Our Orchestras

During the 2024 Competition, pianists in the semi-final stage of the competition as well as the two-night Grand Final will perform with a full orchestra.

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

AS THE ROYAL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA (RPO) celebrates its 75th anniversary, its mission to enrich lives through orchestral experiences that are uncompromising in their excellence and inclusive in their appeal, places the RPO at the forefront of music-making in the UK and internationally.

Typically performing approximately 200 concerts each season and with a worldwide audience of more than half-a-million people, the Orchestra embraces a broad repertoire that enables it to reach the most diverse audience of any British symphony orchestra. Whilst artistic integrity remains paramount, the RPO is unafraid to push boundaries and is equally at home recording video game, film and television soundtracks and working with pop stars, as it is performing the great symphonic repertoire.

The RPO collaborates with the most inspiring artists and was thrilled to welcome Vasily Petrenko as its new Music Director in August 2021. His appointment stands as a major landmark in the Orchestra’s history, signalling its determination to broaden the audience for orchestral music while enhancing its reputation as one of the world’s most versatile ensembles.


Southbank Sinfonia

An orchestra like no other

‘Classical music needs brilliant young advocates to communicate its power and worth in the 21st century.’
Simon Over, Principal Conductor, Southbank Sinfonia

Each year, Southbank Sinfonia welcomes 33 of the world’s most promising graduate musicians to embark on its renowned fellowship, providing a much-needed springboard into the profession. More than just an orchestra, it is a community in which young talents can find their own creative strengths, fulfil personal goals, make lasting contacts, and take their musicianship to new frontiers.

Founded in 2002 by Music Director Simon Over, players who have completed the fellowship now occupy prominent seats in leading orchestras worldwide. From the Philharmonia to the Hong Kong Philharmonic, each proudly acknowledges the positive impact that Southbank Sinfonia has made upon their progress. Many continue to play a valued role in the life of Southbank Sinfonia, returning as paid deputies and extras, enabling us to take on ambitious large-scale ventures, as well as to coach their successors.

Southbank Sinfonia celebrates how intrepid young players can have a uniquely important voice in the sector, challenging and refreshing traditions. From our Rush Hour Concert Series to our hit production of Amadeus at the National Theatre and recent collaborations with Nonclassical, iTunes, Sadler’s Wells and the RSC, you can witness bright young musicians setting the tempo for the future. In recognition of its achievements, the orchestra was nominated for the 2017 Royal Philharmonic Society Ensemble Award.

As a registered charity, we are proud to have generated well over £5 million that has gone directly into young musicians’ pockets, transforming their livelihoods through the bursaries we grant to each musician and the full fees we offer in all subsequent opportunities. Few other institutions worldwide give young artists such a footing.

A new chapter for Southbank Sinfonia at St John’s Smith Square

In April 2021, Southbank Sinfonia merged with St John’s Smith Square to become one organisation with a shared administrative staff, Southbank Sinfonia at St John’s Smith Square. Our focus over the past year has been to integrate successfully and to develop a shared vision for the combined organisation. With these fundamentals now in place, we’ve begun the process of refining our vision, mission, and values, and will be looking to create a new brand which encompasses both sides of our organisation and preserves their unique spirits.

Our aim is to continue the long-established and much-loved favourites of the Southbank Sinfonia programme and the Smith Square concert calendar, to continue to offer an important performance space for schools, universities, and amateur groups at St John’s, but also to embed the Southbank Sinfonia Fellowship at the heart of all our programming.

To date, the orchestral Fellowship has been organised into themed weeks of activity and our intention is to continue in this way, with it providing the bedrock for programming decisions at St John’s Smith Square. Each theme will be explored through Southbank Sinfonia activity, but with external performers and ensembles collaborating each week, intersecting with the Fellowship programme.

For example, during a week dedicated to the exploration of Baroque music, there might be a Baroque-themed lunchtime concert, an orchestral concert with Southbank Sinfonia Baroque, performances by leading period instrument groups, an education project for local schools around Early Music, and the opportunity to partner with exhibitions of Baroque art in the local area.

We’re excited by the opportunity to invite audiences on new cultural journeys with us, to learn, experience and be inspired. And, in time, we plan to build a comprehensive and community-based Learning and Participation strand to our work.