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Carol Ann Duffy writes poem for Royal Philharmonic Society's bicentenary


Poet laureate celebrates 200 years of society that commissioned Beethoven's 9th with ode titled Philharmonic

Carol Ann Duffy has written a poem to celebrate the bicentenary of the Royal Philharmonic Society, which – among many other things – commissioned Beethoven's 9th for £50.

The society approached the poet laureate as a finale for celebrations that have taken place throughout 2013 and the poem is published here for the first time.

The RPS chairman, John Gilhooly, said: "For a society that has creativity at its heart, Carol Ann Duffy's poem is a fitting end to a year that has seen both distinguished artists and young musicians come together to celebrate – to quote RPS founding musicians – 'the love of their art'."

The poem, called Philharmonic, fittingly makes reference to Beethoven – "in his deaf joy, despair" – and represents the second time the RPS has commissioned a poet laureate.

In 1970 Cecil Day-Lewis wrote a poem commemorating the 200th anniversary of Beethoven's birth.

So far this year there have been 122 events – concerts, exhibitions, talks and lectures – as well as the commission of 24 composers, including Harrison Birtwistle, Judith Weir and Mark-Anthony Turnage, to write new works. More than £250,000 has also been raised to support young musicians and composers.

The celebrations have shown that classical music is in robust health, said Gilhooly. "Too often, and the bicentenary is a good time to say this, we have naysayers and people prophesying the end of classical music. That's not going to happen. The audiences are there and a lot of people are working very hard to keep them growing."

Next Saturday the RPS will award its highest honour, a gold medal, to the pianist András Schiff on what will be his 60th birthday. He will join a list of recipients that include Sir Simon Rattle, Dame Janet Baker, Daniel Barenboim, Alfred Brendel and Placido Domingo. Before he receives the award, Schiff will play Bach's Goldberg Variations and Beethoven's Diabelli Variations at Wigmore Hall.

Gilhooly said the challenge for the future was to ensure that music continued to reach out to audiences.

"The society is out there doing what it does best – being a great advocate nationally and internationally for quality music. The fact that it still survives after 200 years is a cause for celebration."


Wounds in wood, where the wind grieves
in slow breves,
                       or a breeze
hovers and heals; brass,
                                      bold as itself,
alchemical, blowing breath to blared gold;
all strings attached to silver sound.
This the composer found
                                       in his deaf joy, despair,
and the genius boy; a where for time and space;
a place in endless air for perfect art-
a songbird's flight
                           through a great medieval hall
over the dancing dead.

Carol Ann Duffy

© 2013 Carol Ann Duffy/Royal

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