Meet the Management: Liz Forbes (Concerts Director)

FORBES Liz

Tell us a bit about your working history with the RPO.

After a period of time managing individual artists and then completing my MBA, I have spent the majority of my working life here at the RPO. Starting in an assistant role, I quickly settled into event management, becoming Concerts and Recordings Manager for several years. Then, after a short spell at the BBC, I was invited back to become General Manager of the RPCO, before moving into my current role as Concerts Director of the RPO.

What does your role entail?

Alongside overseeing the day-to-day running of the concerts management team, my role is focused on the long-term planning of the Orchestra’s work schedule and sourcing new projects, as well as the planning and programming of our flagship concerts and foreign tours with our key conductors, Charles Dutoit and Pinchas Zukerman.

Tell us about some highlights of your time working with the Orchestra.

Having spent more than twenty years at the RPO(!), I could write a compendium of highlights, but a few memorable moments that spring to mind are: a wonderful performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.5 with Charles Dutoit in Chicago;  a sublime Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G with Martha Argerich in the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples; listening to Charles Dutoit perform the Three Cornered Hat Suite in Granada, where the composer Manuel de Falla lived in later years, within the magical open air setting of the Alhambra (with swallows circling above in the dusk!); not forgetting so many special performances at the Royal Albert Hall, including a spectacular Maundy Thursday Verdi Requiem with Daniele Gatti, watching the Orchestra perform with the legendary Stevie Wonder and, most recently, a rare chance to hear the complete Roman Trilogy by Respighi in an inspired performance with Charles Dutoit at the BBC Proms.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your job?

There is no doubt that the ongoing financial crisis as well as the limited (but vital) public funding that the Orchestra receives present a continuing challenge for us. However, with the Orchestra’s diverse approach and its ability to adapt to the needs of our audiences, both in terms of the repertoire it performs and the working partnerships we form (as exemplified by the Orchestra’s unique role outside London and around the UK), we hope that we can continue to maintain a healthy balance between the artistic and financial needs of the Orchestra, which will stand us in good stead in the years to come.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

It has always been a great privilege to be involved in the working life of the unique organisation that is the RPO. The musical versatility and dedication of the highly experienced and talented members of the Orchestra is a constant inspiration. The key ingredients of giving performances at the highest level, whatever the setting, combined with the sheer variety of work that we do – be it watching a packed out Symphonic Rock performance at the Royal Albert Hall, recording with the 86-year-old Disney composer Richard Sherman at Abbey Road Studios, enjoying one of our concerts at the Royal Festival Hall, such as the joint performance of Beethoven’s ‘Choral’ Symphony with Pinchas Zukerman and Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra on Monday 27th October 2014, or the opportunity to see Charles Dutoit conduct Bartók’s extraordinary Duke Bluebeard’s Castle on Tuesday 27th January 2015 – means that there is always something to look forward to!

How do you relax in your spare time?

Home life has the advantage that my partner does all the cooking(!) and going to the theatre and jazz concerts aside, be it my rudimentary attempts at gardening, exploring the UK under canvas or going for long country walks with our much loved rescue dog, the outdoor life is very much my focus away from the Orchestra.

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About Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Acknowledged as one of the UK’s most prestigious orchestras, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) enjoys an international reputation for bringing audiences worldwide first-class performances and the highest possible standards of music-making across a diverse range of musical repertoire. This was the vision of the Orchestra’s flamboyant founder Sir Thomas Beecham, whose legacy is maintained today as the Orchestra thrives under the exceptional direction of its new Artistic Director and Principal Conductor, Maestro Charles Dutoit.
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