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Tuesday 21 Nov 2017

Emily Hultmark is new Joint Principal Bassoon of the Philharmonia Orchestra

Emily Hultmark

The Philharmonia Orchestra has appointed Emily Hultmark Joint Principal Bassoon. Emily joins the Orchestra later this month, and will share the position with Robin O'Neill.

Emily was born in 1985 to English/Swedish parents, and grew up just outside London. She was a member of the National Youth Orchestra, gaining invaluable experience under the leadership of conductors including Sir Simon Rattle, Sir Colin Davis, Andrew Davis, Marin Alsop and Yan-Pascal Tortelier. She attended Chetham's School of Music, Manchester, studying with Graham Salvage between 2002 and 2004, before moving to Gothenburg, Sweden, where she studied with Anders Engström at Göteborgs Musikhögskola. In 2006, Emily moved to Berlin to study with Volker Tessmann at Hanns Eisler Hochschule der Musik.

Emily became a member of Göteborgs Symfoniker in 2008, playing for three years under their chief musical director Gustavo Dudamel; and  worked as Principal Bassoon with the opera orchestra of Valencia’s Palau de les Arts from 2012 to 2013, under the invitation of Zubin Mehta. Since 2014, she has been co-Principal Bassoon with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic.

Emily won the position of Finalist in the International Gillet-Fox Competition, 2010. She was awarded three consecutive prizes from the Philharmonia's MMSF (Martin Music Scholarship Fund), which was followed by a MMSF recital with players from the Philharmonia in 2007.

In Sweden, Emily was awarded the prestigious Sten A Olssons Stiftelse för Kultur scholarship in 2011 and in February 2015 the Prince Carl Gustaf young person's scholarship.

A creative background has allowed Emily the freedom to expand boundaries within her playing. She has a passion for exploring the capacity of the bassoon's place within improvisatory and experimental groups and creates her own music with electronics.

Emily’s solo appearances include Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto and Sinfonia Concertante with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic under the leadership of Santtu-Matias Rouvali and Martin Fröst respectively, as well as a performance of Mozart’s concerto with the Tampere Philharmonic under Rouvali.

Wednesday 4 Oct 2017

'Beethoven’s Fifth' wins Raindance Award for 'Best Music VR Experience’ & is released on Google Daydream

The Philharmonia Orchestra has cemented its status in the orchestral world as an innovator in virtual reality with a major award, new platform release and new filming project.

On Friday 29 September, the Orchestra’s Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor, Esa-Pekka Salonen, accepted the Raindance Film Festival Award for ‘Best Music VR Experience’ at a ceremony in London. This is the first year that the renowned Raindance Film Festival has given awards for VR film-making.

The Award was given for Beethoven’s Fifth, created in partnership with NASA and Google and directed by leading VR director Jessica Brillhart. The film, which is available on YouTube, celebrates the ‘Golden Record’ sent into space on Voyager 1, on the fortieth anniversary of its launch. Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony was one of the pieces on the ‘Golden Record’ and the recording sent into space was of the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Otto Klemperer.

On 5 October, the Philharmonia will release Beethoven’s Fifth, for free, on Daydream, Google’s new VR platform, which runs on Android and was launched last year alongside Google’s first phone, the Pixel. It is recognised as a major step towards a unified VR platform, countering the current fragmented distribution network for VR experiences. Daydream is now being rolled out to several new Android phones to operate with the Daydream View VR headset (available for £69), and will soon be compatible with all Samsung Gear VR headsets.

Luke Ritchie, Head of Digital Innovation and Partnerships at the Philharmonia Orchestra, said: “We’re delighted to have been part of this amazing project led by Jessica Brillhart, and it’s a huge boost for the film to be recognised by Raindance. It also confirms our conviction that VR is an incredibly exciting medium for classical music, and we intend to remain at the forefront of this emerging art-form.”

VR Director Jessica Brillhart said: “This piece is about the impact and importance of music. It serves as both an agent to engage us with our world but also holds the power to propel us mentally and seemingly physically to other ones. I can only hope that our efforts keeps true to the original message in 1977 and what the Golden Record continues to represent — how we, a humble species on a distant world, regardless of our abilities or disabilities, can be held together as one through the infinite power of music.”

On 1 October, the Philharmonia began its third Virtual Reality project. As part of a commission by The Space, which included a 2D live stream to a global audience, the Orchestra’s performance of Mahler’s Third Symphony – conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen – was captured in by multiple VR cameras. The final movement of the Symphony will be released in VR on YouTube360 in November 2017.

The first VR film from the Philharmonia, The Virtual Orchestra, was shot in 3D video and audio at London’s Royal Festival Hall in partnership with Southbank Centre and tech company Inition. It was premiered in an installation at the venue in September 2016 and is now available on the PlayStation VR platform.

Tuesday 5 Sep 2017

Philharmonia celebrates 40th anniversary of Voyager 1 and its 'Golden Record' with new VR release

On Monday 25 September 2017, the Philharmonia Orchestra will release its second exclusive piece of Virtual Reality content, Beethoven’s Fifth. Shot by Google’s VR team, the new film was conceived in partnership with NASA to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the launch of the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft, and the Golden Records that they each carried.

40 years ago today, on 5 September 1977, NASA launched Voyager 1 as part of a programme to study the outer Solar System. Still travelling today, Voyager 1, which in 2012 became the first human-made object to leave our solar system and enter interstellar space, is the furthest man-made object in space.

Mounted to the spacecraft is a golden-plated phonograph record, with a stylus and instructions on how to play it in binary mathematics. On the record is a suite of images, recorded greetings from earth and 90 minutes of music, including a Philharmonia Orchestra performance of the first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, conducted by Otto Klemperer (recorded for the Columbia label in 1960).

Marking the anniversary, the modern-day Philharmonia Orchestra and Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor Esa-Pekka Salonen worked with Google to film the Orchestra in VR performing the same piece, shot at London’s Henry Wood Hall. The resulting eight-minute film, titled Beethoven’s Fifth, cuts together this footage with scenes from interstellar space, imagining where Voyager 1 is travelling now. 

Beethoven’s Fifth will be released on the Philharmonia’s YouTube channel on Monday 25 September.

Esa-Pekka Salonen said: “The idea that there is a ‘golden record' that was an attempt to sample the best things humankind has achieved is inspiring. What’s exciting about this project is that we’re celebrating something much bigger than the music: we are part of a chain of intergalactic communication. Virtual Reality, which enhances the orchestral music experience, is the perfect vehicle to mark the Voyager 1 anniversary."

Luke Ritchie, Head of Digital Innovation and Partnerships at the Philharmonia Orchestra, said: “I can’t think of a more inspirational project than NASA’s Golden Record to draw from for the Orchestra’s second foray into VR. And on the 40th anniversary of the Orchestra’s music being launched into deep space, this seems a fitting response from the modern-day Philharmonia.”

VR Director Jessica Brillhart said: “This piece is about the impact and importance of music. It serves as both an agent to engage us with our world but also holds the power to propel us mentally and seemingly physically to other ones. I can only hope that our efforts keep true to the original message in 1977 and what the Golden Record continues to represent — how we, a humble species on a distant world, regardless of our abilities or disabilities, can be held together as one through the infinite power of music.”

Beethoven’s Fifth will be the second major content release in Virtual Reality from the Philharmonia. The first film, The Virtual Orchestra, was shot in 3D video and audio at London’s Royal Festival Hall in partnership with Southbank Centre and tech company Inition. It was premiered in an installation at the venue in September 2016 and is now available on the PlayStation VR platform.

A new, longer-format version of this original presentation, which features Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony, will again be presented – for free – on 10 PlayStation VR headsets during the opening weekend of the 2017/18 Classical Season at Southbank Centre and as part of the Nordic Music Days festival.

From Thursday 28 September to Sunday 1 October, The Virtual Orchestra: Sibelius 360, can be experienced on Level 2 at Royal Festival Hall.

Tuesday 22 Aug 2017

22-year-old Tom Blomfield joins the Philharmonia as Joint Principal Oboe

The Philharmonia Orchestra has appointed Tom Blomfield, 22, as Joint Principal Oboe. He will share the position of Principal Oboe with Gordon Hunt.

Tom was born in North Wales, and studied at the Royal Academy of Music under Christopher Cowie (his predecessor in the position) and Ian Hardwick.

As principal oboe in a number of projects with the Royal Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra Tom has worked with Edward Gardner, Oliver Knussen and Sir Mark Elder. In his second year, Tom was selected to play principal oboe in the Royal Academy of Music Soloists Ensemble with Trevor Pinnock, in a  project that culminated in a release on Linn Records of Mozart's Serenade for 13 Winds in B Flat.

Tom has appeared as guest principal oboe with the London Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Orchestra, and has performed with Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Sinfonia Cymru. Tom joins the Philharmonia in September 2017.

