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Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Indelibly linked to its founder, Sir Thomas Beecham, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) is considered one of the four major orchestras based in London. Established in 1946 in connection with the Royal Philharmonic Society, the orchestra's title was directly approved by King George VI. Although it has often had to fight for its survival, the RPO remains one of the busiest ensembles in Great Britain. The orchestra annually offers a set of concert series in three London venues (Royal Festival Hall, Barbican Hall and Croydon's Fairfield Hall), provides music for many films and tours extensively at home and abroad. It is more involved with the pop music industry than many of its peers and the ensemble's Hooked on Classics series of recordings has been a tremendous boon to the group's finances and international visibility. The series sold more than nine million copies world-wide. An appearance in the half-time show of the Orange Bowl football game in Miami, Florida during the mid-1980's brought the orchestra to the attention of millions of viewers. As it is with many of the world's first-ranked ensembles, the RPO relies heavily on its corporate sponsors for its funding. In an attempt to secure its financial future and have more control of its artistic direction, the orchestra began producing and marketing its own recordings under its exclusive RPO label.

With the horrors of World War II behind him, Sir Thomas Beecham was anxious to have an orchestra to direct. When the opportunity to lead the newly formed Philharmonia Orchestra was given to Herbert von Karajan, Beecham decided to assemble his own ensemble. He gathered many of Europe's top musicians, made an agreement with the Royal Philharmonic Society to play an exclusive season of concerts at the Davis Theater in Croydon and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was born. The orchestra was almost immediately successful attracting enthusiastic audiences and excellent critical reviews. In 1950, the RPO did its first international tour to the United States playing in forty five cities. Although American critics took issue with the fact that Beecham's programming was very conservative and included no contemporary English compositions, the tour was a huge commercial success and the RPO's future was secured.

During the 1950s, the orchestra continued to raise its already high musical standards, widen its repertoire and seek out lucrative recording contracts even though Beecham appeared less frequently on the podium. He claimed that the tax laws in place in England at the time did not allow him to live comfortably in London but ill health was probably the real reason for his absences.

When Beecham died in 1961, the orchestra sought out German conductor Rudolf Kempe as his successor. Under Kempe's leadership the RPO continued a full schedule of concerts and other projects but signs of trouble began to appear in 1963. In February of that year, it was proposed that the RPO merge with the orchestra of the Royal Opera at Covent Garden but an agreement was never reached. Then the Royal Philharmonic Society decided not to engage the orchestra for its upcoming season and finally the ensemble was excluded from a cooperative agreement with the Royal Festival Hall and the three other major London orchestras (London Philharmonic, London Symphony and the New Philharmonic). With their future hanging in the balance, the RPO players decided to reorganize the orchestra into an independent, self-governing entity run by a Board of Directors drawn primarily from within the membership. Kempe agreed to remain as music director and throughout the turbulent months of transition, the orchestra continued its rigorous performance schedule and even completed a fifty-two concert tour in North America.

More problems arose in 1964 when the orchestra was excluded from appearing at the Royal Festival Hall for another two years and the Royal Philharmonic Society threatened to withdraw the orchestra's "Royal" title. Upon hearing of this, Queen Elizabeth II conferred her blessing on the ensemble as "Royal....in its own right" which allowed the orchestra to retain its title.

The orchestra's future brightened in the mid-1960s when a report by Lord Goodman recommended that the RPO should be given government subsidies in order that it remain active. With the infusion of annual grants from the London Orchestral Concert Board, the orchestra survived and grew. Unfortunately Kempe, who remained as principal conductor and music director until 1975, was never able to develop a characteristic ensemble sound in the RPO although the standard of musicianship within the group was excellent.

When Antál Doráti succeeded Kempe in 1975 he attempted to bring his characteristic versatility of repertoire to the RPO. He was not entirely successful because of the orchestra's largely conservative attitude toward programming but some strides were made. His successor, Walter Weller, was even less successful in influencing the ensemble and during his tenure, the RPO slipped into a rather lack-luster role in London's musical circles. A series of successful tours and participation in many major international festivals kept the orchestra in the public eye and it enjoyed reasonable popularity with its audiences.

André Previn's arrival on the RPO podium in 1985 shook the orchestra to its core and energized its somewhat pedestrian musical quality. His dramatic resignation in protest of the overburdened schedule of the RPO must keep was also traumatic for the orchestra. Stability was returned to the ensemble when Vladimir Ashkenazy became the group's music director and principal conductor in 1986. Under his tutelage, the orchestra began to recover some of the sensitivity and grace of line that it had during Beecham's tenure. Ashkenazy was also instrumental in the development of the RPO exclusive record label which helped to secure the orchestra's financial and artistic future. After his departure in 1994, Daniele Gatti succeeded Ashkenazy as principal conductor. His youthful energy and expertise in Italian repertoire have given the RPO a new direction for the twenty-first century.

