Honouring Sir Humphrey Burton

09 Jun 2022

The renowned broadcaster and biographer Sir Humphrey Burton has been presented with Honorary Membership of the Royal Philharmonic Society in recognition of his outstanding services to music.

RPS Honorary Membership was presented to Sir Humphrey by James Murphy, RPS Chief Executive at Snape Maltings Concert Hall on Thursday 16 June. The presentation was part of a concert broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 which featured cellist Laura van der Heijden, conductor Martyn Brabbins, and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales performing Walton’s Cello Concerto, as part of the Aldeburgh Festival.

Since 1826, the RPS has presented Honorary Membership in recognition of those who devote their lives to music and uplifting others with it. It was first presented to the composer Weber and subsequent recipients include Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Liszt, Wagner, Brahms, Verdi, Dvorák, Clara Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Ravel, Stravinsky, Yehudi Menuhin, Pierre Boulez, Janet Baker and more recently Evelyn Glennie, George Benjamin, Marin Alsop, Stephen Sondheim, and Sarah Connolly.

The following citation was read by James Murphy at the presentation:

‘Sir Humphrey Burton is one of classical music’s greatest storytellers. For decades, Humphrey drove what we may now regard as a golden age of classical music broadcasting. He was there at the birth of BBC 2 and London Weekend Television, producing and presenting countless shows that brought music and art to a vast, appreciative audience, not least Monitor, Omnibus, Aquarius, Arena, and the great Young Musician of the Year, which of course tonight’s soloist Laura van der Heijden won in 2012. His writing is equally treasured, including definitive biographies of his longstanding collaborators Leonard Bernstein, Yehudi Menuhin, and – another connection to this evening’s concert – his friend William Walton. Published last year at the age of 90, his own autobiography In My Own Time is an essential read for all classical music lovers. Throughout his extraordinary career, Humphrey has continually sought to put musicians right at the heart of the national narrative: such resolve should drive all our own endeavours in classical music to this day.’

Annually, the RPS welcomes nominations for Honorary Membership from RPS Members and colleagues across the music profession. Recipients are decided by the RPS Board of Trustees and advisory Council. A full list of those who have received Honorary Membership from 1826 to the present day can be found here.