Kira Doherty, Chair of the Philharmonia Orchestra, commented: “We are delighted that Tom is joining the Philharmonia Orchestra. The members were hugely impressed with Tom’s performances with the Orchestra, and we look forward to welcoming him.”

The Philharmonia's Principal Oboe's Chair is endowed by Elizabeth Aitken. Click here for more information on Chair endowments.

Monday 10 Jul 2017

South Bank Sky Arts Award for Stravinsky series

The Philharmonia Orchestra and Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor Esa-Pekka Salonen have won a South Bank Sky Arts Award for their 2016 series, Stravinsky: Myths & Rituals.

Esa-Pekka Salonen accepted the award at a ceremony in London last night. Watch the awards ceremony on Sky Arts on 12 July at 8pm (click here).

The award was in the classical music category of the Awards, which recognises achievements across the arts and entertainment sectors in the UK.

Stravinsky: Myths & Rituals, which was also shortlisted for an RPS Music Award, was a five-concert exploration of the music of Igor Stravinsky, and took place from May to September 2016 at the Orchestra's home venue, Southbank Centre. Conceived and conducted by Salonen, the series juxtaposed early and late - and well-known and rare - Stravinsky works, often presented in concert formats that utilised lighting and choreography. Artists with whom Salonen collaborated on the series included director Peter Sellars and choreographer Karole Armitage.

Major partners and collaborators for the series were Festival International d'Art Lyrique d'Aix-en-Provence, the Royal College of Music and BBC Radio 3.

The series also features a wide range of accompanying content, with insights talks, commissioned essays, a film documentary and interactive website, the programme for which was led by Series Advisor Jonathan Cross.

Image credit: Sky.

Tuesday 27 Jun 2017

The Philharmonia secures Arts Council England NPO funding for a further four years

The Philharmonia Orchestra is delighted to have secured its place as an Arts Council England (ACE) National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) for 2018-22.

ACE will continue to invest in the Philharmonia’s work at the same level as 2015-18: £2.04million a year.

Philharmonia Managing Director Helen Sprott said: “Arts Council England’s continued investment in the Philharmonia Orchestra is a vote of confidence in our work, and reflects the success of the Orchestra’s artistic and education programmes, and audience reach in London, across the UK and internationally.

“The challenges facing the orchestral sector are formidable, but with ACE’s commitment, a strong management and great artistic leadership in place, and an orchestra performing at the very highest level, the Philharmonia is in an excellent position.”

Image: Music of Today series; Kwamé Ryan conducts the Philharmonia, April 2017 (credit Camilla Greenwell).

Tuesday 6 Jun 2017

Philharmonia Orchestra nominated for 2017 South Bank Sky Arts Award

The Philharmonia Orchestra's critically-acclaimed 2016 series with Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor Esa-Pekka Salonen, Stravinsky: Myths & Rituals, has been nominated for the 2017 South Bank Sky Arts Awards, in the classical music category.

This is the second award nomination for the Stravinsky series, which was short-listed for a Royal Philharmonic Society Award earlier this year. The series, which the Daily Telegraph said stood out "for its intelligence, concentrated focus, and daring”, was devised by Esa-Pekka Salonen.

Five concerts of Stravinsky's music at Southbank Centre's Royal Festival Hall and St John's Smith Square placed the iconic Russian composer's music in context, with themes of ritual, tales, faith, myth and tragedy. Each concert featured elements of dance, lighting design or drama, with Salonen working with artists including choreographer Karole Armitage and director Peter Sellars.

The core concerts were supported by a programme of chamber concerts (in collaboration with the Royal College of Music), talks, essays, broadcasts (with media partner BBC Radio 3), a documentary film and an interactive online documentary, all of which were delivered in collaboration with Series Advisor and Stravinsky expert Jonathan Cross. 

The South Bank Sky Arts Awards recognises British achievements in the arts. Connected to the long-running British arts programme The South Bank Show, the awards have been given annually since 1996.

The awards ceremony will take place take place on Sunday 9 July at The Savoy Hotel in London, and will be presented by South Bank Show presenter Melvyn Bragg.

For a full list of nominees, click here.


Monday 8 May 2017

Philharmonia releases Virtual Reality app on PlayStationVR platform & announces Southbank Centre return

The Philharmonia Orchestra and Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor Esa-Pekka Salonen today announce the next stage of their project to develop virtual reality as a medium for orchestral music, with an app release on the PlayStationVR platform and a return to Southbank Centre with The Virtual Orchestra experience.

The Virtual Orchestra, created in a partnership between the Philharmonia Orchestra, Southbank Centre, London-based VR specialists Inition and music publishers Music Sales, will be the first app from a symphony orchestra to be released on the PlayStation PSVR platform. The Orchestra worked closely with INITION and Sony’s R&D teams to create this first VR film, one of the highest-quality full-360 3D stereoscopic video and spatial audio live-action VR films yet to be released.

The presentation, featuring the Philharmonia at Southbank Centre in full 3D audio and 3D video will be released as two apps on the PlayStationVR store: Preview (£0.99) and Premium (£2.99). The premium version is a 14-minute experience, and features a backstage documentary film followed by a full performance – conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen – of the third movement of Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5, on-stage at the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall.

The Virtual Orchestra app is released in Europe, ahead of a wider international release. Sony’s PlayStation is emerging as a dominant player in the nascent VR market, with nearly one million PSVR headsets sold since its launch in October 2016.

Esa-Pekka Salonen, Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor of the Philharmonia Orchestra, said: “The incredible power of virtual reality is that it is disappointing to leave it - to come back to reality. There is no doubt that for classical music virtual reality will be a very powerful, useful medium, and I am very excited to be taking part in this project.”

Helen Sprott, Managing Director of the Philharmonia Orchestra, said: “This special release cements the Philharmonia Orchestra’s status as a sector leader in the emerging market for Virtual Reality. We firmly believe in VR as a tool for both reaching new audiences and diversifying new revenue streams for the Orchestra. Many thanks go to our partners at Sony, Inition, Southbank Centre, Music Sales and, of course, Esa-Pekka Salonen, without whom this ambitious project would never have happened.”

Peter Collis, Head of 360/3D Film Production at INITION, said: “Philharmonia Orchestra and INITION were keen to explore the potential of VR as an insight into what it is like to be a conductor at the heart of the performance. We felt it vital to strive for stunning 360° imagery and crisp, clear positional sound so that the viewer has the full freedom to explore the detailed craft and workings of some of the world’s most talented musicians.”

The release follows a number of tech industry showcases throughout 2016, including a WIRED conference in London, Sound & City in Tokyo, the Rio Olympics, SXSW, CAL Berkeley, which followed the original launch of the Philharmonia and Esa-Pekka Salonen’s VR project, at The Virtual Orchestra project at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall in September and October 2016. The Guardian described the project as: “an extraordinary glimpse inside the sights and sounds of a symphony orchestra.”

The Virtual Orchestra will return to Southbank Centre from 28 September to 1 October 2017 with a presentation in the foyer of the Royal Festival Hall, and featuring the long-form VR experience that forms the premium version of the app release. Audiences will be able to experience the Philharmonia in virtual reality for free as part of both the opening of Southbank Centre’s classical season and the Nordic Music Days weekend, of which the Philharmonia, Esa-Pekka Salonen and violinist Pekka Kuusisto are part of the programme.

Future projects
The Philharmonia Orchestra and Esa-Pekka Salonen are committed to continuing to develop the potential for Virtual Reality as a medium for engaging new audiences with classical music. 

In June 2017, as part of a project with a major technology partner, full details of which are to be announced, the Orchestra will release a second Virtual Reality experience, which will be premiered at Sheffield DocFest from 9 to 13 June 2017.

Philharmonia Digital Director Luke Ritchie said: “Orchestras have a long track record of technological innovation. From the Philharmonia’s early adoption and development of stereo and multitrack techniques in Abbey Road in the 1950s, through Herbert von Karajan’s pioneering use of video to capture live performances in the 1960s and 1970s, Esa-Pekka Salonen has continued that tradition with a decade of creative projects with the Philharmonia’s in-house Digital team.”

Search “The Virtual Orchestra” in the VR section of the PlayStation Store to download the app:  

Thursday 30 Mar 2017

The Philharmonia announces two Principal Guest Conductors: Jakub Hrůša and Santtu-Matias Rouvali

The Philharmonia Orchestra has appointed two internationally acclaimed conductors, Jakub Hrůša and Santtu-Matias Rouvali, as Principal Guest Conductors. With these appointments, under the leadership of Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor Esa-Pekka Salonen, the Orchestra broadens its artistic team. The post of Principal Guest Conductor was last held by Sir Charles Mackerras, until his death in 2010.

