Just in: Philharmonia names new boss

Just in: Philharmonia names new boss


norman lebrecht

December 23, 2016

In the last hours before Christmas, when hardly anyone is at their screens, the Philharmonia Orchestra has slipped out the announcement that it has found a new managing director.

She is Helen Sprott, director of music at Arts Council England.

Her predecessor, David Whelton, arrived at the Philharmonia by the same route.

The orchestra has been expert at working the public funding conversation.

Press release follows.


The Philharmonia Orchestra is delighted to announce that Helen Sprott is to be the Orchestra’s new Managing Director. Helen moves to the Philharmonia from Arts Council England, where she has been Director of Music and has worked since 2005.

Helen will take up the post in April 2017 as the permanent replacement for David Whelton, who retired in August 2016 after 29 years with the Orchestra, and takes over directly from Interim Managing Director Alistair Mackie.

Helen Sprott said: “I have been a fan of the Philharmonia Orchestra and Esa-Pekka Salonen since my student days. The Philharmonia is one of the world’s great orchestras, generating extraordinary passion and loyalty among its followers, and it is a real privilege to be appointed Managing Director. My ambition is to support these wonderful musicians to reach new audiences across the world, whether virtually or through live concerts, so that as many people as possible see and hear the Philharmonia, and experience the incredible work of this Orchestra.”

Kira Doherty, Chair of the Philharmonia Orchestra, said: “We are thrilled to welcome Helen to the Philharmonia. She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience as well as a deep love of music and respect for the Orchestra. We very much look forward to working together.”

Esa-Pekka Salonen, Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor said: “It is great news for the Philharmonia that Helen will be the new Managing Director. She has tremendous passion for our art form, and will bring her considerable energy and expertise to the role. I look forward to working with her and the exciting times ahead.”

Prior to joining Arts Council England, Helen Sprott was Commissioning Editor for Music and Performing Arts with Channel 4 Television, a music specialist on BBC 2’s The Late Show, and Commissioning Editor, Music Books, with the publisher Faber and Faber. She trained as a cellist and graduated with a BA (Hons) in English Language and Literature from University College, London.




  • G says:

    On the plus side, Helen has a reputation for being genuinely interested in music. But she was a pretty ineffective executive at Channel 4, failing to put up much of a fight against her uncultured colleagues. Since then she has been even less entrepreneurial, working inside bureaucracies of various sizes. One might wonder how good she will be at the harder parts of this new job.

    But it’s Christmas, so good luck orchestra, it’ll work out fine!

  • Alexander Hall says:

    The Philharmonia has had a hard struggle finding somebody suitable. They messed up their earlier attempt to find a grandly-styled Chief Executive (as Norman reported earlier this year) and have now ended up with a new Managing Director. Times are difficult, there is even less money around than before, recording revenue is dwindling and international competition is making it a huge challenge simply maintaining the high profile the orchestra once had. One indicator of how bumpy the ride is going to be comes when they try to find a big name as a replacement for Esa-Pekka Salonen as Principal Conductor. One can only wish Helen Sprott every success, but it’s going to be very tough.