Breaking: Top change at another UK institution

Breaking: Top change at another UK institution


norman lebrecht

July 06, 2023

Two days after Roger Wright announced he was stepping away from Aldeburgh, the Royal College of Music is announcing a successor to its long-serving director, Colin Lawson.

The new chief is to be… the Managing Director of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, James Williams.

James is the most entrepreneurial of London orchestra managers. He has brokered relationships for the RPO at the Royal Albert Hall and Cadogan Hall, far from the unstable South Bank and Barbican. The RPO has the busiest diary of any London orchestra and its players looks happier on stage.

Good call by the RCM.

Photo: Mark Allen


  • Laura says:

    James is incredible!

    Brilliant choice R.C.M!

  • Back desk fiddle says:

    A hard act to follow at the RPO. He’s been brilliant. Just to consider that he was passed over for ages by the Philharmonia where he was no 2. Only after the RPO offered him the job did his old orchestra wake up to what they’d missed.

    • Alexander Hall says:

      The huge turnover in management personnel at the Philharmonia, never mind the quick exits of so many recent CEOs, does not exactly inspire much confidence.

  • Stephen Maddock says:

    This is excellent news. Welcome James!

  • Old cynic says:

    If RPO is such a happy place, why is he leaving?

  • Emily says:

    What’s so impressive about arranging loads of concerts of film music, music from ET and similar. At least the other orchestras such as the LSO play mainly proper classical music.

    • JW says:

      LSO has recorded most of the film music recorded in UK. Incl. the music for Star Wars, Harry Potter.
      PS: Please define “proper” and “classical” music.

    • Laura says:

      Hi Emily,

      Anybody with real knowledge of the orchestral world would know how phenomenally difficult James job is. You mentioned the LSO, so I will use that ask a comparison.

      The RPO receives a tiny fraction of taxpayer cash compared to the LSO. Obviously its much more difficult to raise cash and run a complex organisation than just receieve a gov cheque. The LSO can focus on less commercial work because it’s guaranteed a certain level of income, regardless of how its run

      James job was much more about entrepreneurship,courage and sheer graft

      Being purely a compotant arts administrator doesn’t cut it. You need more than that

      About 4 years ago Bachtrack revealed the orchestra as the buisiest in the world. (It is basically two orchestras in one)

      Obviously running any orchestra is very demanding but imagine running the busiest and one of the least financially padded as covid stuck!!.

      I believe also that James focused and indeed raised artistic standards at the RPO, brought in Vassilly Petrenco as conductor and intitiated skemes to provide access to music for some of our poorest kids. Projects the arts council then took on.

      I’m not going to question your skill set Emily, so if you think it’s an easy job….please do apply!!

    • Mike says:

      Sorry but that’s just a silly comment. The money the RPO earns from playing popular programmes allows it to continue to perform ’real’ music like the fabulous Mahler 8 at the RAH last October.