For over two hundred years, the Royal Philharmonic Society has been a major force in bringing new music - and lasting masterworks - to life.
Though many classical concerts comprise historical works, this was not always the case. For centuries, audiences flocked to hear the newest music, and the Society was established in part to fulfil that appetite. The Society was central in bringing the latest music and greatest performers to Britain from the continent, not only giving many European works their first airing on these shores, but also commissioning new works outright. Since 1813, RPS commissions have included masterworks such as Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Mendelssohn’s 'Italian' Symphony and Saint-Saëns' 'Organ' Symphony among many others, and we continue to commission new works as much as we possibly can.
For a comprehensive list of works commissioned by the RPS since 1813, click here.
While we strive to commission multiple new works annually, we can only do this by fundraising for them or through several restricted funds entrusted to the RPS to use expressly as their donors wished.
Our leading initiative for composers today is a widely-regarded programme that helps an annual cohort be heard and establish themselves professionally. Annually, we welcome a group of promising individuals to be part of our RPS Composers programme, giving each a commission and performance opportunity with a noted ensemble, venue or festival, as well as a year of development and networking opportunities, intended to nurture the confidence and skills they need to attain commissions and performances of their own. To run the RPS Composers programme, we need to raise £40,000 annually, and are so grateful to a range of trusts, individuals and RPS Members for their support in this. This includes the Susan Bradshaw Composers' Fund - based at the RPS - from which we draw moderate funds annually to help support a couple of the participating composers, with approval from an external advisory group.
We are particularly proud of the RPS Drummond Lockyer Fund for Dance which exists to foster fresh collaboration between composers and choreographers. It has led to a number of exciting outcomes, and is dedicated to the writer, broadcaster and lifelong dance aficionado Sir John Drummond CBE and his partner, the late dance impresario, Bob Lockyer OBE who first established it in John's name. Applications open for it annually and are reviewed by us in consultation with an external advisory group.
We are also grateful beneficiaries of the Elgar Bursary, a modest amount arising from the royalties of Anthony Payne's 'completion' of Elgar's Third Symphony. When such funds accumulate, we are able to put them from time to time towards commissions that maintain an Elgarian outlook and spirit, which we devise with approval from Elgar's own descendants.
Between 2001 and 2018, we also enjoyed a fruitful collaboration with BBC Radio 3 co-commissioning works for their New Generation Artists, one of a number of other past commissioning initiatives we are proud to have activated.
We are continually looking for new ways and new funds to help us support a greater range of composers, and are grateful to anyone who can help us in this mission.