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Royal Philharmonic Society

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Royal Philharmonic Society

The Royal Philharmonic Society is a British music society, formed in 1813. It was originally formed in London to promote performances of instrumental music there. Many distinguished composers and performers have taken part in its concerts. It is now a membership society, and while it no longer has its own orchestra, it continues a wide ranging programme of activities which focus on composers and young musicians and aim to engage audiences so that future generations will enjoy a rich and vibrant musical life. Since 1989 it has promoted the annual Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards for live music-making in the United Kingdom. The RPS is a registered UK charity No. 213693. It is located at 10 Stratford Place, London, W1C 1BA.

The society's Gold Medal for outstanding musicianship is awarded only occasionally.


In London, at a time when there were no permanent London orchestras, nor organised series of chamber music concerts, a group of professional musicians formed the Philharmonic Society of London on 24 January 1813. The Society's aim was "to promote the performance, in the most perfect manner possible of the best and most approved instrumental music". The first concert, on 8 March 1813, was presided over by Johann Peter Salomon, with Muzio Clementi at the piano and the violin prodigy Nicolas Mori as lead violinist, performing symphonies by Joseph Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven.

Among the founders were the pianist and violinist William Dance who became the society's first director and treasurer until his death in 1840; and Charles Neate, a pianist and friend of Beethoven, who publicised Beethoven's music at the Society.

The Society asked Beethoven to come to London, but the composer's health prevented his accepting the invitation. However the society's request for a new symphony from him resulted in the Italian Symphony by Felix Mendelssohn. Distinguished conductors included Ludwig Spohr, one of the first conductors to use a baton, Hector Berlioz, who conducted a concert of his works in 1853, Richard Wagner, who conducted the whole 1855 season of orchestral concerts, William Sterndale Bennett for the following ten years, Arthur Sullivan, and Tchaikovsky, who conducted his own works in 1888 and 1893.

Until 1869, the Society gave its concerts in the concert-hall of Hanover Square Rooms, which had seating for only about 800. The Society decided to move permanently to St James's Hall, and a complimentary additional concert, held at the hall, was given to its subscribers at the end of the 1868-69 season. Charles Santley, Charles Hallé, Thérèse Tietjens and Christina Nilsson were the soloists.[1] When the move was made, the Society remodelled its charges to obtain a wider audience and compete with the Crystal Palace and other large venues, and introduced annotated programmes. The Society remained at the hall until 28 February 1894, when it moved to the Queen's Hall.[2]

The society became the Royal Philharmonic Society during its 100th concert season in 1912, and continued organising concerts through the two world wars. It is now a membership society which "seeks to create a future for music through the encouragement of creativity, the recognition of excellence and the promotion of understanding."[3]

The Gold Medal

The Gold Medal was first awarded in 1871. The medal depicts the profile of a bust of Beethoven by Johann Nepomuk Schaller (1777–1842) which was presented to the society in 1870, Beethoven's centenary. It is awarded for "outstanding musicianship", and is given rarely — by 2008 it had been awarded to a total of fewer than 100 musicians.[4]


Honorary membership

Through awarding honorary membership the society recognises "services to music". Like the Gold Medal, honorary membership is awarded rarely; first awarded in 1826, by 2006 only 117 honorary members had been created.

Honorary members


  1. ^ R. Elkin, Royal Philharmonic: The Annals of the Royal Philharmonic Society (Rider & Co, London, 1946), p. 65.
  2. ^ R. Elkin, Queen's Hall 1893-1941 (Ryder, London 1944), p. 52.
  3. ^ R. Elkin, Royal Philharmonic: The Annals of the Royal Philharmonic Society (Rider & Co, London 1946).
  4. ^ "Gold Medal for Daniel Barenboim". The Royal Philharmonic Society. 29 January 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-29. 
  5. ^ "Opera star Sir John Tomlinson awarded medal".  
  6. ^ "John Denison". The Telegraph. 9 January 2007. Retrieved 2011-05-27. 

External links

  • The Royal Philharmonic Society
  • Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards
  • British Library: Royal Philharmonic Society Archive
  • British Library: Beethoven and the Royal Philharmonic Society
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