Bicentenary Commissions

New music has been at the heart of the RPS since its very first concert season.

In the past ten years alone, the Royal Philharmonic Society has commissioned new music from over 60 composers – from the centenarian Elliott Carter to the brightest talent of a new generation.

New commissions formed the foundation stone of the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Bicentenary Year in 2013.

A highlight of the season was the premiere of a major new RPS/BBC Radio 3/New York Philharmonic co-commission from Mark-Anthony Turnage. Frieze is inspired by Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and was performed by the National Youth Orchestra at the BBC Proms and by the New York Phil in New York in the autumn.

New works from Harrison Birtwistle, Magnus Lindberg, Wolfgang Rihm, Poul Ruders, Judith Weir, Thea Musgrave, Sally Beamish, Anna Meredith and Charlotte Bray co-commissioned with the Britten-Pears Foundation jointly marked the RPS’s Bicentenary and the Centenary of Benjamin Britten’s birth. For the project, initiated by RPS Trustee Colin Matthews, who is also BPF’s Music Director, the composers wrote for different ensembles to reflect the range of Britten’s composition output, including symphony orchestra, children’s choir and tenor with piano.

Further new commissions included performances of two new orchestral works by Huw Watkins, the RPS/PRS for Music Foundation Composer in the House at the Orchestra of the Swan, two new works by the recipient of the RPS Elgar Bursary for mature composers, Jonathan Lloyd, performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and a new work for dance by Kenneth Hesketh supported by the RPS Drummond Fund.

Young composers under 25 were invited to apply for a range of mini-commissions, while five outstanding winners of the RPS Composition Prize wrote for the Philharmonia Orchestra and the Cheltenham and Presteigne Festivals.

John Gilhooly, Chairman of the Royal Philharmonic Society, comments:

“The founding fathers of the Philharmonic Society were determined to make a case for serious music, or as they put it ‘that species of music which called forth the efforts and displayed the genius of the greatest masters.’ Composers were, and remain, at the heart of the society’s mission to champion musical excellence, creativity and understanding.”

Related Pages


Susan Bullock, Soprano: The work of the RPS is tireless and thanks to the Society, so many people have come to learn about, perform and understand music to the highest level.


An early member of the Society, who played in our first season in 1813, was the Afro-European violinist George Polgreen Bridgetower (1778-1860) – the original dedicatee of Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata.