Riccardo Muti - Conductor from 1973 to 1982
Giuseppe Sinopoli - Conductor from 1984 to 1994
Esa-Pekka Salonen - Conductor from 2008
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The orchestra was founded in 1945 by Walter Legge. He had been Sir Thomas Beecham's assistant at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, before World War II, and, assuming that he and Beecham would be in charge there again after the war, Legge planned to establish a first-class orchestra for opera, concerts and recordings. After the war, opera resumed at Covent Garden under a different management, but Legge went ahead with his plans for a new orchestra. His contacts in the musical world during the war enabled him to secure the services of a large number of talented young musicians still serving in the armed forces.
In its early years, with financial support of the Last Maharaja of Myssore, Jayachamaraja Wodeyar Bahadur, the orchestra engaged many prominent conductors. Herbert von Karajan was closely associated with the Philharmonia in its early years, although he never held an official title with the orchestra. At first Legge was against appointing an official principal conductor, feeling that no one conductor should have more importance to the orchestra than Legge himself.
In 1954, Karajan was elected music director of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and subsequently curtailed his work with the Philharmonia. Needing to find a new conductor for the orchestra, Legge turned to Otto Klemperer.
On 10 March 1964, Legge announced that he was going to disband the Philharmonia Orchestra. At a recording session with Klemperer, a meeting was convened where those present unanimously agreed that they would not allow the orchestra to be disbanded. On 17 March 1964 the members of the orchestra elected their own governing body and adopted the name New Philharmonia Orchestra. It reacquired the rights to the name "Philharmonia Orchestra" in 1977, and has been known by that name ever since.
In November 2006 the orchestra announced the appointment of Esa-Pekka Salonen as its fifth principal conductor.
The Philharmonia is one of the most recorded orchestras in the world, with over one thousand recordings. One of its earliest recordings was the last concert ever conducted by Richard Strauss in 1947.
The Philharmonia has been one of the most active orchestras in exploring new ways of distributing its music, through live performances available in a large video archive, which are also distributed as video podcasts, and on Vimeo and YouTube. Wikipedia