Since September 2007 the BBC Philharmonic has been in a major partnership with Salford City Council enabling the Orchestra to build active links with Salford and its communities.
From 2011 the BBC Philharmonic will be based in a dedicated state-of-the-art studio at the BBC's new home in the North, Mediacity, Salford Quays. This will be its base for community and learning activities in Salford and in the meantime the Orchestra will work closely with Salford City Council, the Salford Music Service and schools in the area.
History of the BBC Philharmonic
The first Manchester radio station was housed in the premises of the Metropolitan Vickers Electrical Company, Manchester. The company secured a licence for a station which officially began transmitting in 1922, with the call-sign 2ZY. The station manager, Dan Godfrey Junior, created an orchestra of 12 players known as the 2ZY Orchestra, together with a chorus and opera company. There began an impressive variety and range of regular live music broadcasts. Many works, particularly by British composers, were given their first broadcast performances by the 2ZY Orchestra, such as Elgar's Enigma Variations, Holst's The Planets and Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius. In 1926 the 2ZY Orchestra was renamed the Northern Wireless Orchestra.
In 1930, the BBC decided to establish a national orchestra, in the form of the London based BBC Symphony Orchestra and reduced its commitment to regional orchestras. As a result, the NWO was disbanded in March 1931 - to much public protest. In its place Manchester maintained a nine-piece ensemble, known as the Northern Studio Orchestra.
In 1933 the BBC realised that the Symphony Orchestra alone could not meet the demand for serious broadcast music and that a solution to this would be to re-expand the regional orchestras. First rate, live orchestral music made a welcome return to Manchester in the form of the BBC Northern Orchestra.
Throughout the war the Orchestra played its part by moving out of the studio to give concerts to members of the forces. It was a strange life for the players during those wartime years; sometimes concerts were accompanied by air-raid sirens and visits to cities such as Huddersfield and Sheffield often meant long journeys over the moors in the blackout.
The Orchestra came under threat of disbandment many times in its first 60 years. The '60s was a period of great growth - not just in terms of numbers, but in terms of musical excellence and public recognition.
This became evident as the Orchestra was invited to perform at increasingly prestigious public concerts. These included the first of many Henry Wood Proms in 1961, under George Hurst - a man who played an extremely important part in the development of the Orchestra. In 1982 it was announced that the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra would be augmented over two years to a playing strength of 90, and that it would in future be known as the BBC Philharmonic.
Over the years the Orchestra has had many concert venues in Manchester, including Houldsworth Hall, the Town Hall and for many years the Free Trade Hall, which was Manchester's main concert venue until The Bridgewater Hall was opened in September 1996.
For much of its history its rehearsal base was the Milton Hall, until 1980 when the Orchestra moved to its current home, Studio 7 Concert Hall in the BBC's New Broadcasting House in Manchester. Here it records 10 CDs a year for Chandos Records under an exclusive contract, and many hours of music for broadcast on BBC Radio 3, as well as performing public concerts.
The many distinguished conductors the Orchestra has worked with include Sir Charles Groves, Raymond Leppard, George Hurst, Bryden Thompson, Jiří Bĕlohlávek, Sir Georg Solti, Neeme Jarvi, Paavo Jarvi, Sir Charles Mackerras and Sir Edward Downes. Gianandrea Noseda is currently Chief Conductor, Vassily Sinaisky is Chief Guest Conductor, HK Gruber is Composer/Conductor and Yan Pascal Tortelier is Conductor Laureate.
Conductors with whom the Orchestra works include Gunther Herbig, Yutaka Sado, Sir Andrew Davis, Juanjo Mena, Pablo Heras-Casado and Ludovic Morlot.
The Orchestra's policy of introducing new and adventurous repertoire to its programmes has meant that a large number of composers have also worked with the Orchestra as conductors, among them Berio, Copland, Penderecki, Tippett, Walton. The BBC Philharmonic has given many world premiere performances including pieces by Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Hans Werner Henze, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Malcolm Arnold, Unsuk Chin, Alexander Goehr, John Casken, David Matthews, Edward Gregson, Friedrich Cerha and Kurt Schwertsik.
In 1991 Sir Peter Maxwell Davies became the BBC Philharmonic's first Composer/Conductor and was succeeded in 2000 by James MacMillan. The Orchestra has recorded five CDs of MacMillan's music, including The Birds of Rhiannon with the BBC Singers and The Confession of Isobel Gowdie. In September 2009 the renowned Austrian composer, HK Gruber, succeeded MacMillan as the BBC Philharmonic's Composer/Conductor.
The BBC Philharmonic's Learning and Community Department takes its work all over the UK and Europe and has initiated projects in numerous academic and community settings, as well as some more unusual places including: supermarkets, pubs, offices, shopping malls, factories, fish sheds and fire stations!
Thousands of people of all ages have attended the orchestra's very established Meet the BBC Phil scheme in our rehearsal studios in Manchester, whilst its Professional Experience Scheme enables instrumentalists from the RNCM and the universities of Manchester and Huddersfield, to gain valuable training and performing experience with the Orchestra. Over the last few years the Orchestra has built a special relationship with Salford City Council through a sponsorship programme that has enabled the orchestra to deliver a range of exciting, unusual and innovative projects across the authority. Recent work has included the creation of the Salford Family Orchestra and Chorus who made their astonishing debut at the Royal Albert Hall in London as part of the BBC Proms in 2009. Many Salford based schools, colleges, university and community groups will perform in our new 'state of the art' purpose built studio in Salford Quays, MediaCity from 2011.