Hrůša and Rouvali take up their roles at the beginning of the 2017/18 Season. Both artists will conduct several concerts a year – and contribute to the programming for the Orchestra’s major series – in the Philharmonia’s London Season at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall, as well as in concerts across the Orchestra’s UK programme and internationally.

Czech conductor Jakub Hrůša (35) has been a regular guest conductor with the Orchestra since his debut in 2011. With a wide-ranging repertoire, the music of Central Europe has been a strong feature of his programmes, including a revelatory performance of Suk’s Asrael Symphony in 2014.

Click here to watch a new film about Jakub Hrůša and the Philharmonia.

Santtu-Matias Rouvali (31), who is from Finland, has conducted the Philharmonia in concerts across its UK residencies. In his debut with the Philharmonia at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall in January 2016, Rouvali conducted the Second Symphony of his Finnish compatriot, Sibelius, alongside Rolf Martinsson’s Trumpet Concerto, with Håkan Hardenberger as soloist. 

Click here to watch a film about Santtu-Matias Rouvali, filmed on location in Finland.

Jakub Hrůša and Santtu-Matias Rouvali both conduct the Philharmonia at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall in April 2017. On Thursday 6 April 2017, Hrůša conducts Dvořák Symphony No. 8 and the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with Sergey Khachatryan.

Rouvali conducts a sold-out Sunday matinee on Sunday 23 April at 3pm. Following a pre-concert talk in which he speaks to the Philharmonia’s Principal Trumpet, Alistair Mackie, Rouvali conducts The Planets and Elgar’s Cello Concerto, with Alban Gerhardt the soloist.

Looking ahead to 2017/18, Rouvali conducts Ravel’s arrangement of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition on 5 October. Hrůša conducts a work close to his heart: the complete version of Smetana’s Ma Vlast in Leicester (7 October) and London (8 October), alongside Dvořák’s Violin Concerto in A minor with soloist Hilary Hahn.

Monday 27 Mar 2017

Philharmonia Orchestra awarded Help Musicians UK grant for Instrumental Fellowship Programme

The Philharmonia is delighted to announce that the Orchestra is one of 20 organisations to have been awarded £1.7m in funding over three years through a new National Grants Programme from Help Musicians UK, an initiative aimed at creating opportunities for and empowering musicians in their careers across the whole of the UK.

The £86,895 grant for the Philharmonia will support the Orchestra’s recently relaunched MMSF Instrumental Fellowship Programme. The programme supports instrumentalists who are seeking an orchestral career, both supporting their musical development and providing them with an awareness of how an orchestra runs and their role within it.

During the course of the two year programme, recipients receive mentoring and advice from Philharmonia musicians; a masterclass programme; a number of paid dates with the Orchestra working with some of the world’s top conductors; paid project work with the Education department to learn from expert workshop leaders and animateurs; and recital opportunities.

The new Fellows will also be expected to give back to a younger generation of instrumentalists through participating on a range of Philharmonia coaching projects with its Music Hub, School and Higher Education partners across its Residencies, thereby contributing to the Orchestra’s widening access and sector diversity initiatives.

Philharmonia Orchestra Education Director Alexandra Brierley said:We are delighted that Help Musicians UK have decided to support the Philharmonia's Instrumental Fellowship Programme. This will enable us to significantly increase our offer to young orchestral musicians at the very start of their careers, and to put in place a training scheme that will encompass a broad spectrum of opportunities, so that young musicians can hone their skills and develop their understanding of what it means to be a 21st century orchestral musician.

“In addition, HMUK's support will allow the Philharmonia to offer its existing membership a range of Continued Professional Development sessions, including enhancing their learning and outreach skills.”

Richard Robinson, Help Musicians UK Chief Executive, commented: “Supporting and enabling these organisations to develop and grow reflects HMUK’s commitment to sustaining the sector and ensuring that there continues to be innovative and impactful opportunities for music makers across the UK. The combined investment of £1.7m over three years will ensure that more musicians can be reached in areas of the UK where we have had little impact in the past.”

Claire Gevaux, HMUK Creative Director, added: “We are delighted to be supporting these 20 organisations that will open doors for many more musicians over the next three years in this crucial time of uncertainty. We have been on an incredible journey over the past year creating and opening up our new funding programme for organisations which will realise our ambitions over the next five years.”

The Philharmonia Orchestra’s MMSF Instrumental Fellowship programme is the successor to the Martin Musical Scholarship Fund, which, administered by the Philharmonia Orchestra, has given invaluable support to countless young musicians since 1968. Its founder and benefactor provided enough money to enable exceptionally talented students to bridge the difficult gap between full-time study and professional status.

Many Martin Musical Scholarship Fund award winners have gone on to extremely successful orchestral or solo careers. Alumni include Alison Balsom, Natalie Clein, Michael Collins, Alina Ibragimova, Steven Isserlis, Freddy Kempf, Tasmin Little, Jennifer Pike and Laurence Power. Philharmonia Orchestra players have also been beneficiaries such as current members Byron Fulcher and Mark van de Wiel.

Pictured: four of our five 2016/17 Philharmonia Instrumental Fellows (clockwise from top-left: Alix Lagasse, Emma Oldfield, Yaroslava Trofymchuk & Emre Ersahin).


Friday 20 Jan 2017

The Virtual Orchestra: Facts & Figures Infographic

Virtual Orchestra

The Philharmonia and Southbank Centre’s The Virtual Orchestra project brought two digital experiences to the foyer spaces of Royal Festival Hall in September and October 2016.

Walk-through audio-visual exhibition Universe of Sound, based on Holst’s The Planets, and Virtual Reality presentation 360 Experience (the first VR presentation from a UK orchestra), which features Sibelius Symphony No. 5, were open to the general public for free, with visits and workshops hosted for schools and community groups.

The project culminated in a special live concert, presented by Marcus du Sautoy and conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, on Saturday 1 October 2016.

A successor to the Philharmonia’s iOrchestra audience development project, The Virtual Orchestra aimed to reach people with classical music outside the concert hall, and received around 10,000 visits across 10 days. In this infographic, key figures from the project are released for the first time: click here.

The report shows high engagement levels and a younger audience base, including:

  •          62% of The Virtual Orchestra visitors were aged 16 - 44, compared to 36% for London arts audiences and 21% for Southbank Centre classical audiences
  •          18% of visitors were from a black, Asian or ethnic minority (BAME) background, which is more than double average London arts audiences (7%)
  •          38% of under-16s visitors through the schools programme were from a BAME background, which is higher than the London population at 33%
  •          Of those who had never been to a classical music concert before, 91% of adult respondents said that they would consider going to one after their experience at The Virtual Orchestra
  •          80% of respondents to the survey enjoyed themselves ‘very much’

The Virtual Orchestra was produced by the Philharmonia Orchestra and presented in partnership with Southbank Centre. 360 Experience was presented through a partnership of Philharmonia Orchestra, Inition and Southbank Centre. The Philharmonia’s virtual-reality project was conceived by the Orchestra and Esa-Pekka Salonen. Universe of Sound was conceived and created by the Philharmonia Orchestra and Esa-Pekka Salonen, and was presented in partnership with Southbank Centre.

For further information about the project and the Philharmonia’s Digital projects, please contact:
Luke Ritchie, Digital Director
+44 (0)207 921 3900 
[email protected]

Friday 23 Dec 2016

Philharmonia Orchestra appoints Helen Sprott as Managing Director

Helen Sprott

The Philharmonia Orchestra is delighted to announce that Helen Sprott is to be the Orchestra’s new Managing Director. Helen moves to the Philharmonia from Arts Council England, where she has been Director of Music and has worked since 2005.

Helen will take up the post in April 2017 as the permanent replacement for David Whelton, who retired in August 2016 after 29 years with the Orchestra, and takes over directly from Interim Managing Director Alistair Mackie. 

Helen Sprott said: “I have been a fan of the Philharmonia Orchestra and Esa-Pekka Salonen since my student days. The Philharmonia is one of the world's great orchestras, generating extraordinary passion and loyalty among its followers, and it is a real privilege to be appointed Managing Director. 

“My ambition is to support these wonderful musicians to reach new audiences across the world, whether virtually or through live concerts, so that as many people as possible see and hear the Philharmonia, and experience the incredible work of this Orchestra.”

Kira Doherty, Chair of the Philharmonia Orchestra, said: “We are thrilled to welcome Helen to the Philharmonia. She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience as well as a deep love of music and respect for the Orchestra. We very much look forward to working together.”

Esa-Pekka Salonen, Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor said: "It is great news for the Philharmonia that Helen will be the new Managing Director. She has tremendous passion for our art form, and will bring her considerable energy and expertise to the role. I look forward to working with her and the exciting times ahead.”

