“After 18 months of restrictions, when the future of live music has been in the balance, the sheer scale of this concert marks a new era of recovery and hope – and celebrates the crucial importance of orchestral music in enriching lives at this critical time” James Williams, Managing Director, RPO

  • Royal Philharmonic Orchestra launches 75th anniversary season
  • The largest scale orchestral concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 2021/2
  • Concert marks Vasily Petrenko’s arrival in London as new Music Director
  • Appearances by star guests Sir Bryn Terfel and Sheku Kanneh-Mason 
  • Part of the Royal Albert Hall’s 150th anniversary celebrations

On Tuesday 21st September, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) marks its 75th anniversary with a benchmark concert at the Royal Albert Hall. Welcoming Vasily Petrenko and featuring over 220 musicians and big stars at this iconic venue, the RPO’s anniversary concert will be one of the must-see music events of the year. Further, after two years of closed venues and streamed shows this spectacular evening will remind everyone of the joy, drama and magic of live music, and its power to help people to rebuild and recover after the tragedy, anxiety and imposed limitations of the COVID era.


New Music Director arrives

The concert marks the arrival of Vasily Petrenko as the RPO’s new Music Director. One of the defining figures and artistic leaders in classical music today, Vasily Petrenko has established a strongly defined profile as a recording artist and is one of the world’s most charismatic live conductors – having previously worked with many of the world’s most prestigious orchestras including; the Berlin Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia (Rome), St Petersburg Philharmonic, Orchestre National de France, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Czech Philharmonic, NHK Symphony and Sydney Symphony orchestras. 
Watch a new video of Vasily Petrenko talking about moving to London and his first season as RPO Music Director here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ACPmVYYVxc

Anniversaries for iconic brands

The concert also marks milestone anniversaries for two iconic brands in British classical music that have a very close connection. The concert launches the RPO’s 75th anniversary season, an ensemble that has been at the forefront of music-making in the UK since 1946, and also forms part of the Royal Albert Hall’s 150th anniversary celebrations. An iconic concert hall worldwide, this RPO concert will be the Royal Albert Hall’s largest scale classical concert of the season, performed by the Hall’s Associate Orchestra.


Artistic celebration of British heritage

The concert programme also celebrates Britain’s rich musical heritage, featuring masterpieces written by three of the country’s greatest composers – Delius, Elgar and Walton – music that is synonymous with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and its founder Sir Thomas Beecham. The scale of William Walton’s dramatic cantata, Belshazzar’s Feast will bring the spectacle to the evening. Delius’s Over the Hills and Far Away is included because it was performed at the RPO’s first ever concert and Elgar’s beautiful and poignant Cello Concerto speaks for world events today, the dark days of COVID and the role music has played to help many people to draw strength and endure.


Star guests

The anniversary concert will also welcome two of the musical world’s biggest stars. Sheku Kanneh-Mason, who performed at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, will play Elgar’s Cello Concerto, whilst Sir Bryn Terfel will draw out the wicked excitement and intense joy in William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast, supported by the Philharmonia Chorus.

Season welcome and overview

Vasily Petrenko introduces his debut season with the RPO“It gives me great pleasure to welcome everyone to my debut season of concerts as Music Director of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO). Throughout its seventy-five-year history, this great British institution has always been at its best when sharing live music. The Orchestra has continually delivered inspirational performances, shown exceptional versatility and been a part of many memorable firsts. And so, I begin my own chapter in the Orchestra’s story with a performance of Delius’ Over the Hills and Far Away. This feels fitting because this piece was included in the Orchestra’s inaugural concert in 1946, conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham. This begins a journey through some of the finest British music ever written, music that is close to my heart, in concerts at two of London’s most iconic concert halls.

“At the Royal Albert Hall this season, we bring you three choral masterpieces. From the thrilling brass fanfares of Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast to the impassioned solos of Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius, and the achingly beautiful, poignant choruses from Britten’s War Requiem, this trio of powerful works won’t fail to stir your emotions.


“Across the river at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall, we will perform well-loved masterworks including Holst’s powerful suite The Planets and Elgar’s inimitable Violin Concerto. We also have a new commission from rising star composer Dani Howard and an opportunity to hear Overture to The Song of Hiawatha by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. Our exploration of freedom, hope and adventure continues with music from other European composers, which highlights the exchange of creative ideas and inspirations, and places these great British works in context.


“Music has the power to thrill and excite, to heal and transform, to bring joy and to inspire imagination, all things we need now more than ever. I can’t wait to share the magic of live music with you again, so I do hope that you’ll join us for this glorious journey through British music.”


Concert details
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at 75

Tuesday 21 September 2021, 7.30pm Royal Albert Hall

DELIUS Over the Hills and Far Away

ELGAR Cello Concerto

WALTON Belshazzar’s Feast


Vasily Petrenko Conductor

Sir Bryn Terfel Baritone

Sheku Kanneh-Mason MBE Cello

Philharmonia Chorus

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra


Ticket information: https://www.rpo.co.uk/whats-on/eventdetail/1549/-/royal-philharmonic-orchestra-at-75