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Guide to the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

April 2019
Evening performance
Matinee performance
« The opening brass playing was round and full-toned, a sense of stately gleam flashing across serene violins and sedate woodwind. Hustle and bustle preceded and contrasted with moments of rich lyricism and grandeur; Shelley drew bold, glossy playing from the orchestra, placing a clear emphasis on colour. »
Dominic Lowe, Bachtrack
« In the latest instalment of Alexander Shelley’s evocative Myths and Fairytales series with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the imagination was given a thorough workout with magical imagery of a mountainside witches’ sabbath, a nocturnal journey of wonderment through nature, and an epic tale of emancipation and heroism against the might of the Roman army. Hot-blooded stuff indeed for a chilly night in London. »
Mark Thomas, Bachtrack
Upcoming eventsSee more...

HullHandel's Messiah

Handel's Messiah
Handel: Messiah
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; Adrian Partington; Fflur Wyn; Katie Bray; Ji Hyun Kim; Benjamin Bevan

LondonMessiah On Good Friday

Messiah On Good Friday
Handel: Messiah
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; Richard Cooke; Royal Choral Society; Richard Pearce; Mhairi Lawson; Madeleine Shaw

LondonSeeking New Horizons III: Political Protest

Seeking New Horizons III: Political Protest
Wagner, Rachmaninov, Falla
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; Alexander Shelley; Vadym Kholodenko; Rebecca Afonwy-Jones

GuildfordAlexander Shelley conducts Rachmaninov

Alexander Shelley conducts Rachmaninov
Wagner, Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; Alexander Shelley; Vadym Kholodenko

High WycombeSymphonic Russia

Symphonic Russia
Borodin, Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; Jessica Cottis; Tom Poster
Latest reviewsSee more...

Quintessentially English: Mark Wigglesworth and the RPO

Mark Wigglesworth © Sim Canetty-Clarke
Vaughan Williams' Fifth Symphony is given a great performance by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Cadogan Hall. 
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Darkness and daylight from the RPO, Payare and de la Salle

Rafael Payare © Henry Fair
Rafael Payare demonstrates his mastery of a late Romantic score and together with the RPO partners Lise de la Salle in an early piano concerto by Mozart.
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Not quite the Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall

Benjamin Appl © Uwe Arens | Sony Classical
Competent if underwhelming Handel from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Maxim Emelyanchev.
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Seeking new horizons with the Royal Philharmonic

Alexander Shelley © Dwayne Johnson
Alexander Shelley conducts a folksong-infused programme of Kodály and Bartók, with Mariam Batsashvili performing Liszt. 
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The Goldilocks approach to Russian masterworks

Lionel Bringuier © Simon Pauly
Neither the conductor, Lionel Bringuier, nor the soloist, Valerij Sokolov, bring much intensity of expression in this RPO concert to a pair of 20th-century Russian masterworks.
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For more than seven decades the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) has been at the forefront of music-making in the UK. Its home base since 2004 at London’s Cadogan Hall serves as a springboard for seven principal residencies as well as more than forty-five concerts per year in long-term partnership venues across the country, often in areas where access to live orchestral music is very limited. In London, the Orchestra’s regular performances at Cadogan Hall are complemented by a distinguished series at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall and a hugely popular series at the Royal Albert Hall. With a wider reach than any other UK large ensemble, the RPO has truly become Britain’s national orchestra.

Alongside its concert series, the RPO embraces twenty-first-century opportunities, including appearances with pop stars and on video game, film and television soundtracks, whilst its artistic priority remains paramount: the making of great music at the highest level for the widest possible audience. This would have been lauded by its Founder and first conductor, Sir Thomas Beecham, who set up the RPO in 1946, leading a vital revival in the UK’s orchestral life after World War II.

Since then, the Orchestra’s principal conductors have included Rudolf Kempe, Antal Doráti, Walter Weller, André Previn, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Yuri Temirkanov, Daniele Gatti and Charles Dutoit; and its repertoire has encompassed every strand of music from the core classical repertoire to music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and works by leading composers of recent years, such as Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and Sir John Tavener. Today, the RPO continues to work with artists of the highest calibre, including Pinchas Zukerman, its inspirational Principal Guest Conductor; Alexander Shelley, its dynamic young Principal Associate Conductor since January 2015, and its esteemed Permanent Associate Conductor, Grzegorz Nowak. The Orchestra is looking forward to appointing its next Artistic Director and Principal Conductor shortly.

International touring is vital to the Orchestra’s work, taking it to many prestigious destinations worldwide. Recent engagements include concerts at the festivals of Montreux, Lucerne and Granada, an extensive tour of the USA, and visits to central Europe and the Far East, including South Korea and China.

In 2018, RPO Resound, the Orchestra’s community and education programme, marks its twenty-fifth anniversary. Throughout its history it has thrived on taking music into the heart of the regions that the Orchestra serves. From Azerbaijan to Jamaica and from Shanghai to Scunthorpe, the team – comprising the majority of the Orchestra – has worked with young people, the homeless, recovering stroke patients (in the award-winning STROKESTRA project in Hull) and in settings ranging from the Sea Life London Aquarium to hospitals, orphanages and children’s hospices.

In 1986, the RPO became the first UK orchestra to launch its own record label. The Orchestra has embraced digital advances and continuing its tradition of entrepreneurial innovation, in 2017 the RPO teamed up with the concert-enhancing app, EnCue by Octava, becoming the first orchestra in Europe to offer its audiences real-time programme notes for selected performances delivered to their mobile or tablet devices. The Orchestra has become increasingly active on social media platforms, inviting audiences to engage informally on Facebook and Twitter (@rpoonline) and to enjoy behind-the-scenes insights on the RPO website (www.rpo.co.uk), YouTube (RPOOnline) and Instagram (@RPOOnline).

As the RPO proudly looks to its future, its versatility and high standards mark it out as one of today’s most open-minded, forward-thinking symphony orchestras.