Prior to joining Arts Council England, Helen Sprott was Commissioning Editor for Music and Performing Arts with Channel 4 Television, a music specialist on BBC 2’s The Late Show, and Commissioning Editor, Music Books, with the publisher Faber and Faber. She trained as a cellist and graduated with a BA (Hons) in English Language and Literature from University College, London.

Wednesday 30 Nov 2016

Philharmonia & Esa-Pekka Salonen to give UK premiere of newly found Stravinsky work


On 19 February 2017, the Philharmonia Orchestra and Esa-Pekka Salonen will give the UK premiere of Funeral Song, an orchestral work by the young Igor Stravinsky, assumed lost in the Russian Revolution but recently discovered at the St Petersburg Rimsky-Korsakov State Conservatory.

The premiere will be recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in Concert on 24 February 2017.

The 12-minute work is considered the missing link between his early Fireworks and Scherzo Fantastique and his ballet The Firebird, which launched Stravinsky’s international career. Stravinsky wrote about the piece later in his life:

“I can no longer remember the music, but I can remember the idea at the root of its conception, which was that all the solo instruments of the orchestra filed past the tomb of the master in succession, each laying down its own melody as its wreath, against a deep background of tremolo murmurings simulating the vibrations of bass voices singing in chorus”.

Salonen’s UK premiere with the Philharmonia is followed by the Japanese premiere, at Tokyo Opera City on 18 May 2017, and the Spanish premiere in Madrid on 24 February 2017.

Book tickets for the UK premiere.

Monday 24 Oct 2016

Classic FM celebrates Philharmonia relationship with a series of broadcasts

Philharmonia Orchestra

The Philharmonia is delighted to be featuring widely on Classic FM this week as part of a special focus on the Orchestra. The Philharmonia is Classic FM’s ‘Orchestra on Tour’ and at the centre at this week of programming will be a broadcast of its 20th Anniversary Season concert at De Montfort Hall in Leicester, which took place on 18 October and celebrated two decades of the Philharmonia as Resident Orchestra at the venue.

In its Friday night (28 October) Full Works Concert, Classic FM listeners will hear a broadcast of the concert, with Ben Gernon conducting Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5 and the Sibelius Violin Concerto, with former Sibelius Competition winner Sergey Khachatryan as soloist.

Three more programmes celebrate the Philharmonia on Classic FM this week. On the evenings of 26 and 27 October, the station will broadcast two other Full Works Concerts of Philharmonia recordings. The series culminates on 30 October with David Mellor’s Sunday show, when the presenter will celebrate the early years of the Philharmonia, with recordings pioneered by producer Walter Legge, the Orchestra’s founder, and others made in its first decades. Conductors and works featured include Herbert von Karajan conducting Sibelius’s Symphony No.5, Arturo Toscanini directing Brahms’s Symphony No.2 and Otto Klemperer conducting Beethoven and Mahler.

Click on the following links for full details:
26, 27 & 28 October Full Works Concerts 
30 October – David Mellor celebrates the early years of the Philharmonia

Wednesday 10 Aug 2016

Philharmonia Orchestra Chairman Alistair Mackie Appointed As Interim Managing Director

Alistair Mackie

The Philharmonia Orchestra has appointed its Chairman, joint-Principal Trumpet Alistair Mackie, as Interim Managing Director. Mackie will take up the post in September 2016 when current Managing Director David Whelton retires.

Alistair Mackie will head the administration of the Orchestra, supported by the Philharmonia’s senior management team, until a new Chief Executive is appointed, the recruitment process for which is ongoing.

Esa-Pekka Salonen, Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Philharmonia, will work closely with the Interim Managing Director on forward planning of the Orchestra’s London season and international touring programme. Salonen, who was appointed Principal Conductor in 2008, recently extended his contract, to the end of the 2017/18 season.

The Philharmonia is a self-governing Orchestra, owned by its members. Alistair Mackie has been a member of the Philharmonia Orchestra for 20 years. He was Chairman for two terms from 2005 to 2011, and was elected to the position again in January 2016. For the period in which Mackie is Interim Managing Director, No. 2 Horn Kira Doherty will take up the position of Chair of the Philharmonia Orchestra.

Tuesday 2 Aug 2016

Full details announced for The Virtual Orchestra at Southbank Centre

Virtual Orchestra

Full details announced for The Virtual Orchestra at Southbank Centre, culminating in a live concert for new audiences conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen

The Philharmonia Orchestra and Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor Esa-Pekka Salonen embark on a major technology-led audience development project at the Orchestra’s home, Southbank Centre in London, in September and October 2016.

Over two weeks (23 September to 2 October 2016), The Virtual Orchestra uses the latest technology to open up the inner workings of a symphony orchestra to people of all ages, whether or not they have ever stepped inside a concert hall.

Two digital installations, Universe of Sound (a multi-room, walk-through audio-visual installation based on Holst’s The Planets) and 360 Experience (a virtual reality experience, backstage and on the concert platform at Royal Festival Hall) will put audiences inside the Philharmonia Orchestra.

Each morning the Philharmonia Orchestra and Southbank Centre will deliver workshops for schools and community groups, with family workshops at the weekend. The installations will be open to the public for free each afternoon.

In a newly announced date, Salonen will conduct the Philharmonia Orchestra in The Virtual Orchestra: Live in Concert on Saturday 1 October, in an informal early evening concert at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall. The performance, aimed at audiences of all ages and musical experience, will feature music from the installations (excerpts from The Planets and Sibelius Symphony No. 5) alongside Stravinsky’s The Firebird, in a thrilling climax to the series.

Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor Esa-Pekka Salonen said: “The Philharmonia's Digital Projects have taken place all over the world and I am delighted that we are now bringing Universe of Sound to our home at Southbank Centre, and to our London audience. The incredible power of virtual reality is that it is disappointing to leave it - to come back to reality. There is no doubt that for classical music virtual reality will be a very powerful, useful medium, and I am very excited to be taking part in this project.”

Philharmonia Orchestra Managing Director David Whelton said: “The Philharmonia has an outstanding record of using cutting-edge technology to introduce new audiences to the extraordinary world of the symphony orchestra. We are delighted to be doing so again and on such an ambitious scale with The Virtual Orchestra and, crucially, to be completing the project with a concert conducted by Esa-Pekka with music from the installations.”

Gillian Moore MBE, Director of Music, Southbank Centre said: "We are thrilled to be opening Southbank Centre's 2016/17 Classical Season with a brand new digital partnership with resident orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra. Southbank Centre’s belief is that everyone should have access to classical music. We constantly seek new ways to do this and are excited to be a part of the first major virtual reality initiative from a UK orchestra, bringing classical music to new audiences through cutting edge digital technology. Classical music's place in society is not confined to the concert hall and we can't wait for Philharmonia Orchestra to bring their award-winning digital projects to the public foyer spaces of the Royal Festival Hall for ten days of free and interactive world-class music."

The Virtual Orchestra series launches Southbank Centre’s 2016/17 Classical Season on 23 September 2016. The Virtual Orchestra is produced by the Philharmonia Orchestra and presented in partnership with Southbank Centre. 360 Experience was created in partnership with Southbank Centre and London-based VR specialists Inition.

Find out more at

Monday 18 Jul 2016

Philharmonia and De Montfort University, Leicester, announce partnership

DMU Logo

The Philharmonia Orchestra celebrates the beginning of its 20th season in residence at De Montfort Hall in Leicester with the launch of a major Strategic Partnership agreement with De Montfort University (DMU).

The five-year partnership will deliver a wealth of opportunities for students, develop links between musicians and staff from the two organisations, and support DMU’s world-leading research in the field of electronic music.

The partnership is underpinned by DMU’s support of the Orchestra’s De Montfort Hall (DMH) residency. DMU will be the Philharmonia’s ‘Principal Partner’ at DMH for the duration of this relationship, which includes a Chancellor’s Concert each season, a performance attended by students and staff from the University.

DMU’s Music, Technology and Innovation research centre will become a key partner to the Philharmonia’s Digital team, working together on projects to reach new audiences.

And DMUlocal – DMU’s flagship programme to share the skills of its students and staff for the public good – will team up with the Philharmonia and Highfields Community Centre on a new project that will highlight the benefit of music as a stimulating and therapeutic tool for people living with dementia, paired with the positive effects of intergenerational working. The project will also involve a comprehensive piece of research by academics at DMU.

Philharmonia Orchestra Managing Director David Whelton said: “Whether through its recent sporting glory or the richness of its artistic and cultural life, Leicester is a city that punches well above its weight. The Philharmonia Orchestra is delighted to have a role in the city’s success, part of which is our relationships with higher education institutions in Leicester. Further to the work of our players with students from the University of Leicester, we are pleased to broaden our reach in this area with this new strategic partnership with DMU.

