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Royal Philarmonic Orchestra (RPO)
Cadogan Hall, Sloane Terrace, SW1 - interior - - 1805137.jpg
The RPO at Cadogan Hall, its home since 2004
Founded 1946
Location London, UK
Concert hall Cadogan Hall

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO), based in London, is a British Orchestra that was formed by Sir Thomas Beecham in 1946. In its early days, the orchestra secured profitable recording contracts and important engagements including the Glyndebourne Festival Opera and the concerts of the Royal Philharmonic Society. After Beecham's death in 1961 the orchestra's fortunes declined steeply; it battled for survival until the mid-1960s, when its future was secured after an Arts Council report recommended that it should receive public subsidy; a further crisis arose in the same era when it seemed that the orchestra's right to call itself "Royal" could be withdrawn.

Since Beecham's death, the RPO has had seven chief conductors, including Rudolf Kempe, Antal Doráti, André Previn and Vladimir Ashkenazy. Others closely associated with the orchestra have included Sir Charles Groves, Sir Charles Mackerras, Peter Maxwell Davies, Yehudi Menuhin and Leopold Stokowski.

In 2004, the orchestra acquired its first permanent London base, at the new Cadogan Hall in Chelsea. The RPO also gives concerts at the Royal Festival Hall, the Royal Albert Hall and venues around the UK and other countries. From its earliest days, the orchestra has been active in the recording studios, making film soundtracks and numerous gramophone recordings; many of the LP recordings conducted by Beecham and others have been reissued on compact disc. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) is a British orchestra based in London. It travels around to give concerts in many places.


The RPO was started just after World War II, in 1946, by the conductor Sir Thomas Beecham. Beecham did not start to get his players together until three weeks before the first concert which took place in Croydon on September 15, 1946. Beecham was principal conductor until his death in 1961.

When the orchestra toured the United States in 1950 they were the first British orchestra to visit America since the London Symphony Orchestra in 1912.

Beecham controlled all the organization of the orchestra. After Beecham’s death, the orchestra was made into a self-governing group, like the other London orchestras. They went through some difficult years. In 1963 the Royal Philharmonic Society decided they would stop asking the RPO to play for their concerts, and in Glyndebourne, where the RPO had played for the opera since 1948, the London Philharmonic Orchestra became the resident orchestra instead. Sir Malcolm Sargent helped the orchestra to put on its own concerts at a cinema in north London.

The orchestra had made an agreement with the Royal Philharmonic Society about the concerts it would play. This meant it could call itself “Royal”. In the 1960s the work they were doing no longer allowed them to call themselves “Royal”, so in 1966 the Queen officially gave them the title “Royal”.

In 1992 the orchestra appointed Peter Maxwell Davies as associate conductor and composer of the RPO.

On April 7, 1994, the Royal Philharmonic had the honour of performing at the Vatican in the historic "Papal Concert to Commemorate the Holocaust" with Sir Gilbert Levine.

The RPO give a series of concerts in the Cadogan Hall, London, and in the Royal Albert Hall. They tour all over Britain and also abroad. In the period 2002-2007 they played in 30 different countries.


The orchestra made many recordings with Sir Thomas Beecham. In 1964 Igor Stravinsky recorded his opera "The Rake's Progress" with the RPO. From 1964 to 1979 they recorded many Gilbert and Sullivan operas with the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company.

Non-classical work

The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra is part of the same organization. They spend their time playing lighter classical music. The RPO have also worked with pop music groups and has given its own series of children’s concerts. In 2007 they announced a series of free educational workshops for the local community.

Conducting leadership

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See also

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