Throughout its rather turbulent history, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra has been able to retain its place in London's competitive musical circles. With its leanings toward the pop music industry and its extensive recording and touring schedules, the Royal Philharmonic is likely to remain one of the busiest and most popular orchestras in the United Kingdom. ~ Corie Stanton Root, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: A Night At The Opera

Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
Title: Rigoletto, Opera
Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Title: La Clemenza Di Tito, Opera, K. 621
Composer: Charles Gounod
Title: Faust, Opera
Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Title: La Bohème, Opera
Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Title: Don Giovanni, Opera, K. 527
Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
Title: Don Carlo, Opera
Composer: Jacques Offenbach
Title: Les Contes D'hoffmann, Opera In 4 Acts
Composer: George Frideric Handel
Title: Orlando, Opera, Hwv 31
Composer: Henry Purcell
Title: The Tempest, Or, The Enchanted Island, Semi-opera, Z. 631
Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
Title: Il Trovatore, Opera
Composer: Georges Bizet
Title: Les Pêcheurs De Perles, Opera In 3 Acts
Composer: Richard Strauss
Title: Ariadne Auf Naxos, Opera, Op. 60-i (Trv 228) (Original Version)
Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Title: Gianni Schicchi, Opera
Composer: Vincenzo Bellini
Title: I Puritani, Opera
x

Track List: Beecham: Music To Remember

Composer: Emmanuel Chabrier
Title: Gwendoline, Opera In 2 Acts
Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Title: Divertimento No. 2 for flute, oboe, bassoon, 4 horns & strings in D major, K. 131
Composer: Frederick Delius
Title: Brigg Fair (An English Rhapsody), For Orchestra, RT Vi/16
Composer: Claude Debussy
Title: L' Enfant Prodigue, Scène Lyrique For Voices & Orchestra, L. 57
Composer: Camille Saint-Saëns
Title: Le Rouet D'Omphale, Symphonic Poem In A Major, Op. 31
Composer: Hector Berlioz
Title: Les Troyens, Opera, H. 133a
Composer: Jules Massenet
Title: La Vierge, Sacred Legend In 4 Acts
Composer: Emmanuel Chabrier
Title: España, Rhapsody For Orchestra, Also Arranged For 2 Pianos
x

Track List: Cello Adagios

Disc 1
Composer: Camille Saint-Saëns
Title: The Swan (From "Carnival Of The Animals"), Original (For 2 Pianos & Ensemble) And Arrangements
Composer: Sergey Rachmaninov
Title: Vocalise, Instrumental Arrangement, Op. 34/14
Composer: Jules Massenet
Title: Méditation, For Violin & Orchestra (Or Other Arrangement) (From Opera "Thaïs")
Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
Title: Sonata For Viola Da Gamba & Keyboard No. 3 In G Minor, Bwv 1029
Composer: Gabriel Fauré
Title: Après Un Rêve ("Dans Un Sommeil"), Song For Voice & Piano, Op. 7/1
Composer: Sir Edward Elgar
Title: Cello Concerto In E Minor, Op. 85
Composer: Giulio Caccini
Title: Ave Maria
Composer: Luigi Boccherini
Title: Cello Concerto In B Flat Major (arranged By Friedrich Grützmacher)
Composer: Robert Schumann
Title: Kinderszenen No. 7 ("Träumerei"), For Piano, Op. 15/7
Composer: Alexander Borodin
Title: Nocturne For String Orchestra (arranged By Malcolm Sargent From String Quartet No. 2)
Composer: Maria Theresia von Paradis
Title: Sicilienne For Keyboard In E Flat
Composer: Franz Schubert
Title: An Die Musik ("Du Holde Kunst..."), Song For Voice & Piano, D. 547 (Op. 88/4)
Composer: Claude Debussy
Title: Rêverie, For Piano, L. 68
Composer: Ernest Bloch
Title: From Jewish Life, Sketches (3) For Cello & Piano
Composer: Alfredo Catalani
Title: La Wally, Opera (Dramma Musicale) In 4 Acts
Composer: Sir Edward Elgar
Title: Salut D'amour, For Violin & Piano, Op. 12
Composer: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Title: Valse Sentimentale, For Piano (Or Violin & Piano) In F Minor, Op. 51/6
Composer: Max Bruch
Title: Kol Nidrei, For Cello & Orchestra, Op. 47
Disc 2
Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
Title: Orchestral Suite No. 3 In D Major, Bwv 1068
Composer: Claude Debussy
Title: Clair De Lune, For Orchestra Or Various Other Arrangements (From "Suite Bergamasque" For Piano), L. 75/3
Composer: Gabriel Fauré
Title: éLégie For Cello & Piano Or Orchestra In C Minor, Op. 24
Composer: Sergey Rachmaninov
Title: Sonata For Cello And Piano In G Minor, Op. 19
Composer: Sir Edward Elgar
Title: Romance, For Bassoon & Orchestra (also Arr. For Cello & Piano), Op. 62
Composer: Claude Debussy
Title: Beau Soir ("Lorsque Au Soleil Couchant Les Rivières Sont Roses"), Song For Voice & Piano, L. 6
Composer: Gabriel Fauré
Title: Sicilienne, For Cello & Piano, Op. 78
Composer: César Franck
Title: Panis Angelicus For Tenor, Organ, Harp, Cello & Bass
Composer: Fryderyk Chopin
Title: Nocturne For Piano No. 2 In E Flat Major, Op. 9/2, CT. 109
Composer: Niccolò Paganini
Title: Cantabile, For Violin & Piano (Or Guitar) In D Major, (Ms 109)
Composer: Fritz Kreisler
Title: Liebesleid "Love's Sorrow" For Violin & Piano
Composer: Antonin Dvorák
Title: Cello Concerto In B Minor, B. 191 (Op. 104)
Composer: Gabriel Fauré
Title: Berceuse, For Piano, 4 Hands Or Orchestra (Dolly, Suite), Op. 56/1
Composer: Joseph Rheinberger
Title: Sonatas (20) For Organ, No 11 In D Minor, Op. 148 ("Cantilène")
Composer: Alexander Glazunov
Title: Mélodie For Cello & Orchestra In D Major, Op. 20/1
x

