RPS Green plaque
Royal Philharmonic Society and City of Westminster Green Plaque, Regent Street
For the Royal Philharmonic Society's bicentenary celebrations in 2013, I was asked to use my research on John Nash's Argyll Rooms, built for the Society, in a practical initiative: the possible mounting of a commemorative plaque on the current site of those rooms. Effectively London's first purpose-built orchestral concert hall, this building opened in 1820. In 1825 it saw the British première of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, commissioned by the Society from Beethoven himself.
Because the original building no longer stands, the plaque idea was not viable for the English Heritage Blue Plaque scheme. Instead, I investigated the City of Westminster Green Plaque scheme and took soundings from both the landlord, the Crown Estate, and the current occupant of the present building on the site, NatWest Bank. All were in agreement. We were particularly fortunate to secure the assistance of Councillor Robert Davis of Westminster City Council in 2012.
Consulting all parties and agreeing to share sponsorship between Westminster and the RPS, we finally unveiled the Green Plaque on a special Sunday in August 2013, coinciding with the annual BBC Proms performance of Beethoven's remarkable symphony. It was given at the Royal Albert Hall by the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and youth choirs from the UK and Ireland, conducted by Vasily Petrenko with the RPS Beethoven bust looking on.
Beethoven never visited London in person, but he was a close colleague of several early Society members and sent more than one piece to its collections. His music and image symbolize the Society's search for musical excellence and continual support for the living composer. The plaque helps to reinforce links between RPS history and its ongoing commitment to the future of music.
Most people passing down Regent Street today have no idea of the important cultural connection between great classical music and London's urban development. But they've heard of Beethoven - and may now look up near Little Argyll Street to see a material reminder of the RPS in action.
'the best and most lasting thing ... of all the centenary events'
Arthur Searle, Hon. Librarian, Royal Philharmonic Society
'Hooray and well done for persevering'
Rosemary Johnson, Executive Director, Royal Philharmonic Society
The plaque is mounted and easily visible at 250 Regent Street, London W1B 3BN.