Santtu Matias Rouvali
Santtu Matias Rouval Credit: Kaupo Kikkas

The Philharmonia Orchestra creates thrilling performances for a global audience and has been resident at the Three Choirs Festival since 2012.

Founded in 1945, in part as a recording orchestra for the growing home audio market, the Philharmonia has always pioneered the use of technology to reach broader audiences for orchestral music. During the Coronavirus pandemic, it has continued to create outstanding performances, experienced online by lifelong fans and first-time listeners on five continents.

The Philharmonia’s home is Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall, in the heart of London. It has been Resident Orchestra there since 1995. The Orchestra is also resident at venues and festivals across England: Bedford Corn Exchange, De Montfort Hall in Leicester, The Marlowe in Canterbury, Anvil Arts in Basingstoke, and Garsington Opera, as well as the Three Choirs Festival. Central to all its residencies is a Learning & Engagement programme that empowers people to engage with, and participate in, orchestral music.

The London Philharmonia van parked outside Hereford Cathedral
Worcester Festival Credit: Michael Whitefoot 2021

The Philharmonia is a registered charity. The organisation relies on income from a wide range of sources to deliver its programme, and the Orchestra is proud to be generously supported by Arts Council England. During the Coronavirus pandemic, it has received a grant from the Cultural Recovery Fund, along with support from individual donors, corporate sponsors, and audience members who chose to donate the value of their tickets for cancelled concerts. This has enabled it not just to survive, but to create new online experiences for its audiences, and to support its players.

Finnish conductor and composer Esa-Pekka Salonen has been the Philharmonia’s Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor since 2008. Fellow Finn Santtu-Matias Rouvali takes over from Salonen as Principal Conductor in the 2021/22 season, after four years as Principal Guest Conductor. Santtu is known for his expressive, balletic conducting style and irrepressible energy.

Under Salonen and other key conductors, the Philharmonia has created a series of critically-acclaimed, visionary projects, distinctive for both their artistic scope and their depth of live and digital content. In 2019, Salonen presented Weimar Berlin: Bittersweet Metropolis, an exploration of the Weimar Republic era through the prism of its music, drama and film. His planned 2020/21 series focussing on music inspired by Greek mythology metamorphosed into a complete performance of Beethoven’s ballet The Creatures of Prometheus narrated by Stephen Fry.

In January 2021 the Orchestra announced a new Artist in Residence collaboration with House of Absolute. This collective of multidisciplinary artists works in hip hop and other contemporary dance styles, spoken word, writing, music production, and visual art.

London Philharmonia
Credit: Benjamin Ealovega

The Orchestra releases live recordings of signature concerts with Signum Records, including most recently its first recordings with Santtu-Matias Rouvali. In 2020, to mark the 75th anniversary of the Orchestra, Warner Classics released Philharmonia: Birth of a Legend, a 24-CD set of the Orchestra’s early recordings. And the Philharmonia worked with the BBC and the Otto Klemperer Film Foundation to release a box set of Blu-ray discs of Klemperer’s Beethoven Symphony cycle, filmed live at the Royal Festival Hall in 1970.

The Philharmonia’s vibrant YouTube channel has over 110,000 subscribers. It features performances specially created for online viewing; films introducing the instruments of the orchestra; interviews with artists; and in-depth documentaries accompanying landmark series.

Throughout its history, the Philharmonia has toured across Europe, Asia and America. Just before the Coronavirus pandemic brought the world to a standstill, in January 2020 the Philharmonia and Esa-Pekka Salonen had a residency at Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre, featuring concerts that were voted the ‘Best of 2020’ by Japanese music magazine Ongaku No Tomo, the Orchestra’s VR Sound Stage open for free to the Tokyo public, and another Philharmonia VR installation outside the venue.

Previous touring projects include a trip to the Canary Islands with Santtu-Matias Rouvali (January 2020); a major US tour (March 2019) with Salonen; and a tour to Colombia (January 2019) that included concerts, a Virtual Reality installation and education work with young musicians.

The Orchestra’s online performances in 2020 were watched by brand new Philharmonia fans in Brazil, Sudan, Indonesia, India, and high above the Arctic Circle in Norway.

Zsolt-Tihamér Visontay & Guy Johnston at the Three Choirs Festival 2021
Zsolt-Tihamér Visontay & Guy Johnston at the Three Choirs Festival 2021 Credit: Michael Whitefoot

In the US, the Orchestra’s American Patrons generously support the Philharmonia Foundation, which is a US-registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organisation.

The Philharmonia Orchestra was founded by EMI producer Walter Legge, and has worked with a who’s who of 20th- and 21st-century music. Herbert von Karajan, Otto Klemperer, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Arturo Toscanini and Riccardo Muti are just a few of the great artists to be associated with the Orchestra, and it has premiered works by Richard Strauss, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Errollyn Wallen, Kaija Saariaho and many others.

The Philharmonia’s Emerging Artists programme develops the next generation of composers and instrumentalists, including its Philharmonia MMSF Instrumental Fellowship Programme, which aims to increase diversity within the classical music industry.

The Philharmonia is a team of 80 world-class musicians from 16 countries. They look forward to bringing music into your life, through great concerts and ground-breaking projects, for the next 75 years and beyond.