“Thanks to Prof. Dominic Shellard and his team, we have a unique opportunity to bring together the world-class musicians of the Philharmonia Orchestra with the passionate, talented students of DMU.”

Professor Dominic Shellard, Vice-Chancellor of DMU, said: “Universities have an important role to play in providing opportunities for students, staff and the wider community to engage with arts and culture. I am enormously proud of the culture of creativity and innovation for which DMU is renowned.

“To join the creative forces of DMU with that of an organisation of such international standing as the Philharmonia Orchestra marks an exciting, bold new chapter of music provision and collaboration.”

Sarah Levitt, Head of Arts and Museums at Leicester City Council, commented: “Leicester is fortunate to have two outstanding universities and a major international symphony orchestra in residence at De Montfort Hall. The Council is delighted that these two innovative institutions are to collaborate in such a deep and meaningful way, to the mutual benefit of students, musicians and audiences, but also – crucially – for the wider community.”

Key benefits of the partnership also include:

  • Members of the Philharmonia working directly with DMU campus ensembles to deliver bespoke mentoring and coaching programmes
  • Student Ambassador and Career Development schemes, which will connect students with the Orchestra’s management, including behind-the-scenes access for students to learn about the business of running an arts organisation
  • A unique collaboration and exchange programme between MTI students and staff and participants in the Philharmonia’s celebrated Composers Academy, delivered in partnership with the Royal Philharmonic Society

DMU’s established community contacts across Leicester and Leicestershire will enable the Philharmonia Orchestra to engage with traditionally hard-to-reach communities. DMU has links with high-quality arts organisations throughout the city and county. Earlier this year, it became the first university to sign a partnership with Arts Council England to give students more opportunities to get involved in the arts.

The Strategic Partnership will be formally signed at Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, in autumn 2016, in an event attended by Philharmonia musicians and stakeholders, and DMU staff, students and sector partners.

Sunday 28 Feb 2016

Philharmonia’s iOrchestra: the facts and figures revealed


The Philharmonia’s iOrchestra project is one of the most ambitious audience development and education projects ever undertaken by a UK Orchestra.

Focused across the South West Peninsula region of the UK (Torbay, Plymouth and Cornwall), iOrchestra sought to engage new audiences with the world of a symphony orchestra using a variety of digital, live concert and participation projects that attracted over 121,000 visitors across 26 weeks across 2014 and 2015.

iOrchestra was underpinned by a set of key audience development principles (developed in collaboration with Rachel Escott Audience Development) that encouraged visitors, many of whom had no previous experience of an orchestra, to curate their own journeys through and relationship with iOrchestra. Moreover, iOrchestra aimed to reposition the value and profile orchestral music plays within the region’s wider cultural offer, and strengthen the framework from which future work can be developed.

The Philharmonia commissioned three evaluation reports on iOrchestra which are available below for download:

·        iOrchestra: Review and Evaluation
·        iOrchestra Audiences Journeys
·        iOrchestra Audiences Reactions

We hope that these reports will be of value to colleague orchestras, local authorities, funders and the wider arts sector wishing to learn about our approach to audience development, the success and also the pitfalls.

The Philharmonia Orchestra is hosting an iOrchestra evaluation afternoon on Wednesday 20 April 2016, 1pm – 4.30pm at Plymouth Guildhall. The afternoon will consist of a short presentation on the project’s findings, a networking break, and then a series of workshop groups to discuss the findings and learning from the iOrchestra approach, and more broadly what the current barriers are for developing further orchestral activity in the region and the resources required to achieve this.
Attendance at the evaluation afternoon on 20 April is free (light refreshments provided) but booking is essential.  To reserve, please contact Alex Hill ([email protected] / T 0207 9213961).

Further details about iOrchestra can be found here: and further details available from James Williams, Director UK Programme and Creative Projects [email protected] / T 020 7921 3912.

iOrchestra is grateful to the following funders for their support:

Monday 20 Jul 2015

Philharmonia Orchestra Managing Director David Whelton to retire

David Whelton

Philharmonia Orchestra Managing Director David Whelton to retire after 29 years

The Managing Director of the Philharmonia Orchestra, David Whelton, is to retire 29 years after he took up the post. Whelton will leave the Orchestra at the end of its 70th anniversary season, in summer 2016. The process to recruit his successor is underway.

David Whelton has created a programme that sees the Philharmonia Orchestra perform over 160 concerts a year, at its UK residencies – which include London’s Royal Festival Hall, in Bedford, Leicester, Basingstoke and Canterbury, and at the Three Choirs Festival – as well as overseas. His legacy includes the highly successful Théâtre du Châtelet residency in Paris, new music series Music of Today directed by Unsuk Chin, and more recently the critically-acclaimed Salonen series at the Royal Festival Hall. These include City of Light: Paris 1900-1950, its predecessor City of Dreams: Vienna 1900 -1935 (2009), Bill Viola’s Tristan und Isolde (2010), Woven Words, a celebration of Witold Lutosławski’s centenary year (2013), and the Richard Strauss 150th Anniversary series, led by Christoph von Dohnányi (2014). Notable major symphonic cycles include Beethoven with Harnoncourt, Brahms and Schumann with Dohnányi, Rachmaninov and Prokofiev with Ashkenazy, and Mahler with Maazel. The Philharmonia’s award-winning digital projects including RE-RITE, Universe of Sound and iOrchestra are bringing the next generation to classical music.

David Whelton said: “My time as Managing Director at the Philharmonia Orchestra has been a great adventure and I will take with me so many wonderful musical memories. It has been a great privilege to work with such an inspirational group of musicians, conductors and soloists and of course an amazing admin team. I take great pride in the indispensable contribution that the Philharmonia Orchestra makes to British musical life.”

Esa-Pekka Salonen, Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor, commented: “The Philharmonia is an extraordinary orchestra and David has been an extraordinary Manager Director. It has been a pleasure to work with him over the last nearly three decades, and to bring to fruition so many incredible projects, both in the Royal Festival Hall and across the world. He leaves at a time when the reputation of the Philharmonia has never been higher.”

Gideon Robinson, violinist and the Philharmonia Orchestra’s Chairman, said: “David is possibly the longest serving, and certainly one of the most respected, orchestra managers in the world. His contribution to the life and success of the Philharmonia over the last 30 years has been immense and his departure will be keenly felt by the players. We would like to wish him all the very best for the future.”

Michael Hoffman, Chairman of the Philharmonia Trust, commented: “It has been a great pleasure to work with David. His ability to realise the most ambitious artistic plans in London and internationally is legendary. His energy and vision has transformed the fortunes of the Philharmonia and we will be forever in his debt.”

Monday 13 Jul 2015

Philharmonia Orchestra & partners launch £1m Endowment Fund for Bedford residency

Corn Exchange Bedford

The Philharmonia Orchestra today announces the creation of a new £1m Endowment Fund that will guarantee the future of its critically-acclaimed 20-year-old residency at Bedford Corn Exchange, and allow the Orchestra to continue bringing the very finest artists to Bedford, which in the recent past have included Vladimir Ashkenazy, Steven Isserlis and Sir Andrew Davis.

In a closely coordinated joint project, Bedford Borough Council and The Harpur Trust each contributed £125,000, with Arts Council England very generously pledging £2 for every £1 granted, taking ACE’s total contribution to £500,000. The Orchestra is launching a major new fundraising campaign to raise £250,000, which will take the Fund total to its initial target of £1 million.  

This £1 million will form the foundation of the Endowment Fund, the annual return from which will be used to part-fund the Philharmonia’s residency and local education programme in perpetuity, replacing what had been generated from annual local government funding.

The Bedford Endowment Fund represents a sustainable funding model for the Orchestra’s work in Bedford, and is a pioneering new way to fund the arts in perpetuity. David Whelton, Managing Director of the Philharmonia Orchestra, said:

“The Philharmonia Orchestra’s formation of a residency in Bedford in 1995 was a pioneering move for the Orchestra and its success has since been replicated in cities throughout the UK. We are continuing to innovate in Bedford with this new and sustainable funding model, which will allow us to continue bringing the very best of what we do in London and internationally to Bedford.

The Philharmonia Orchestra has a very special relationship with the town of Bedford, a relationship which has grown deeper with each year. We are delighted that Bedford Borough Council and The Harpur Trust have shown such a visionary approach to sustaining the residency.”

Joyce Wilson, Area Director, London, Arts Council England, said: “We are really pleased to have been able to support the Philharmonia Orchestra’s ambition to continue its 20-year residency at Bedford Corn Exchange, alongside Bedford Borough Council and The Harpur Trust. This is a great example of how organisations can look at innovative ways in which they can diversify their income.”

