The Three Choirs Festival has been fortunate to have the Philharmonia Orchestra as its resident orchestra since 2012, accompanying the Three Choirs Festival Chorus and soloists in most of the main evening cathedral concerts, and usually giving one non-choral concert each festival. This relationship has proved to be extraordinarily fruitful, opening up new artistic horizons for the festival in terms of repertoire and guest artists, and enabling the chorus to be inspired and supported by one of the world's great orchestras.
Acknowledged as a pioneering ensemble, the Philharmonia leads the field for its quality of playing, and for its innovative approach to audience development, residencies, music education and the use of new technologies in reaching a global audience. Together with its relationships with the world’s most sought-after artists, most importantly its Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor Esa-Pekka Salonen, the Philharmonia Orchestra is at the heart of British musical life.
Today, the Philharmonia has the greatest claim of any orchestra to be the UK’s national orchestra. It is committed to presenting the same quality, live music-making in venues throughout the country as it brings to London and the great concert halls of the world. In 2015 the orchestra celebrated its 70th anniversary and the 20th anniversary of the foundation of its admired UK and international residency programme, which began in 1995 with the launch of its residencies at London’s Southbank Centre and Bedford’s Corn Exchange. The orchestra also has long-term partnerships with De Montfort Hall in Leicester (Resident Orchestra since 1997), the Anvil in Basingstoke (orchestra in partnership since 2001), and, more recently, at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury and Three Choirs Festival.
The orchestra performs more than 160 concerts a year, as well as recording music for films, computer games and commercial CD releases. Under Esa-Pekka Salonen a series of flagship, visionary projects at the Royal Festival Hall, where the Orchestra performs over 35 concerts a season, have been critically acclaimed. City of Light: Paris 1900-1950 (2015), City of Dreams: Vienna 1900 -1935 (2009), Bill Viola’s Tristan und Isolde (2010), Infernal Dance: Inside the World of Béla Bartók (2011) and Woven Words, a celebration of Witold Lutosławski’s centenary year (2013), are followed in the 2015/16 and 2016/17 seasons by Myths and Rituals, a major, five-concert festival of music by Igor Stravinsky. Further highlights in the orchestra’s 70th anniversary London season include a three-concert series of Salonen conducting star pianist Lang Lang; Vladimir Ashkenazy conducting Rachmaninov’s major orchestral works; Andris Nelsons conducting Bruckner Symphony No. 8 as part of his ongoing Bruckner Cycle; and Jakub Hruša leading Mahler’s mighty Symphony No. 3.
The Philharmonia’s extensive international touring schedule continues. Following a tour to China with Vladimir Ashkenazy in June 2015, the Orchestra will tour to Germany and Prague with Christoph von Dohnányi and returns to Iceland for the first time in over 30 years. The orchestra will also give concerts in Switzerland, France, Spain and Sweden and will appear in a major residency with Esa-Pekka Salonen at the Festival International d'Art Lyrique d'Aix-en-Provence.
During its first seven decades, the Philharmonia Orchestra collaborated with most of the great classical artists of the 20th century. Conductors associated with the orchestra include Furtwängler, Richard Strauss, Toscanini, Cantelli, Karajan and Giulini. Otto Klemperer was the first of many outstanding Principal Conductors, and other great names have included Lorin Maazel (Associate Principal Conductor), Sir Charles Mackerras (Principal Guest Conductor), Riccardo Muti (Principal Conductor and Music Director), Kurt Sanderling (Conductor Emeritus) and Giuseppe Sinopoli (Music Director). As well as Esa-Pekka Salonen, current titled conductors are Christoph von Dohnányi (formerly Principal Conductor, now Honorary Conductor for Life) and Vladimir Ashkenazy (Conductor Laureate).
The Philharmonia Orchestra continues to pride itself on its long-term collaborations with the finest musicians of our day, supporting emerging as well as established artists. This policy extends into the orchestra itself, where many of the players have solo or chamber music careers alongside their work with the orchestra. The Philharmonia’s Martin Musical Scholarship Fund has for many years supported talented musicians at the start of their careers, including an Orchestral Award, which allows young players every year to gain performing experience within the orchestra, and the annual Young Artists Recitals at the Three Choirs Festival.
The orchestra is also recognised for its innovative programming policy, at the heart of which is a commitment to performing and commissioning new works by leading composers, among them the Artistic Director of its Music of Today series, Unsuk Chin. Since 1945 the Philharmonia Orchestra has commissioned more than 100 new works from composers including Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Mark-Anthony Turnage and James MacMillan.
Recording and broadcasting both continue to play a significant part in the orchestra’s activities, notably through its partnership with Signum Records, releasing new live recordings of Philharmonia performances with its key conductors. Since 2003 the Philharmonia has enjoyed a major partnership with Classic FM, as The Classic FM Orchestra on Tour, as well as continuing to broadcast on BBC Radio 3.
The Philharmonia Orchestra and the Three Choirs Festival are very grateful for the support of the Philharmonia Trust which helps make the Orchestra’s residency possible. The Philharmonia Trust is a major funder of the Orchestra’s work and underpin the ambitious UK Regional and Residency Programme, bringing music to thousands of people across the country. We thank the generosity of the Trust, and also the hundreds of donors from around the world who have donated to the Endowment Fund.’
The Philharmonia’s Principal International Partner is Wuliangye.