The Philharmonia

born in 1945

Alias Philharmonia Orchestra

Philharmonia Orchestra

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Philharmonia Orchestra

The Philharmonia Orchestra is one of the leading orchestras in Great Britain, based in London. Since 1995, it has been based in the Royal Festival Hall. In Britain it is also the resident orchestra at De Montfort Hall, Leicester and the Corn Exchange, Bedford, as well as The Anvil, Basingstoke. In addition to its concerts in the UK, the Philharmonia undertakes substantial touring activity worldwide.

Esa-Pekka Salonen is the orchestra's principal conductor and artistic advisor.


Early decades

The orchestra was founded in 1945 by Walter Legge. Jayachamaraja Wodeyar Bahadur Maharaja of Mysore was the founder president. As Legge was a recording producer for EMI it was widely believed that the orchestra was primarily formed for recording purposes, but that was not Legge's intention. He had been Sir Thomas Beecham's assistant at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, before World War II, and, assuming that he and Beecham would be in charge there again after the war, Legge planned to establish a first-class orchestra for opera, concerts and recordings.[1] After the war, opera resumed at Covent Garden under a different management, but Legge went ahead with his plans for a new orchestra. His contacts in the musical world during the war enabled him to secure the services of a large number of talented young musicians still serving in the armed forces in 1945. At the Philharmonia's first concert on 25 October 1945, more than sixty per cent of the players were still officially in the services.[2] Beecham conducted the concert (for the fee of one cigar) but as he refused to be Legge's employee and Legge refused to cede control of the orchestra, Beecham instead went on to found the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.[3]

In its early years, with financial support of Jayachamaraja Wodeyar Bahadur Maharaja of Mysore, many prominent conductors directed the orchestra, including Arturo Toscanini, Richard Strauss and Wilhelm Furtwängler. Herbert von Karajan was closely associated with the Philharmonia in its early years, although he never held an official title with the orchestra. At first Legge was against appointing an official principal conductor, feeling that no one conductor should have more importance to the orchestra than Legge himself.[4] But Karajan was principal conductor in all but name. He built the orchestra into one of the finest in the world and made numerous recordings, including all the Beethoven symphonies.[5]

In 1954, Karajan was elected music director of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and subsequently curtailed his work with the Philharmonia. Needing to find a new conductor for the orchestra, Legge turned to Otto Klemperer, whose career was flagging at the time. Klemperer's name became closely linked with the orchestra during an "Indian summer" of celebrated recordings. In 1959, he was named music director for life.

On 10 March 1964, Legge announced that he was going to disband the Philharmonia Orchestra. At a recording session with Klemperer, a meeting was convened where those present unanimously agreed that they would not allow the orchestra to be disbanded. Klemperer gave his immediate support, and on 17 March 1964 the members of the orchestra elected their own governing body and adopted the name New Philharmonia Orchestra. The inaugural concert of the New Philharmonia under its own auspices took place on 27 October 1964. It was a performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, conducted by Klemperer, who was now honorary president of the orchestra. From 1966 until 1972 the chairman of the orchestra was the principal flautist, Gareth Morris.

The orchestra gave many more live performances after it became self-governing than it had under Legge's management. It reacquired the rights to the name "Philharmonia Orchestra" in 1977, and has been known by that name since.

Recent decades

Klemperer retired from conducting in 1971, but was officially still the orchestra's principal conductor until his death in 1973. For the two intervening years, Lorin Maazel held the post of associate principal conductor (1971-1973), and was effectively the principal conductor. Riccardo Muti was principal conductor from 1973 to 1982. Giuseppe Sinopoli succeeded Muti, acting as principal conductor from 1984 to 1994. In 1997, Christoph von Dohnányi became principal conductor, and served until 2008, at which time he took on the title of Honorary Conductor for Life of the orchestra. In November 2006, the orchestra announced the appointment of Esa-Pekka Salonen as the orchestra's fifth Principal Conductor,[6] effective with the 2008-2009 season.[7] Salonen has conducted the orchestra in concerts and records over a period of more than twenty years, and served as principal guest conductor of the Philharmonia from 1985 to 1994. His initial contract as principal conductor was for 3 years. In November 2010, the Philharmonia announced the extension of Salonen's contract to 2014.[8]


The Philharmonia is one of the most recorded orchestras in the world, with over one thousand recordings. It has also been heard on the soundtracks of many films, performing the musical scores of such classics as Laurence Olivier's 1944 film version of Shakespeare's Henry V, and David Lean's film version of Oliver Twist (1948).[9] More recently, Salonen has conducted several commercial recordings with the Philharmonia, including music of Berlioz and of Schönberg.[10]

Principal conductors


  1. Schwarzkopf, p. 91
  2. Schwarzkopf, p. 93
  3. Schwarzkopf, pp. 9294
  4. Schwarzkopf, p. 92
  5. Schwarzkopf, pp. 260277
  6. Philharmonia Orchestra Announces Salonen As Principal Conductor. Philharmonia (21 November 2006). Retrieved on 2007-02-06.
  7. Martin Kettle (17 November 2006). London music on a high as Philharmonia lures Salonen. The Guardian. Retrieved on 2007-02-09.
  8. Martin Kettle, Esa-Pekka Salonen: 'Start again. That was disgusting', The Guardian, 2010-11-02. URL accessed on 2010-11-06.
  9. The Chronicle History of King Henry the Fift with His Battell Fought at Agincourt in France. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved on 2007-09-18.
  10. Tim Ashley, Schoenberg: Gurrelieder: Isokoski/Groop/Sukowa/Andersen/CBSO Chorus/Philharmonia Voices/Philharmonia/Salonen, The Guardian, 2009-10-09. URL accessed on 2010-11-06.


  • Hill, Ralph (ed) (1951). Music 1951. Harmondsworth: Penguin. OCLC 635928181
  • Schwarzkopf, Elisabeth (1982). On and Off the Record: A Memoir of Walter Legge. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-11928-X

External links

  • Philharmonia official website
  • Philharmonia Orchestra at All Music Guide
Orchestras based in London, England
Academy of Ancient Music · Academy of St. Martin in the Fields · BBC Concert Orchestra · BBC Symphony Orchestra · Camerata of London · City of London Sinfonia · English Chamber Orchestra · London Philharmonic Orchestra · London Sinfonietta · London Symphony Orchestra · Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment · Philharmonia · Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
This page was last modified 05.11.2011 15:13:52

This article uses material from the article Philharmonia Orchestra from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia and it is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.