The Philharmonia Orchestra is one of the leading orchestras in Great Britain, based in London. Since 1995, it has been based in the Royal Festival Hall. In Britain it is also the resident orchestra at De Montfort Hall, Leicester and the Corn Exchange, Bedford, as well as The Anvil, Basingstoke. In addition to its concerts in the UK, the Philharmonia undertakes substantial touring activity worldwide.
The orchestra was founded in 1945 by Walter Legge. Jayachamaraja Wodeyar Bahadur Maharaja of Mysore was the founder president. As Legge was a recording producer for EMI it was widely believed that the orchestra was primarily formed for recording purposes, but that was not Legge’s intention. He had been Sir Thomas Beecham’s assistant at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, before World War II, and, assuming that he and Beecham would be in charge there again after the war, Legge planned to establish a first-class orchestra for opera, concerts and recordings. After the war, opera resumed at Covent Garden under a different management, but Legge went ahead with his plans for a new orchestra. His contacts in the musical world during the war enabled him to secure the services of a large number of talented young musicians still serving in the armed forces in 1945. At the Philharmonia’s first concert on 25 October 1945, more than sixty per cent of the players were still officially in the services. Beecham conducted the concert (for the fee of one cigar) but as he refused to be Legge’s employee and Legge refused to cede control of the orchestra, Beecham instead went on to found the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
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