David Russell, the Chief Executive of The Harpur Trust, commented: “The Harpur Trust is delighted to help keep the Philharmonia, a world class orchestra, as part of the extensive cultural life of Bedford.  We also look forward to seeing the wider educational activities of Orchestra’s residency enrich the lives of all the residents of the Borough.” 

Mayor of Bedford Borough Dave Hodgson said: “This is great news for both local music lovers and local taxpayers. The Philharmonia plays an important and very popular role in the annual programme of events and performances at Bedford Corn Exchange. This initiative will provide a sustainable future for world-class local concerts and educational activity without the need for a long-standing annual Council subsidy.”

Monday 15 Jun 2015

David Whelton awarded OBE, 2015

David Whelton

Philharmonia Orchestra Managing Director David Whelton awarded OBE in Queen’s Birthday Honours list

We are delighted to announce that David Whelton, Managing Director of the Philharmonia Orchestra for 27 years, has received an OBE for services to music in the 2015 Queen’s Birthday Honours List. 

Click here for the full list of OBEs awarded.

Wednesday 6 May 2015

Philharmonia wins RPS award for Audiences & Engagement for iOrchestra in 2014



  • Philharmonia Orchestra is recognised for its ground-breaking digital audience development project in Plymouth, Torbay and Cornwall in 2014
  • The Orchestra wins the ‘Audiences and Engagement’ Award for the third time in six years

The Philharmonia Orchestra’s iOrchestra project ( has been announced as winner in the ‘Audiences and Engagement’ category at the Royal Philharmonic Society Awards ( The presentation in London yesterday recognised outstanding achievement in live classical music in 2014.

It is the third time in six years that the Philharmonia has won this award, emphatically consolidating the Orchestra’s position as sector leader in using the latest digital technologies to reach new audiences in innovative and engaging ways.

Judges of the award cited the project, which has also just won a Music Teacher magazine Award for Excellence 2015 in the Best Musical Initiative category: "For its impressive range of partnerships; for its innovative marketing; - for embedding itself in local communities in Devon and Cornwall, leaving them enriched through increased skills and connections; for interweaving outstanding live performances with online and installations; and for this organisation's ability to reinvent and evolve, the RPS Audiences and Engagement award for 2015 goes to the Philharmonia's iOrchestra project".

James Williams, Project Director for iOrchestra at the Philharmonia Orchestra, commented: “We are absolutely delighted that iOrchestra has been recognised by the Royal Philharmonic Society and we proudly accept this award on behalf of all the wonderful local partner organisations and individuals we have worked with across the South West. iOrchestra has renewed our belief that by removing traditional barriers associated with our artform and presenting it in a fresh and innovative way, that orchestral music has the power to move and inspire people from all backgrounds and that orchestral music can provide a cultural catalyst for change within communities.”

About iOrchestra

iOrchestra is a pioneering, two-year music education and audience development project designed to use the Philharmonia’s expertise in interactive digital installations and technologies to ignite enthusiasm and participation in classical music among new audiences. Based in three regions in the South West – Plymouth, Torbay and Cornwall – iOrchestra reached more than 45,000 local schoolchildren, community groups and adults in its first 13 weeks of activity between April and July 2014, almost 200% of its original target. iOrchestra has been funded as part of Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Programme and other project supporters include Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, David and Elaine Potter Foundation and Garfield Weston Foundation.

In its first year, iOrchestra focused on three core project strands, the largest of which was the Philharmonia’s award-winning immersive digital “virtual orchestra” installation called RE-RITE. Based on Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, RE-RITE is an extraordinary free digital installation which gives the visitor the chance to walk through a full symphony orchestra conducted by the Philharmonia’s Principal Conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen. Sited at city centre locations in Plymouth, Truro and Torbay, almost 30,000 people, including more than 3,500 children in school groups, visited RE-RITE in just six weeks.

“Go if you want to engage in something that is unusual to experience so closely. Don’t think you can’t afford it or that it’s just for posh people.” 
Carola Buhse

“Wow, how fantastic and exciting we found RE-RITE to be. The children really enjoyed their time in the tent - I loved watching their faces light up as they walked through. They especially liked conducting in the coat and tails whilst seeing themselves on screen. It really did blow us all away.”
Torbay primary school teacher

The other elements of the project focused on offering a hands-on digital music experience for less socially mobile communities, and on encouraging audiences for the digital projects to experience a live symphony orchestra for the first time. MusicLab, a new mobile education installation housed in a purpose-built trailer, brought interactive digital music activities directly to 13 local communities around the three locations, welcoming school groups, community groups and local residents. More than 3,000 schoolchildren and more than 6,500 visitors in total explored MusicLab between April and July. MusicLab has subsequently toured to Cambridge and the Isle of Man engaging with a range of different communities before returning again to the South West in 2015.

RE-RITE’s two week residency in each location culminated with a free, open-air, live orchestral concert by the Philharmonia Orchestra, which was attended by more than 6,500 people, with separate schools performances taking place the following day. And a number of local community projects also took place, inspired by and in partnership with iOrchestra, including a dance project with Attik Dance in Plymouth, a literacy project for pre-school children and parents with the Library Services in Plymouth and Torbay, and performances by local young musicians on the main live concert stage in Truro.

Since the completion of iOrchestra’s first year of core activity in July 2014, work has continued in maintaining and developing the relationships established with participants, communities and groups involved in the project, through satellite projects promoted via a smartcard-based “MyOrchestra” scheme, through social media and by working directly within the target communities to develop new strands of activity for the second year of the iOrchestra project, which began in earnest in mid-April and continues until mid-July. Full information about Universe of Sound (this year’s major installation), MusicLab, live concerts and a large programme of fringe and community based activities can be found at

Tuesday 24 Feb 2015

Wuliangye announced as Philharmonia's New Principal International Partner

10 Downing Street

First ever major partnership of its kind between a Chinese company and a UK arts organisation, worth more than £500,000, is signed at 10 Downing Street as part of the celebrations marking Chinese New Year and the UK-China 2015 Year of Culture.

The Philharmonia Orchestra has announced a major new sponsorship with the premium Chinese Baijiu producer Wuliangye. The partnership, which will initially run for a period of 5 years, will be worth more than £500,000 and is the first of its kind, bringing together one of China’s premiere brands with one of the UK’s cultural leaders.

The signing took place at No. 10 as part of a Chinese New Year reception hosted by the Prime Minister. The deal was signed in the presence of the Minister for Culture Ed Vaizey with the Chairman of Wuliangye, and three senior executives. Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Culture, also joined the signing for photographs ahead of his visit to China next week with HRH Prince William, Duke of Cambridge.

Wuliangye is named as the Orchestra’s Principal International Partner, and an extensive programme of cultural ambassadorship and artistic collaborations will take place as part of the partnership, both across the UK, in China and within the Philharmonia’s wider international touring programme.

Over the course of the last twelve months, the Philharmonia and Wuliangye have been working together to develop a mutually beneficial partnership that can act as a genuine catalyst for the projects that both organisations are most interested in. The result is a unique and innovative funding model, which as well as an element of cash donation will also see Wuliangye donating a percentage of the profits from a new premium Baijiu brand, developed and produced from the company’s headquarters in Yibin, Sichuan Province, through a newly created charitable foundation.

At an artistic level, it is intended that the partnership will stimulate further cooperation between China and the UK, and in particular it is intended that it will be the catalyst for a number of significant projects for the Philharmonia Orchestra during the UK-China 2015 Year of Culture. These projects include a major tour to China in June 2015, with concerts in Shanghai and Beijing, and including PO musicians working with students from the China Conservatory of Music. Later in 2015, a highlight of the Philharmonia’s 70th Anniversary season will be a three-concert residency from Lang Lang performing with Esa-Pekka Salonen, the Orchestra’s Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor.

In common with many of the UK’s leading cultural ambassadors, the Philharmonia Orchestra has been developing its presence in China extensively over the last decade: touring not only its major concert-hall project, but also key projects from its pioneering and award-winning digital programme. Three successful concert tours have included performances of Mahler with the late Maestro Lorin Maazel; and in 2012 the Orchestra’s award-winning digital installation RE-RITE: Be the Orchestra, presented with support from the British Council, was visited by more than 85,000 people in Tianjin in less than two weeks. The Philharmonia’s app for iPad, The Orchestra, has recently been translated into Mandarin and as part of the Wuliangye partnership the Orchestra plans to develop this technology further to meet the huge demand in China for western classical music.

Education work and mutually beneficial cultural exchange is also a key priority for both the Philharmonia and Wuliangye. In 2014, the Philharmonia developed a relationship with the China Conservatory of Music in Beijing - the pre-eminent conservatoire for traditional Chinese instruments - performing a joint concert with the Bamboo Flute Orchestra, led by the inspirational Professor Zhang. It has been fascinating for the Orchestra’s musicians to learn from Chinese colleagues, and it is intended that the International Partnership will facilitate a number of future projects designed to deepen this cultural exchange.

