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Philharmonia Orchestra
Also known as Philharmonia
New Philharmonia Orchestra
Origin London, England, UK
Genres Classical
Occupations Symphony orchestra
Years active 1945-present
Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor
Esa-Pekka Salonen
Honorary Conductor for Life
Christoph von Dohnányi
Conductor Emeritus
Kurt Sanderling
Principal Guest Conductor
Sir Charles Mackerras
Conductor Laureate
Vladimir Ashkenazy
Notable instruments
Domenico Montagnana, 1735

The Philharmonia Orchestra is an orchestra 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.

Esa-Pekka Salonen is the orchestra's Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor.



Official Philharmonia Orchestra logo

The orchestra was founded in 1945 by Walter Legge, and although it gave live concerts occasionally, it was mainly intended to be a recording orchestra for EMI, where Legge was an executive. Thomas Beecham led its debut concert in 1946, but he was rejected as the orchestra's principal conductor, following his attempts to take control of the orchestra and change its name. Beecham instead went on to found the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.[1]

In its early years, many prominent conductors made recordings with the ensemble, including Arturo Toscanini (released only in the 1990s due to the lack of Toscanini's approval)[citation needed] and Wilhelm Furtwängler. However, Herbert von Karajan was most associated with the Philharmonia in its early years. Whilst he never held an official title with the Philharmonia, Karajan built the orchestra into one of the finest ensembles in the world, and made numerous recordings, including all the Beethoven symphonies.

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. This proved to be an inspired decision, and Klemperer's name became indelibly linked with the orchestra during an "Indian Summer" of great recordings. In 1959, Klemperer 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 Otto 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 Orchestra elected their own governing body and adopted the name New Philharmonia Orchestra. The inaugural concert of the New Philharmonia Orchestra 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 stewardship. Continuing as the New Philharmonia Orchestra, it reacquired the rights to the name “Philharmonia Orchestra” in 1977, and has been known by that name since.

Klemperer retired from conducting in 1971, but was officially still its principal conductor until his death in 1973. For those 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, 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.[2], effective with the 2008-2009 season.[3] Salonen has often conducted the orchestra in concerts and records over a period of more than twenty years, and also served as principal guest conductor of the Philharmonia from 1985 to 1994.

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).[4]

Principal conductors


  1. ^ Lebrecht, Norman (2001). The Maestro Myth. Kensington: Citadel. pp. 160. ISBN 0806520884. 
  2. ^ "Philharmonia Orchestra Announces Salonen As Principal Conductor". Philharmonia. 21 November 2006. Retrieved 2007-02-06. 
  3. ^ Martin Kettle (17 November 2006). "London music on a high as Philharmonia lures Salonen". The Guardian.,,1950036,00.html. Retrieved 2007-02-09. 
  4. ^ "The Chronicle History of King Henry the Fift with His Battell Fought at Agincourt in France". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2007-09-18. 

External links


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