Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Founded 1946

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra



The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) was founded in 1946 by the conductor Sir Thomas Beecham. Of all the British orchestras, the RPO has the widest reach across the United Kingdom's diverse venues, from the Royal Albert Hall to smaller halls in more remote areas. The orchestra is also active on the international circuit and has performed on all continents. 

The Guardian enthuses: ‘The RPO do sensuousness uncommonly well. The end result was rich yet delicate, with wonderfully liquid woodwind solos and an exquisite sheen on the strings.’

The postwar years saw a shift in audience attendance and in repertoire and Beecham envisioned plans for a new orchestra. He appointed Victor Olaf as his orchestral manager and they began recruiting many of the prolific musicians they had worked with before the war, such as the clarinettist Reginald Kell and the double bassist Jack Silvester and they were also able to enlist musicians who were playing with other London orchestras. Beecham gained permission to include the word “royal” in the orchestra’s name in an arrangement with George VI. Thus the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was established.

The orchestra had their first ever rehearsal on 11 September 1946. Four days later it gave its début concert at the Davis Theatre in Croydon. The Times hailed one of its first performances as "a hall filled with golden tone which enveloped the listener".  Within two years, the orchestra had made 100 recordings. The RPO became the resident orchestra at the prestigious Glyndebourne Festival that takes place each summer.

In 1950, Beecham took the RPO on an ambitious tour of the US, Canada and South Africa. It was the first British orchestra to perform in the US since theLondon Symphony Orchesra had played there in 1912.

Nowadays the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is housed in Cadogan Hall and its principal conductor is Charles Dutoit. The orchestra gives an annual concert series at the Festival Hall in London. At the Royal Albert Hall, its concerts range from large-scale works for orchestra and choir to family concerts featuring popular classics. The orchestra has also recorded film soundtracks, such as The Bridge on the River Kwai and The Red Shoes.