Tradition Isn't What it Used to Be

2001 Royal Philharmonic Society Lecture - Nicholas Kenyon

Given on Saturday 24 February 2001 at the Barbican Centre, London

Tradition Isn’t What it Used to Be

“When Bernard Haitink came off the stage after giving an electrifying performance of Beethoven’s Seventh with the Berlin Philharmonic at last year’s Proms, he looked at me with a twinkle and said ‘ah, just some old fashioned Beethoven for you, Nick’.

But it wasn’t. It was an absolute model of what an up-to-date modern Beethoven performance could be, a performance that had absorbed some of the best insights of the period-instrument movement while remaining resolutely crafted out of the sound of the Berlin Philharmonic, achieving miracles of textural clarity (how often do you hear the single first flute ascending above the orchestra in the final bars?).

It made me think again about what is old-fashioned and what isn’t, how tradition changes before our eyes and ears, how performance styles change and how performing traditions get established.”

The RPS Lecture

offers a platform for eminent thinkers and cultural commentators to examine aspects of the future of music.

The RPS Lecture is generously supported by Peter Bull



Sally Cavender, Performance Music Director, Faber Music: Many of our composers have been honoured by RPS Awards. The RPS is uniquely placed to support the huge variety of new music today.


The early directors and concert conductors were given tickets made of ivory to gain them admission to Philharmonic Society performances.