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The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) is a British orchestra based in London. It tours widely, and is sometimes referred to as "Britain's national orchestra".


In 1946, Sir Sir Thomas Beecham founded the RPO, which played its first concert in Croydonmarker on September 15 of that year. Beecham was the RPO's music director until his death in 1961. Rudolf Kempe, who became assistant conductor in 1960, became principal conductor in 1961 and music director in 1962. The RPO gave him the title of Conductor for Life in 1970, and he stepped down from the orchestra in 1975. Subsequent music directors and principal conductors have been Antal Doráti, Walter Weller, André Previn, Vladimir Ashkenazy, and Yuri Temirkanov. Daniele Gatti was music director from 1996 to 2009. Both Temirkanov and Gatti currently hold the title of RPO conductor laureate. In 2009, Charles Dutoit became artistic director and principal conductor of the RPO.

The orchestra toured the United States in 1950, thus becoming the first British orchestra to visit America since the London Symphony Orchestra in 1912.

A Review of the orchestral scene of 1950 said of the RPO:

Leader David McCallum … Royal Philharmonic Society concerts (Beecham 4, Celibidache, Sargent). Number of concerts: 32 (approx)…. The Philharmonia and Royal Philharmonic share a very serious disability: that neither is a permanently constituted orchestra. Both assemble and disperse more or less at random…there is no style which is distinctively RPO or Philharmonia.

Later the orchestra began to develop its own character, particularly in the woodwind section, led by Jack Brymer (clarinet), Gwydion Brooke (bassoon), Terence McDonagh (oboe), and Gerald Jackson (flute), sometimes referred to as ‘The Royal Family’.

After Beecham's death, the orchestra reorganised itself as a self-governing limited company. and soon encountered difficulties. The Royal Philharmonic Society decided not to engage the RPO for its concerts in 1963, Glyndebournemarker engaged the London Philharmonic instead of the RPO from 1964 onwards and the management of the Royal Festival Hallmarker also severed its connections with the orchestra. Some senior players left, and Kempe resigned as chief conductor, though he returned shortly afterwards. Helped by strong support from Sir Malcolm Sargent, the orchestra successfully mounted its own concerts at a cinema in the London inner suburb, Swiss Cottagemarker.

A further threat to the orchestra's existence came in 1984, when a review carried out on behalf of the Arts Council by the journalist William Rees-Mogg opined that England lacked 'a great eastern symphony orchestra': the suggestion was that the RPO should move to Nottinghammarker. However, another Arts Council report of the same period recommended that the RPO should supplement the London Symphony Orchestra as resident orchestra at the Barbican Centremarker; neither proposal came to fruition.

In 1992 the orchestra appointed Peter Maxwell Davies as associate conductor and composer. The same year, UEFA commissioned the orchestra to sing the UEFA Champions League Hymn . In July 2008, the RPO announced that it would continue its residency in Lowestoftmarker for a fifth year, bringing four concerts a year to England's most easterly town.


From its earliest days to the end of Beecham's life, the RPO made numerous recordings for Columbia Records, RCA Victor, and EMI under his baton. Among their first stereophonic recordings was the 1955 performance of the symphonic poem Tapiola by Sibelius, recorded by EMI. Some of the more memorable recordings included:

