobile or tablet devices. The Orchestra has become increasingly active on social media platforms, inviting audiences to engage informally on Facebook and Twitter (@rpoonline) and to enjoy behind-the-scenes insights on the RPO website (www.rpo.co.uk), YouTube (RPOOnline) and Instagram (@RPOOnline).
Although the RPO embraces twenty-first-century opportunities, including appearances with pop stars and on video game, film and television soundtracks, its artistic priority remains paramount: the making of great music at the highest level for the widest possible audience. This would have been lauded by its Founder and first conductor, Sir Thomas Beecham, who set up the RPO in 1946, leading a vital revival in the UK’s orchestral life after World War II.
Since then, the Orchestra’s principal conductors have included Rudolf Kempe, Antal Doráti, Walter Weller, André Previn, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Yuri Temirkanov and Daniele Gatti; and its repertoire has encompassed every strand of music from the core classical repertoire to music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and works by leading composers of recent years, including Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and Sir John Tavener.
As the RPO proudly looks to its future, its versatility and high standards mark it out as one of today’s most open-minded, forward-thinking symphony orchestras.
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‘Dutoit shaped a Firebird Suite that was both delicately beguiling and packed a punch, proving in the process why this orchestra still matters.’ The Telegraph
‘The RPO played it [Shostakovich Symphony No.15] with great dexterity and refinement.’ The Guardian (BBC Proms 2015)
‘The strings are highly impressive... the RPO offers muscular brass and first-class woodwinds. The rhythmic intricacies and sharp contrasts in mood and tempi were dextrously handled by Dutoit and the musicians delivered the music with fleet bravura.’ Chicago Classical Review
‘The RPO do sensuousness uncommonly well. The end result was rich yet delicate, with wonderfully liquid woodwind solos and an exquisite sheen on the strings.’ The Guardian
‘The result was a stirring, memorable performance of an exceptionally interesting and difficult work — just the kind of thing that has made the RPO such a welcome presence in Santa Barbara throughout the years.’ Santa Barbara Independent
‘[The concert] was a wonderfully engaging affair, notable for the beauty of the orchestral sound as well as for the depth of Dutoit’s insights.’ The Guardian
‘The string and wind sections played off each other spectacularly, with careful attention to detail and tone. This was to be expected from the Royal Philharmonic, one of the best and most prestigious symphonic orchestras in the world.’ The Daily Californian
‘...punchy orchestral playing in an exciting performance.’ The Telegraph