Founding the Philharmonic

In 2013 I contributed, with Nicolas Bell (Curator, British Library Music Collections), to a short film sponsored by the Royal Philharmonic Society on the earliest days of its history.

The distinguished RPS Archive (1813-1960), formerly on loan to the British Library, was sold to the nation in 2002. It now rests in the BL in the form of more than 270 volumes of manuscript scores (composer autographs and copyists' scores, including one of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, commissioned by the Society); 20 minute books covering concert-planning and Society management decisions; financial papers; and some 47 volumes of original letters from most of the great European and British musicians of the 19th and 20th centuries. The Library also holds a few objects associated with the Society, including personalized ivory tokens used for attendance, and a lock of Beethoven's hair.

The film briefly describes new research on John Nash's connection with the Society through his plans for building Regent Street. In effect Nash himself became a co-founder of the Society with its ambitious, all-encompassing goals for the music profession in Britain. Through his building of the Argyll Rooms on the corner of Little Argyll Street and Regent Street, he helped ensure that the UK's classical music industry would indeed be centred in the Regent Street area for more than a century.

'a fascinating tale of the complex negotiations that led to the building of the Argyll Rooms, where the Choral Symphony and many other great works were given their first London performances'

Nicolas Bell, RPS Council member, and Curator, Music Collections, British Library

See the film here

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