Who are Philharmonia Voices?
‘…a professional choir, and a spectacularly good one, too…’ – Sunday Times
We’re a professional chorus, formed by Aidan Oliver for the Philharmonia Orchestra in 2004 to collaborate on some of its most ambitious projects. Our first concert was Bach’s Mass in B minor conducted by András Schiff. Our 2020-21 performances with the Philharmonia include everything from George Benjamin's Dream of the Song to Scriabin's Prometheus and Mahler Das Klagende Lied. The choir made its BBC Proms debut in 2015, returning in 2016 and 2017.
The director of Philharmonia Voices, Aidan Oliver, is also the Chorus Director of Glyndebourne Opera and Director of the Edinburgh Festival Chorus.
How large is the choir?
That depends! The chorus has no fixed membership and is tailored precisely to the demands of each project by our director, Aidan Oliver. So we might be anything from 18 ethereal female voices for Holst’s Planets to 60 full-blooded Russian serfs for Boris Godunov. But all those who sing with Philharmonia Voices are expert choral singers, including talented professionals at the start of their careers or completing their conservatoire studies.
What repertoire does the choir sing?
Everything. The flexible membership of Philharmonia Voices is designed to respond precisely to the hugely varied projects of the Philharmonia Orchestra, be it Beethoven, Mahler or Magnus Lindberg.
20th-century music and semi-staged opera projects have however been a major feature of the choir’s work so far, particularly in collaboration with Esa-Pekka Salonen, the Philharmonia’s Principal Conductor. Notable milestones under Salonen have included acclaimed performances of Stravinky’s Oedipus Rex, Dallapiccola’s neglected one-act opera Il Prigioniero, Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder (subsequently released as a lauded live recording) and the UK première of Shostakovich’s rediscovered opera prologue, Orango.
Has the choir worked with other conductors?
Yes! Other conductors with whom we have strong relationships include John Wilson (Yeomen of the Guard; Singin’ in the Rain; Die Fledermaus), Vladimir Ashkenazy (Ivan the Terrible; Babi Yar), and Jakub Hrůša (Alexander Nevsky; Boris Godunov). In 2013 we sang Wagner for a major gala concert in Buckingham Palace under Christoph von Dohnányi, the Philharmonia’s Honorary Conductor for Life, and we performed Beethoven’s Symphony No.9 with him for the Philharmonia’s 70th anniversary concert in September 2015 (together with the Rodolfus Choir).
We are also proud of our earlier collaborations with Richard Hickox, including highly acclaimed semi-staged performances of Vaughan Williams Pilgrim’s Progress and Britten Death in Venice, and Lorin Maazel, for whom we sang in several memorable Mahler performances.
Do Philharmonia Voices sing with anyone else?
For larger works, we sometimes join forces with other choirs. We have enjoyed fruitful collaborations with the Rodolfus Choir (including an acclaimed Mahler Symphony of a Thousand in 2014) and Crouch End Festival Chorus (including Prokofiev Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the Revolution).
We have also been pleased to sing from time to time with the Philharmonia Chorus, a large amateur chorus with a distinguished history which was founded in 1957 by Walter Legge.
Philharmonia Voices perform in Ravel L'enfant et les Sortilèges with the Philharmonia (Royal Festival Hall, Feb 2015)