History of the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra
The Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra was formed by Herbert Menges in May 1925 as the Symphonic String Players “to become a large and powerful String Orchestra, and to give periodical concerts of a high standard in Brighton and Hove” initially in Hove Town Hall. By 1928 they had already moved into the Brighton Dome and become the fully orchestral Symphonic Players. Menges remained as Principal Conductor and in 1932 Sir Thomas Beecham was appointed as the orchestra’s first President (a position later held by Ralph Vaughan Williams and Benjamin Britten).
In 1972, after 47 years as Principal Conductor and having conducted more than 300 concerts, Herbert Menges died at the age of 69. His successor was John Carewe, whose first concert as Principal Conductor marked the start of the orchestra’s 50th Anniversary season. In 1989 Barry Wordsworth was appointed as only the third Principal Conductor in the BPO’s history. Barry’s distinguished tenure at the helm has been marked by a series of notable performances of both well-known and more unfamiliar works together with a roster of accomplished and distinguished soloists.
In 1999 the Brighton Dome closed for refurbishment and the BPO returned temporarily to Hove Town Hall, and gave a series of Mozart Piano Concerto concerts in the Theatre Royal Brighton with its current President, John Lill. In 2002 the Dome re-opened, since which time more than 147,000 tickets have been sold for the BPO’s concerts in its home venue.
Since 2009 the orchestra has been working through the Brahms Symphonies. In 2012 the orchestra celebrated Trafalgar Day with a performance of Haydn’s Nelson Mass, joining forces with the Brighton Festival Chorus. In the same season the orchestra gave one of the first performances of Moeran’s Symphony No.2, recently reconstructed by Martin Yates who conducted the performance. Recent seasons have also seen premieres of new works by Will Todd, Richard Rodney Bennett, Martin Butler and Howard Goodall, and regular collaborations with the Brighton Festival Chorus and Brighton Festival Chorus Youth Choir.
One of the soloists in the 2013/14 season, William Dutton, a young violinist from the Yehudi Menuhin School, won the string section of BBC’s Young Musician 2014.
2014/15 was the orchestra’s 90th concert season and to celebrate the occasion Schubert’s Marche Militaire was included, a piece that was performed at the very first concert given by the Symphonic String Players, conducted by Herbert Menges in May 1925. The orchestra also performed Lord Berners’s Fantaisie Espagnole in the final concert of the season, thanks to the sponsorship of The Berners Trust, since a large orchestra was required.
The orchestra itself is best described as an ‘all star’ line up, in that the Brighton Philharmonic attract players of the very highest calibre from around the country, many of whom regularly work with some of the finest orchestras in the world. We are fortunate to capture their skills, interest and love of the repertoire for our series of Sunday afternoon concerts.