  • Beethoven Ruins of Athens, Symphony No. 2, Symphony No. 3, Symphony No. 6, Symphony No. 7, Symphony No. 8
  • Berlioz Harold in Italy, King Lear Overture, Le Corsaire Overture, Les Francs-Juges Overture, Les Troyens Overture, Roman Carnival Overture, Symphonie Fantastique, Trojan March, Waverley Overture
  • Bizet Symphony "Roma", La Jolie Fille de Perth suite, L'Arlésienne Suites 1 & 2, Patrie Overture, Boccherini Overture in D
  • Borodin Polovtsian Dances
  • Chabrier España, Joyeuse Marche
  • Debussy Cortège & Air de danse, Prélude à l'après midi
  • Delibes Le Roi s'amuse
  • Delius Brigg Fair, Dance Rhapsody No. 2, Fennimore & Gerda Intermezzo, Florida Suite Daybreak & Dance, Irmelin Prelude, On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring, Sleighride, Song Before Sunrise, Summer Evening, Summer Night on the River
  • Dvořák Legend in G minor, Symphony No. 8
  • Goldmark Rustic Wedding Symphony
  • Gounod Faust ballet music, Le sommeil de Juliette
  • Grétry Zémire et Azore ballet music
  • Grieg Symphonic dance in A, Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16 (Rene Liebowitz)
  • Handel Amaryllis, Love in Bath, Messiah, Solomon, The Faithful Shepherd, The Gods Go A'Begging
  • Haydn Symphonies 93–104, The Seasons
  • Holst The Planets Suite + St. Paul's Suite
  • Lalo Symphony
  • Massenet Last sleep of the Virgin, Waltz from Cendrillon
  • Mendelssohn Fair Melusine Overture, Symphony No 4, Italian
  • Mozart Clarinet Concerto, Die Zauberflöte Overture, Flute & Harp Concerto, German Dance K. 605, Haffner March K. 249, Haffner March K. 249, Minuet from Divertimento in D K. 131, Symphony No 41, Thamos Entr'acte, The Seraglio.
  • Mussorgsky Khovantschina Dance of the Persian Slaves, Pictures at an Exhibition (Ravel)
  • Offenbach Les Contes des Hoffman suite
  • Rachmaninoff Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43 (Yuri Temirkanov)
  • Rimsky-Korsakov Scheherazade
  • Rossini, La Gazza Ladra Overture, Le Cambiale di Matrimonio Overture, Semiramide Overture
  • Saint-Saëns Rouet d'Omphale, Samson & Dalila Dance of the Priestesses/ Bacchanale
  • Schubert Symphony No 1, Symphony No 2, Symphony No 3, Symphony No 5, Symphony No 6, Symphony No 8
  • Sibelius Valse Triste, Symphonies 6 and 7
  • Smetana Bartered Bride Overture & Polka
  • Richard Strauss Ein Heldenleben
  • Franz von Suppé Morning Noon & Night in Vienna, Poet & Peasant Overture
  • Tchaikovsky Eugene Onegin - waltz, Symphony No 4
  • Vidal Zino-Zina Gavotte
  • Wagner Die Meistersinger Suite, Flying Dutchman Overture, Götterdämmerung Funeral March and Rhine Journey, Lohengrin Prelude, Parsifal Karfreitagszauber, Die Meistersinger Prelude

In 1964, Igor Stravinsky recorded his opera The Rake's Progress with the RPO. From 1964 to 1979 the RPO was engaged by Decca Records to record the Gilbert and Sullivan operas with the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company.

In 1986, the orchestra launched RPO Records, claimed to be 'the world's first record label to be owned by a symphony orchestra.

As well as performing works from the classical repertoire, the RPO has recorded a number of film scores, including those for Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's The Red Shoes and The Tales of Hoffmann.

An extensive collection of budget-priced CDs recorded by the RPO has been released by The International Music Company AG in Germany. These CDs are mainly available on the European market.

Music Directors and Principal Conductors

Non-classical work

Associated with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, currently managed by Elli Appleby, which is devoted to playing lighter classics. It was formed in 1987, in succession to the Royal Philharmonic Pops Orchestra.

RPO players have been involved with many performances away from the classical repertory, including Yanni Live at the Acropolis, a concert held in Greece in 1993, conducted by Shardad Rohani; the Hooked on Classics series of records; orchestral arrangements of rock music by the likes of Pink Floyd, Elkie Brooks (on the album Amazing), Oasis, Queen, R.E.M., U2, and ABBA; the song/album, Art of Life by Japanese rock band X Japan, composed by Yoshiki Hayashi; the official theme music of the UEFA Champions League; tracks on the British folk metal band Skyclad's 2004 album A Semblance of Normality; the Symphonic Rock: A Symphony of Hits 2004 album; and the BBC Grandstand Theme in 1982; Seotaiji Symphony, a concert held in Seoulmarker in 2008, with South Korean rock star Seo Taiji, conducted by Tolga Kashif.

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra scored a #10 hit single in the United States in 1981-82 with the song, "Hooked On Classics."

The orchestra recorded the theme for Radio Mercury, who were also patrons of a number of concerts.

See also


External links

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