David Whelton, Managing Director of the Philharmonia Orchestra, commented:

“This is a truly historic collaboration and it is an enormous privilege to be working with a company that combines real cultural leadership with a genuinely innovative approach to both funding and partnership itself. We are enormously excited by the potential that this relationship offers for both the Philharmonia and Wuliangye and hope that it can create a blueprint for cultural cooperation that can inspire other Chinese companies to work in similar ways.”

Mr. Liu Zhongguo, Chairman of Wuliangye, commented:

“This historic collaboration will integrate one of China’s premier beverage brands with classical Western music and we hope the sponsorship will inspire people to enjoy the harmonious balance of drinking fabulous alcohol while listening to world-class classical music. We look forward to strengthening the understanding and recognition between Eastern and Western culture for both the Chinese and British, and the great revitalization of the arts that this will bring.”

Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, commented:

“Culture is one of the UK’s great international exports and every year hundreds of thousands of people around the world experience extraordinary arts events that have been created by British theatre, dance, opera companies and orchestras.

“2015 marks the first UK-China Year of Cultural Exchange and cultural cooperation between the UK and China has never been stronger. It is inspiring to see this new and enlightened partnership between the Philharmonia Orchestra and Wuliangye, which not only offers so much to both organisations, but also offers a model for future relationships with other partners in both countries.”

Friday 31 Oct 2014

Lorin Maazel Tributes


Philharmonia Managing Director David Whelton, Principal Bassonist Robin O'Neill, Chairman Gideon Robinson and Principal Clarinetist Mark van de Wiel reflect on Lorin Maazel's career with the Orchestra.

There is a photograph in the Philharmonia Orchestra archive of Lorin Maazel and Otto Klemperer together at the Royal Festival Hall in London, engaged in deep conversation.  It is an image that in many ways defined both Maazel’s life and that of the Philharmonia Orchestra itself:  Maazel’s career spanned virtually the life of the Philharmonia, and his deep respect for the middle European musical tradition that Klemperer embodied, remained at the foundation of his music-making, as it remains at the heart of the Philharmonia’s approach and “sound”.

The Philharmonia formed an important part of Lorin Maazel’s early career, initially thanks to Walter Legge. Maazel first conducted the Philharmonia in concert on 20 June 1959 and was a regular guest from the early 1960s onwards, which led to his appointment as Associate Principal Conductor in 1970 towards the end of Klemperer’s tenure with the Orchestra. During this time his music-making became renowned for its clarity, control, integrity and sheer brilliance, achieved through his absolute command of the Orchestra.

In the decades that followed, Maazel took his place among the greatest Maestros of the age, leading many of music’s greatest institutions with characteristic panache. He set himself the highest standards, refusing to suffer fools; but no-one could be more generous to musicians in their time of need, or more supportive to young musicians – or in my case, young orchestra managers. He was extraordinarily generous to me professionally over many years, giving of his time and sharing his wisdom and his knowledge of the Philharmonia’s history. He would invite me to his box at La Scala and talk to me about the Legge era in particular; these conversations gave me a profound respect for and understanding of what the Philharmonia stood for in history.

His prodigious intelligence and total recall is well known; but both qualities were always put to good use, and combined with his staggeringly clear conducting technique, creating total confidence among the orchestral musicians he worked with. They knew exactly what he wanted. He was also astonishingly well-read, and one of the greatest pleasures for me was to find a novel that he didn’t know as a thank you gift for another fabulous series of concerts with the Philharmonia. And then to receive an email letting me know how much he had enjoyed reading it. He was passionate about the theatre, and whenever I met him at the airport the first thing he would say to me was, “David, what should I see?”

We were fortunate enough to be with Maazel for his last Mahler Cycle in 2011, which travelled to major international concert halls across Europe and the Far East, as well as to UK venues from Hull to Manchester and from Bristol to Basingstoke, Maazel giving 100% of himself to every single performance, and treating every audience with the utmost respect. It is intensely satisfying that we were able to capture the Cycle on CD – the first six symphonies were released earlier this year to wide acclaim, and symphonies 7-9 will follow later in 2014.

Maazel was one of the great conductors of Richard Strauss and it was natural that we turned to him when we started planning the Philharmonia Orchestra’s celebrations for 2014. I felt that the three works that stood out for me were the Alpine Symphony, with its extraordinary grandeur; Also Sprach Zarathustra – no-one understood the monumental Strauss better than Maazel; and Till Eulenspiegel, in which his virtuosity as a conductor would be matched by the virtuosity of the Philharmonia musicians. The performances, at the end of March, were everything we hoped for, and received standing ovations in the Royal Festival Hall. After the performance of the Alpine Symphony and Also Sprach he sat backstage analysing tone rows in the third part of the latter, comparing them by playing them on the piano alongside Berg and Schoenberg’s use of the same technique. Then he started analysing and demonstrating the final movement of Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony. His intellectual thirst was as strong as it had ever been.

With so many recent memories of Lorin Maazel at his most intellectually curious, searching and altogether vital, it goes without saying that it comes as a huge shock to all of us at the Philharmonia Orchestra to learn of his untimely death. I was in direct correspondence with him by email just 48 hours before we heard the news; he was discussing the Orchestra’s planned visit to Castleton next year, and his concerts planned for the Royal Festival Hall with us in 2015 and 2016 - which were all to be of epic proportions, the like of which only Maazel could have programmed. There was no musician quite like Lorin Maazel, and he is utterly irreplaceable, in many, many ways. We will all miss him more than we can say.

David Whelton

Managing Director, Philharmonia Orchestra

Lorin Maazel


The Philharmonia Orchestra and Esa-Pekka Salonen will be dedicating the opening concert of their 2014/15 London season on Thursday 25 September, a performance of Berlioz’s Grand Messe des Morts, to the memory of Lorin Maazel


As I write these words I have just finished listening to a recording of the performance of Mahler's 9th Symphony given by the Philharmonia with the late Lorin Maazel at the Royal Festival Hall during the Mahler cycle given in 2011-12. It has left me with an indelible impression of the "Maazel effect". Huge, broad tempos that stretch the possibilities of orchestral sostenuto but elicit playing of superhuman power. Middle movements with irony, beauty and savagery in equal measure.

Maazel was not a conductor that anyone ignored.

His technical mastery of the physical gestures that are the subtle means of communicating with an orchestra were honed over decades by an analytical mind of extraordinary acuity. There will never be another baton to match it. His technique was also an insight into his musical priorities, his obsessions and his passions. He loved clarity, articulation and precision both in tempo and rhythm. When you add that to the famous depth of sound he encouraged from orchestras then you have a marvellous combination. These qualities are all there whenever and whatever he was conducting. As a composer himself he was constantly aware of the conductor's responsibilities - he was looking after the composer's intentions and over the long years of his career he had memorised every note and every detail of every score he conducted. During rehearsals he would often comment on the composer's intentions and also express unconcealed and unreserved admiration for certain passages or even whole pieces once he'd concluded a rehearsal. I will never forget the end of the Finale of Mahler's colossal Third Symphony at the dress rehearsal in the Royal Festival Hall. The huge sonority finally subsided, Maazel himself looked wrung out. (It was only 1pm and we had to do the whole thing again in a few hours). Then, in a rather subdued and resigned tone and with the famous shake of the head (which generally signified approval), he said  "...have you any idea of the creative energy it must have taken to write this piece?" Genuine resect and admiration for the composer. There was real passion there but Maazel's conducting came from a highly disciplined foundation that believed in giving good clear information to enable the orchestra to play the music to the best of their ability. It's unfashionable now, it's super controlled and can appear to be cool and unemotional, but when he was on his best form the focus and concentration were electrifying. Lorin Maazel didn't throw himself around on the podium because he was too busy conducting an orchestra.

I will miss him.

Robin O'Neill

Principal Bassoonist, Philharmonia Orchestra


A forthcoming patch of work with the Maestro would be accorded a sense of anticipation founded firstly, out of reverence for his outstanding career within and at the head of his chosen profession and secondly, respect for the towering intellect empowering a photographic memory capable of retaining and, if necessary reproducing a large part of the symphonic repertoire at will, with the sole exception by his own admission, of the Alpine Symphony. Furthermore, and almost as impressive in the eyes of his players legend claims the Maestro could, if diverted on his journey back from a venue order a Chinese meal, not in English but Mandarin.

However, such achievements apart the mind of this orchestral musician was focussed on the task at hand in the knowledge that the Maestro’s total commitment to a masterful, cerebral interpretation and faultless performance was matched by an expectation that his musicians were keen, and seen to share his passion entirely. His rehearsals were impeccably structured with attention to relevant detail and issues of ensemble revealing, both a comprehensive understanding of the score and acute sense of hearing. His baton technique was unparalleled giving him a peerless measure of control, facilitating an element of rhythmic vitality which underpinned the most complex of works in the repertoire.

