The UK’s oldest concert society to celebrate its Bicentenary in 2013

  • Leading orchestras, ensembles, musicians and composers feature in a year of celebratory concerts, talks and exhibitions on both sides of the Atlantic
  • The RPS, commissioner of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, points the way to a bright future with 16 new commissions
  • Top international composers Harrison Birtwistle, Wolfgang Rihm, Magnus Lindberg, Poul Ruders, Judith Weir and Richard Rodney Bennett compose new pieces inspired by Benjamin Britten
  • BBC Proms premiere for major new work in response to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony
  • 200th anniversary marked by National Listening Day on Classic FM (24 January 2013) and birthday concert at the Royal Festival Hall, broadcast live on BBC Radio 3
  • Beethoven and Bust: iconic sculpture of composer to tour the UK in 2013
  • Historic scores annotated by Beethoven displayed together in public for the first time since 1824
  • RPS archive at the British Library to be digitised to give unprecedented access to scholars worldwide
  • New iPad app to launch exploring in depth the Society’s most famous commission, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony
  • RPS launches two new websites and an interactive timeline documenting 200 years of activity

    One of the world’s most illustrious musical institutions, the Royal Philharmonic Society [RPS] turns 200 on 24 January 2013. Bicentenary celebrations throughout 2013 put the spotlight on the Society’s unparalleled contribution to music, with the emphasis as much on the music of the future as the many triumphs of the past.

    The year brings together new commissions from leading and emerging composers, and reaches out to audiences through live performances, debates, exhibitions, broadcasts and online via a new website, digitisation of the extraordinary RPS Archive at the British Library, which provides a unique insight into two centuries of concert giving and going in the UK, and a new app dedicated to the Society’s most famous commission, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. The Society’s extended support of young artists will be celebrated through a series of awards and bursaries: from practical support to purchase the very tools of their trade – quality instruments – to mentoring and opportunities for further study with the best in the business. A Royal Philharmonic Society Bicentenary Appeal has already raised over half of its target of £270,000 to invest in talented young musicians and composers.

    Those taking part in RPS200 include many of the UK’s leading orchestras, ensembles and organisations including the Philharmonia Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, the Hallé, Britten Sinfonia, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and National Youth Choir; BBC Radio 3 and the BBC Proms; Classic FM; The British Library, Southbank Centre, Aldeburgh Festival and Wigmore Hall.

    The programme features concerts nationwide (with many broadcast live on BBC Radio 3), an unprecedented 16 new RPS commissions in one year from leading and emerging composers including Harrison Birtwistle, Magnus Lindberg, Wolfgang Rihm and Poul Ruders, talks and debates featuring great musical minds, leading academics and cultural commentators, and exhibitions on both sides of the Atlantic.

    A major new orchestral work in response to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, co-commissioned by the RPS, BBC and The New York Philharmonic will be unveiled at the BBC Proms – full details to be released with the season announcements of The New York Philharmonic and the BBC Proms. Beethoven’s 9th Symphony was commissioned by the RPS and given its US premiere by The New York Philharmonic. New York celebrations in Autumn 2013 are led by The New York Philharmonic (which was founded in 1842 on the model of the Philharmonic Society of London), Juilliard School and Morgan Library, which for the first time since 1824 will reunite and display side by side the two original copyists’ scores of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony from the RPS and Juilliard School archives, both annotated by the composer. Treasures from the RPS Archive, including scores, fascinating correspondence with leading composers and musicians and concert curios will also be on show at RPS200 exhibitions at the British Library and Barbican Music Library. An historic bust of Beethoven, a familiar sight at Society concerts in the late 19th and 20th Centuries – but unseen for over 30 years – returns to the concert platform to take centre stage at Bicentenary concerts nationwide throughout 2013. Watch Beethoven go for bust on the streets of London at from 7 November:

    The exact anniversary of the founding of the Society is celebrated on Thursday 24 January 2013. Tugan Sokhiev conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra in a special concert of music from three composers who were closely associated with the Society: Mendelssohn, Brahms and Dvořák (Royal Festival Hall), broadcast live on BBC Radio 3. The anniversary will also be marked by a special National Listening Day on Global Radio’s national classical music station, Classic FM and The day features many of the key works that were commissioned or premiered by the Society and is part of a week of special programming dedicated to the sights and sounds of the RPS.

    philharmonic: adj. devoted to music; music loving

    The Royal Philharmonic Society is for people who love music and live music making and who want to ensure a vibrant future for classical music. It offers support to talented young performers and composers, champions excellence and encourages audiences to listen, and talk about, great music. Watch what our members have to say in My RPS The Society’s work is supported by many leading musicians, including distinguished RPS Gold Medallists Sir Simon Rattle, Dame Janet Baker, Dame Mitsuko Uchida, Thomas Quasthoff, Sir Colin Davis, Sir Bernard Haitink, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Alfred Brendel, Placido Domingo, Pierre Boulez, Claudio Abbado, Henri Dutilleux and Elliott Carter. The RPS receives no public funding. It is a registered charity supported by member subscriptions, partnerships and the generosity of individual donors.

    My RPS:

    The history of the Royal Philharmonic Society is also the history of two centuries of classical music in Britain. In 1813, the aims of the fledgling Philharmonic Society were ‘to promote the performance, in the most perfect manner possible, of the best and most approved instrumental music’ and to ‘encourage an appreciation by the public in the art of music’. The Philharmonic Society was determined to make a case for serious music and lost no time in forming associations with composers, including Beethoven. Audiences for Philharmonic Society concerts were unified in ‘one great object: the love of their art.’ By founding the Philharmonic Society, British musicians opened the doors to the world’s best music and performers, and created a channel of communication that has hummed ever since. These aims hold true today and 200 years on, the Society still stands at the heart of music in the UK.

    John Gilhooly, Chairman of the Royal Philharmonic Society comments: “The Royal Philharmonic Society is that rare beast: an organisation that has stayed true to its founding principles, yet has a distinctive voice that speaks loud and clear in the 21st Century. We continue to be bold of ambition, a guiding hand to younger musicians and a partner to distinguished artists. We unashamedly beat the drum for excellence and creative thinking and 200 years on, musicians and those who love music remain at the very heart of our work. As forward looking champions of the best in music, we have formed strong partnerships with artists, and with the orchestras, ensembles, venues and broadcasters who make the UK’s music scene so vital and dynamic, and who will play a major role in our Bicentenary celebrations. As we move into our third century, we will continue to champion excellence and to be an independent voice for “the love of our art”, so that the composers and musicians that we support today will become the history makers of tomorrow.”

    RPS Gold Medallist, pianist Alfred Brendel, speaking at the launch of RPS200 said: “I feel privileged to be able to say a few words about a Society which has commissioned and premiered so much important music. Throughout its history, the Society has made choices which today may seem prescient, but at the time were brave and bold – wonderful pieces by Beethoven and Mendelssohn, but also by Bartók, Elliott Carter or Lutoslawski which brought the shock of the new to audiences yet have become part of the repertoire and continue to resonate, enthrall, or at times, tantalise and frustrate, today. Listening to John Gilhooly outline the plans for the RPS Bicentenary year in 2013, it’s good to hear that the RPS is continuing to stir things up, and growing old disgracefully: please keep commissioning composers, keep supporting musicians, keep talking about music and keep championing excellence. It needs organisations like the RPS to remind us that young artists take time to develop, that composers require opportunities for their voices to be heard and that serious music and musicians are vital, and should be valued. Great artists never stop learning, and great musicians never stop listening. The RPS shares these qualities and I wish it well for 2013 and well beyond!”


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