Awarded the Royal title in 1957, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra presents its schedule of concerts under the aegis of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society, which offered its first event on March 12, 1840. Alone among Britain's orchestral societies, the RLPS owns its own concert hall, a 1939 art deco structure designed by Herbert J. Rowse. It is the U.K.'s oldest continuing professional symphony orchestra.
Vasily Petrenko was appointed principal conductor of the orchestra in September 2006 and in September 2009 became chief conductor. Petrenko joins a distinguished line of musicians who have led the orchestra during its illustrious history, including Max Bruch, Sir Charles Hallé, Sir Henry Wood, Sir Malcolm Sargent, Sir John Pritchard, Sir Charles Groves, Walter Weller, David Atherton, Marek Janowski, Libor Pešek KBE, Petr Altrichter, and Gerard Schwarz.
The orchestra gives over 60 concerts each season, and in recent seasons has given world premiere performances of major works by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Sir John Tavener, Karl Jenkins, Stewart Copeland, Michael Nyman, Michael Torke, Nico Muhly, James Horner, and Sir James MacMillan alongside works by Liverpool-born composers and others based in North West England.
Collaborations with international artists from rock and pop include those with Liverpool's own Sir Paul McCartney (the Liverpool Oratorio), Elvis Costello, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Ian Broudie and the Lightning Seeds, Echo & the Bunnymen, and Cast.
In the 2010s, additions to the orchestra's critically acclaimed catalog of recordings include Vaughan Williams: A London Symphony and Pastoral Symphony No. 4 with Andrew Manze. Manze's Vaughan Williams cycle was the orchestra's second to receive wide acclaim; an earlier set under Vernon Handley was recorded in the mid-1980s.
With Vasily Petrenko, recordings include Rachmaninov's complete piano concertos and three symphonies, and the complete symphonies of Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, and Elgar. The recording of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10 was the Gramophone Awards' Orchestral Recording of the Year in 2011. Tchaikovsky's Symphonies 1, 2 and 5 won Orchestral Recording of the Year and Recording of the Year at the BBC Magazine Awards in 2017.
The orchestra's fall 2017 concerts included a diverse mix of genres typical of symphonic programs on both sides of the Atlantic, yet rooted in the orchestra's geography and traditions. Rising cellist Alexey Stadler performed Dvorák's Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104, and the Philharmonic gave the UK premiere of Philip Glass' Symphony No. 11. The cross-genre popularity of birds was addressed by "The Birds," a Petrenko-conducted program featuring Stravinsky's The Firebird, Respighi's The Birds, and works by Delius and Korngold. In October the orchestra performed the score to the film Casablanca live, accompanying a showing of the film, while two separate concert programs took Holst's The Planets as a point of departure. "Rachmaninov's Third: The World's Toughest Piano Piece?" the orchestra asked in promotions for a November concert featuring rising Russian virtuoso Boris Giltburg. ~ James Manheim