About us

The Philharmonia Orchestra creates thrilling performances for a global audience.

Philharmonia on stage at Royal Festival Hall

The Philharmonia was founded in 1945 by EMI producer Walter Legge, originally as a recording orchestra for the growing home audio market. We have 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 we have premiered works by Richard Strauss, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Errollyn Wallen, Kaija Saariaho and many others. We have always pioneered the use of technology to reach broader audiences for orchestral music. During the Coronavirus pandemic, we continued to create outstanding performances designed to experience online. We played for lifelong fans and first-time listeners in Brazil, Sudan, Indonesia, India, and high above the Arctic Circle in Norway.

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

The Philharmonia is a registered charity. We rely on income from a wide range of sources to deliver our programme. We are proud to be supported by Arts Council England, and grateful for the generosity of the many individuals who make up our supporter family, as well as the Trusts and Foundations who underpin our work. During the Coronavirus pandemic, we received grants from the Cultural Recovery Fund, along with support from individual donors, corporate sponsors, and audience members. This enabled us to support our players, and to create new online experiences for both audiences and Learning & Engagement project participants. In the US, the Orchestra’s American Patrons generously support the Philharmonia Foundation, a US-registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organisation.

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Principal artists

Finnish conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali is the Philharmonia’s new Principal Conductor. He took over the baton from Esa-Pekka Salonen, and is only the sixth person to hold that title in the Orchestra’s history. Previously Principal Guest Conductor for four years, Santtu is known for his expressive, balletic conducting and irrepressible energy. Santtu launches his tenure as Principal Conductor with Human/Nature: Music for a Precious Planet, a wide-ranging series exploring music inspired by the natural world and the role of the arts in addressing environmental issues.

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. Charismatic and boundary-busting musician Pekka Kuusisto is our Featured Artist in the 2021/22 season. He performs as both violinist and conductor, and has programmed two concerts in our free Music of Today series.

 

Santtu-Matias Rouvali, Principal Conductor

Digital programme, recording and broadcasting

The Philharmonia’s international reputation derives in part from our extraordinary 76-year recording legacy, which in the last ten years has been built on by pioneering work with digital technology. Two giant audio-visual walk-through installations have introduced hundreds of thousands of people to the symphony orchestra. Our VR experiences, placing the viewer at the heart of the orchestra, have travelled around the world. In 2021, in a consortium led by the Royal Shakespeare Company and funded by the UK government’s Audience of the Future programme, we presented a new online interactive theatrical and musical experience, Dream. Our iPad app, The Orchestra, has sold tens of thousands of copies, and we have won four Royal Philharmonic Society awards for our digital projects and audience engagement work.

The Philharmonia releases live recordings of signature concerts with Signum Records, and our two most recent albums with Santtu-Matias Rouvali, along with the quality and breadth of our work during the pandemic, led to a Gramophone nomination for Orchestra of the Year. In 2020 Warner Classics released Philharmonia: Birth of a Legend, a 24-CD set of the orchestra’s early recordings marking its 75th anniversary; and we 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. We are the go-to orchestra for many film and videogame composers in the UK and Hollywood, and our music-making has been experienced by millions of cinema-goers and gamers. We have recorded around 150 soundtracks, with film credits stretching back to 1947.

The Philharmonia has over 1m listeners each month on Spotify, and a vibrant YouTube channel with over 118,000 subscribers. Our channel features free performances specially created for online viewing; films introducing the instruments of the orchestra; interviews with artists; and in-depth documentaries accompanying landmark series. The Philharmonia is Classic FM’s Orchestra on Tour and broadcasts extensively on BBC Radio 3.

 

Video

The Virtual Orchestra

Global reach

Throughout its history, the Philharmonia has toured across Europe, Asia and America. In the 2021/22 season we perform in Romania, The Netherlands, Spain, France, Germany and Japan. In January 2020 we had a residency at Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre with Esa-Pekka Salonen, 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. Our 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.

Global Ring, outside Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre
Philharmonia VR installation outside Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre

People

Our Emerging Artists programme (including our MMSF Instrumental Fellowship programme, which aims to increase diversity within the classical music industry) develops the next generation of instrumentalists, composers and conductors; and through new commissions and close associations with contemporary composers, aims to help build the classical canon of tomorrow.

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

 

philharmonia.co.uk

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Photo of the MMSF Instrumental Fellows
MMSF fellows