Gideon Robinson

Chairman, Philharmonia Orchestra


It was a great shock to find out a few days ago that the Maestro (he was always addressed thus, even when he was referring to himself!) had passed away. We all thought he would go on for ever - in fact in a speech to the orchestra a couple of years ago he said " my colleagues are all waiting for me to kick the bucket, but my father died at 106, so I intend to disappoint them!". It's sad that he fell much further short of that figure than we all thought would happen.

Playing for Maestro Maazel was an extraordinary experience, and it was  a privilege to take part in the many great performances he gave with us, not least in the recent marathon Mahler tour. His interpretations were sometimes unpredictable, gilding the lily from time to time, and resulting in broader but enormously impressive performances, particularly recently.  Of course the technical security that his peerless beat and mental control of the music gave us was never unpredictable. It meant he could achieve very polished results on very little rehearsal (very welcome on tour, when he often cancelled rehearsals altogether). I remember a Mahler 5 in Madrid when he rehearsed for about half an hour, then said " Things are looking up. It sounds fine, and we can look forward to a good dinner after the concert. Just remember that this hall is a little dry, so don't play last notes too short. Leave the rest to me, and we'll have a great concert." We did. Playing for him was a unique experience, and one I shall greatly miss.

Mark van de Wiel

Principal Clarinetist, Philharmonia Orchestra

The Castleton Festival, which was founded by Maestro Maazel in 2009, will be streaming his Memorial Service live on the Castleton Festival website on Friday 31 October 2014 at 12.30pm EST. Ahead of the service, Maestro Maazel’s family have produced a tribute video available to watch here.

Tuesday 2 Sep 2014

Reviews: Philharmonia on Tour in Salzburg


By Dominique Adrian,

One, two, three women; ten, twenty, thirty… No doubt about it, the orchestra entering on the stage of the Grand Hall of the Salzburg was not the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, which is still effectively opposed to any form of equality between men and women in its ranks. The Philharmonia, invited for a brief residence of two concerts in Salzburg, is considered a modern orchestra; where the Viennese seem to sort of stand to attention between two pieces, the musicians of the Philharmonia chat and joke in a lively way: it’s like a breath of fresh air.

It’s not clear what the specific project was that led Alexander Pereira to invite the British orchestra, other than the need both to perform the entire Bruckner opus structuring the programme of concerts this year and to render homage to Richard Strauss. This shows the invitation to be an essentially pragmatic decision, reflecting the lack of invention and intellectual coherence in the programming of concerts right through the unsuccessful tenure (2012-2014) of Pereira. This, however, was satisfying enough so that, this time at least, there was not really anything to blame him for.

The satisfaction, to be honest, is more for the first concert than for the second. The Vier Letzte Lieder that opened the concert, however, amply displayed the quality of the orchestra, which was less concerned with producing a beautiful sound than with the general substance of the piece it was performing, and the accompaniment of the fourth Lied, for example, was a miracle of melodic plenitude. Camilla Tilling, replacing Eva Maria Westbroek, has perfect Straussian lines; but her voice occasionally disappeared behind the orchestra, and the melodic plenitude often meant sacrificing the sound of consonants. In the Bruckner, Dohnanyi did the scherzo very well. It was delicate and light; but the two other completed movements of this last work often lacked depth of field. Due to the fact that sound layers are not differentiated, strings and winds are jumbled up into a mishmash of material, jeopardising the ever-changing equilibrium of the orchestra.

36 hours later, the sound image lights up with an intelligent programme joining together three works composed in the space of a quarter of a century, before and after the First World War, which is one of the main themes of the year at Salzburg as elsewhere. Before the interval, we witnessed the apotheosis of programme music with Strauss’s Don Quixote: for many they were listening for the first time to Maximilian Hornung, a rising star of the cello world, who conceived Strauss’s hero-comic character in an audacious way. But it was the orchestra, influenced by its musical director, which thrilled here. This work, certainly the least marmoreal of Strauss’s symphonic poems has all the brio and instrumental inventiveness required. In the last years of the 19th century, Wagner is no longer an insurmountable model.

A completely different form of modernity opened the second part: Esa-Pekka Salonen did not seem to accord much importance to the post-romantic heritage that profoundly nourishes the Three pieces for orchestra of Berg, composed only 15 years after Don Quixote.

Until now one there had been only snatches of waltz, whether from Berg or with the start of Baron Ochs from Strauss. With Ravel’s La Valse, the queen of ballroom dancing was apotheosised in a way that looks like an apocalypse. Salonen’s interpretation here was eloquent: this was not a carefree society tossed into the abyss as intended by Ravel, but a society whose very heedlessness leads it there of its own accord. In a year commemorating the centenary of 1914, such a programme is certainly not the result of chance and is as admirably designed as put into practice.

Original article: 


By Derek Weber, 

Somebody once said that orchestras are beginning to sound the same. When the brass section of London’s Philharmonia Orchestra bring their trumpets, trombones and Wagner tubas to their lips, a very specific, flawless and compact sound is produced, which has an almost ideal projection, especially for Bruckner. Add to this a phenomenal timpanist, woodwind players and string section (that was audible thanks to conductor Christoph von Dohnányi), we should not be afraid to compare the Philharmonia with other great orchestras in the world.            
Of course, we do not know how much rehearsal time was available for the performance, but ever since Christoph von Dohnányi has been on the podium the London musicians must have spent many years without much rehearsal. This could be heard in the first of the "Four Last Songs" by Strauss with slight discrepancies in the equilibrium of the vocal parts (Camilla Tilling as understudy for the indisposed Eva-Maria Westbroek). With Bruckner, however, the coordination was ideal from the word go.

It was Christoph von Dohnányi’s turn

This year Bruckner has a central role in orchestral concerts at the Salzburg Festival. The idea of entrusting symphonies with various orchestras and placing the direction of concerts largely in the hands of conductors who can be described as the “grand old men of Bruckner interpretations”, is an excellent one. After Herbert Blomstedt and Bernard Haitink, the baton was handed to Christoph von Dohnányi. In the Ninth Symphony he did not bother to address the issue of the symphony’s incomplete final movement. The more a performance changes how one sees the symphony, taking into account the reconstructed last movement, because it shows that the Ninth was composed as an entirely "normal" symphonic work; the less this relates to the shattering effect of the conventional three movement structure, where each note came from Bruckner himself. It seems – in spite of every all philological knowledge to the contrary – as if formed from a unified whole.

In the 1920s Bruckner was a "tonalist"

Dohnányi’s  interpretation of the work has unparalleled power, leading the brass section through the work, not overpowering the essential contribution of the woodwinds in the boldly dissonant harmony of the adagio, free of mysticism and not toning down the dissonant clash of sound of the scherzo.

Without wishing to question the unique, classic beauty of the "Four Last Songs" by Strauss, it is still instructive to hear how a work, which was composed fifty years after the other, loses the glitter of its "bourgeois" innocence, when placed in an unfamiliar context. One immediately understands why Strauss from the start was obviously appropriate for the Salzburg Festival, while in the 1920s Bruckner was disparagingly considered a "tonalist".

Original article:


By Ernst P. Strobl,

One of the most famous London orchestras, the Philharmonia has its home at the Royal Festival Hall. On his first entrance as a guest conductor at the Salzburg Festival, Christoph von Dohnányi stood on the podium for a rendition of Bruckner and Strauss. On Saturday at noon the Finnish principal conductor went flat out in the large festival theatre for a programme, alarmingly announced in the concert programme notes as "music on the brink". Not without reason, since with the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the First World War in mind, all three composers – an Austrian, a German and a Frenchman – in their own way were influenced by the terrible event.

Alban Berg fought in the war, immediately losing his initial euphoria. Maurice Ravel was, of course, unfit for duty and apart from a brief period as a driver was not involved, but was a professed patriot. Only one, the Bavarian Richard Strauss, the most successful of all of them and practically stuck his head in the sand and kept out of everything.

Strauss laughed a lot and had a fun-loving personality. This was explicitly and “narratively” displayed by Salonen and his formidable companion in arms – the excellent solo cellist Maximilian Hornung as "eponymous hero" – with the tone poem, Don Quixote. Taking another direction, Alban Berg’s "Three pieces for orchestra op.6" crowns a stirring march, definitely to be seen as an anti-war statement, to which the Philharmonia gave a tonal sensuousness. Finally, Ravel - and the virtuoso orchestra – powerfully stressed the stark unhappiness in the otherwise joyful "La Valse". The superlative and sporty Esa-Pekka Salonen calmed down the thunderous applause with Ravel’s worldy-wise, strings-saturated "Le jardin féerique"

Original article:

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