The Chorus

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The Philharmonia Chorus is an independent symphony chorus based in London. Founded by Walter Legge in 1957 to record Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with the Philharmonia Orchestra under Otto Klemperer, the Chorus quickly established itself as one of Europe’s premier choruses. Over the succeeding decades, the Chorus has worked with many of the leading orchestras in Europe, and most of the leading conductors of the day.

Over the past few years, the Chorus's repertory has encompassed Der fliegende Holländer and Die Fledermaus in concert performance, Mahler’s Second Symphony with the Philharmonia Orchestra (in concert and in the recording studio), James MacMillan’s St John Passion, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with both the Philharmonia Orchestra and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and Beethoven's Missa Solemnis. There has been a rare performance of Frank Martin's Golgotha, and the UK premier of Jeajoon Ryu's Sinfonia da Requiem. The Chorus has accompanied Opera's Greatest Stars at London's Royal Albert Hall, performed Berlioz's Grande Messe des Morts in the composer's birthplace, and sung Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius with the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra conducted by the President of the Chorus, Jeffrey Tate.

The Chorus combines amateur singers drawn from all walks of life, young professional singers from our own Professional Singers Scheme, and students from our Student Scheme. This structure generates the high quality sound for which the Chorus is famous.

The Chorus is a Registered Charity, No. 250495.

About the Chorus

It is, in a sense, a tale of two Ninths.

January, 1957. The great Otto Klemperer is recording the Beethoven symphonies with the Philharmonia Orchestra in London. For the Ninth, he needs a chorus. A standard British choral society won’t do: too polite; too prim. So Klemperer and his producer Walter Legge call on Wilhelm Pitz, chorus master of the Wagner festival in Bayreuth. They ask for a disciplined but hearty choir – dramatically coloured, with home-grown voices but a distinctly European sound. Pitz gets to work.

It’s now November. The orchestra is churning its way through Beethoven’s Adagio under Klemperer’s baton. A pause, and then the finale. Pitz’s chorus sings its first notes in public. Hesitant? Certainly not. Clipped and ordered? Well, sort of. Thrusting, emotional, textured, gripping? Absolutely. Unusual? Completely. The Philharmonia Chorus is born.
Seven more chorus masters follow; each works on the sound. There are hundreds of memorable concerts – with the finest orchestras and in the most prestigious venues. There are high-profile foreign tours. There are challenging operas – in concert and fully staged. Over 80 recordings are pressed.

January, 2010. Now Stefan Bevier arrives – a former Berlin Philharmonic player and Fischer-Dieskau pupil with a direct link to the Klemperer tradition. He’s uncompromising, driven, and he has a vision. He sets about re-imagining the choir’s sound, and invites apprentice professionals to join its ranks.

It’s now April. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment is etching its way through Beethoven’s Adagio under Ilan Volkov’s baton. A pause, and then the finale. The Philharmonia Chorus sings its first notes in public since Bevier’s appointment, and immediately there’s a new excitement, weight and confidence in the sound. The thrust and colour Klemperer first asked for. ‘A chorus reborn’, declares The Times. ‘Vibrancy, bite and panache’ snaps The Independent.

The Philharmonia Chorus journey continues. And right now, it’s more exciting than ever.

Andrew Mellor

If you would like to know more about how to join the Chorus, click here.

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Philharmonia Chorus Ltd, Registered Charity No. 250495