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Photo credit: Ben Wright

In addition to the Orchestra’s annual season of concerts in London’s Royal Albert Hall, Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall and its home Cadogan Hall, the RPO is a respected cultural ambassador and enjoys a busy schedule of international touring, performing in the world’s great concerts halls and at prestigious international festivals. The Orchestra has a long association with the USA, from its inaugural 1950 tour under the baton of its Founder Sir Thomas Beecham, when it performed in a staggering 45 cities in just 64 days, to its most recent 14-concert tour in January 2020, featuring acclaimed performances directed by Pinchas Zukerman. In recognition of the RPO’s warm relationship with US audiences, in 2016 it set about rejuvenating the American Friends of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (AFRPO), a 501(c) (3) organisation that provides essential support for the Orchestra’s USA tours and educational activity (www.afrpo.com).

The RPO is recognised as being the UK’s most in-demand orchestra, an accolade that would have pleased Sir Thomas Beecham, who founded the RPO in 1946. His mission was to lead a vital revival of UK orchestras after World War II and form an ensemble that comprised the finest musicians in the country. The Orchestra has since attracted a glittering list of principal conductors, including Rudolf Kempe, Antal Doráti, Walter Weller, André Previn, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Yuri Temirkanov, Daniele Gatti and Charles Dutoit.

The RPO aims to place orchestral music at the heart of contemporary society, collaborating with creative partners to foster a deeper engagement with communities to ensure that live orchestral music is accessible to as inclusive and diverse an audience as possible. To achieve this, in 1993 the Orchestra launched RPO Resound, which has grown to become the most innovative and respected orchestral community and education programme in the UK and internationally. RPO Resound’s work in the USA is supported by the American Friends of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra has always been entrepreneurial and in 1986 it was the first UK orchestra to launch its own record label. The RPO has gone on to embrace advances in digital technology and now achieves nearly thirty million downloads of its recorded music each year. The Orchestra is increasingly active online (www.rpo.co.uk) and on social media (@rpoonline) providing audiences with the opportunity to engage with the RPO and enjoy ‘behind-the-scenes’ insights.

Passion, versatility and uncompromising artistic standards are the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s hallmarks, and as it looks forward to an exciting future with its new Music Director, Vasily Petrenko, it will continue to be recognised as one of the world’s most open-minded, forward-thinking and accessible symphony orchestras.