Track List: Delius: A Village Romeo and Juliet

Disc 1
Title: A Village Romeo & Juliet, Lyric Drama, RT I/6
Disc 2
x

Track List: Dolora Zajick - The Art Of The Dramatic Mezzo-Soprano

Composer: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Title: The Maid Of Orléans (Jeanne D'arc), Opera
Composer: Modest Mussorgsky
Title: Khovanshchina, Opera In 5 Acts, Edited By Rimsky-korsakov
Composer: Francesco Cilea
Title: Adriana Lecouvreur, Opera
Composer: Gioachino Rossini
Title: Semiramide, Opera
Composer: Pietro Mascagni
Title: Cavalleria Rusticana, Opera (Melodramma) In 1 Act
Composer: Camille Saint-Saëns
Title: Samson Et Dalila, Opera In 3 Acts, Op. 47
Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
Title: Don Carlo, Opera
Title: Il Trovatore, Opera
Composer: Christoph Willibald Gluck
Title: Alceste (French Version), Opera In 3 Acts, Wq. 44
Title: Orphée Et Eurydice (French Version), Opera In 3 Acts, Wq. 41
Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
Title: Macbeth, Opera
x

Track List: John Adams: Violin Concerto; John Corigliano: Red Violin "Chaconne"

x

Track List: MacDowell: The Symphonic Poems

x

Track List: Verdi: La Forza del Destino

Disc 1
Title: La Forza Del Destino, Opera
Disc 2
Disc 3
x

Track List: Vintage TV & Radio Classics

Composer: Ralph Vaughan Williams
Title: Sea Songs, march for military or brass band
Composer: Billy Mayerl
Title: Marigold, A Syncopated Impression For Piano
Composer: Gilbert Vinter
Title: Waltzing With Sullivan, For Orchestra
Composer: Eric Coates
Title: Sound And Vision, March For Orchestra
Composer: Fritz Spiegl
Title: Radio 4 UK, Television Theme For Orchestra
Composer: Arnold Safroni
Title: Imperial Echoes, March For Orchestra
Composer: Ivor Slaney
Title: Top Dog (theme From The Television Series The Men From The Ministry), For Orchestra
Composer: Archibald Joyce
Title: A Thousand Kisses, For Orchestra
Composer: Woolf Phillips
Title: Parisian Mode, For Orchestra
Composer: Cyril Watters
Title: Willow Waltz, For Orchestra
Composer: George Melachrino
Title: Winter Sunshine, For Orchestra
Composer: William Hill-Bowen
Title: Paris Promenade, For Orchestra
Title: Paris Metro, For Orchestra
Composer: Hubert Bath
Title: Out Of The Blue, March For Band
Composer: Ashworth Hope
Title: Barnacle Bill, For Orchestra
Composer: Alan Langford
Title: A Little French Suite, For Orchestra
Composer: Montague Phillips
Title: Dance Revels, Suite For Orchestra
Composer: John Dankworth
Title: Widespread World (Rediffusion London Call Sign), March For Orchestra

Comments

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