The Westminster Philharmonic Orchestra was founded in 1972 by Joseph Pilbury for musicians of the highest standard to perform large-scale works including the symphonies of Mahler and Shostakovich. We have built an impressive reputation as one of London’s leading amateur orchestras, bringing together players from a wide geographical area for music-making, covering a broad range of music from the 19th century onwards.

Major milestones in the WPO’s repertoire include Bartok’s Miraculous Mandarin, Ravel's Daphnis & Chloé, the full cycle of Mahler symphonies, Rachmaninoff’s three symphonies, Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and Firebird, Tippett's Ritual Dances, Maxwell Davis' Five Klee Pictures and Reel with Northern Lights, Shostakovich Symphonies 5, 6, 8, 10, 11 and 12, the Elgar/Payne Symphony no.3, Nielsen's 5th Symphony, Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra and Vaughan Williams’ 6th Symphony.

Our Silver Anniversary in 1998 was celebrated with Bartok’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle and a commissioned work - Howard Jones’ Thamesside Variations. Our 30th Anniversary included Bernstein’s SongFest - a vocal extravaganza for six soloists and large orchestra - and our 40th, Delius’s Paris and Debussy’s complete Images, marking the joint 150th Anniversary of both composers.

Under the direction of our principal Conductor, Jonathan Butcher, we have worked with many distinguished soloists, in particular Raphael Wallfisch for the Finzi Concerto and Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante, and, in collaboration with music trusts, have offered concerto opportunities to several outstanding young soloists at the start of their international careers.

The WPO is keen to promote rarely heard and new works: in 2012 we celebrated the centenary of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor with his Violin Concerto and Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast; and marked the 2013 centenary of George Lloyd with his Cello Concerto. In 2018 we gave the public premiere of David Hackbridge Johnson’s 9th Symphony, previously recorded to considerable critical acclaim, and in March 2019, the Concerto for violin & cello by Percy Sherwood. In 2018 we celebrated Leonard Bernstein’s centenary presenting a complete programme of his music including The Age of Anxiety (Symphony No.2), Serenade on Plato’s Symposium and a WPO favourite, the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story.

The WPO has enjoyed collaborating with major choral societies including Elgar The Dream of Gerontius and Elijah, Poulenc Gloria, Puccini Missa di Gloria, Porgy & Bess and Bach St. Matthew Passion. We have given concert performances of Verdi's Nabucco and appeared at the Royal Albert Hall with the Joint Hertfordshire Choirs in aid of the British Council for the Prevention of Blindness: Britten War Requiem in 1994; Mahler Symphony No.8 (Symphony of a Thousand) in 1999; Verdi Requiem in 2003; and Berlioz' spectacular Grande Messe des Morts in 2007.

In addition to appearing in all the major concert halls of London we have toured abroad to destinations including Gibraltar, Malta, Cyprus, France, Spain, Italy, the Czech Republic and Nova Scotia. Our annual “Party in the Park” Concert at Langtons Gardens, Hornchurch continues to attract audiences of over 3,000 people.

The WPO has released 4 CDs of film music on the Silva Screen label: Franz Waxman’s ‘The Bride of Frankenstein’ (often aired on BBC Radio 3); Max Steiner’s Gone With The Wind, ‘Horror’ and ‘The Devil Rides Out’ and The Great British Film Music Album. In 2002 we recorded Scott Benzie’s music for the film Room 36 directed by Jim Groom.

More unusually, in 2017 we recorded a BT Sport ad of the UEFA Champions’ League Anthem “conducted” by Gary Lineker.

The first morning of Scala Radio, 4th March 2019, included the WPO’s recording of Elmer Bernstein’s The Great Escape.

 



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