The composer Thea Musgrave CBE has been made an honorary member of the Royal Philharmonic Society in recognition of her outstanding services to music.

The composer was presented with her RPS honorary membership at her home in New York. The occasion was filmed, and you can find the footage on YouTube:

The RPS first introduced its honorary membership in 1826, seeking to recognise 'those who devote their lives to music and uplifting others with it'. The first recipient was the composer Carl Maria von Weber.

The roster of subsequent honorary members includes composers such as Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Liszt, Wagner, Brahms, Verdi, Dvorák and Clara Schumann, as well as performers (Yehudi Menuhin, Janet Baker, Evelyn Glennie) and conductors (Pierre Boulez, Marin Alsop).

At the presentation, the following citation was read by Vanessa Reed, on behalf of the RPS Board and Council:

‘Born in 1928, and still hard at work writing music 94 years later, Thea is a musical icon. Over a remarkable international career, Thea has created a body of work bursting with energy, ready to leap off the page and seize our imagination.

'Her music abounds with such style and sophistication, constantly asking fresh and daring questions of musical forms and traditions. She lures us in by suffusing her music with so much of the world we know, drawing in particular on paintings, poems, myths and her Scottish heritage as the starting point for so many of her musical voyages.'

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Born in Scotland, Thea Musgrave studied at the University of Edinburgh and the Paris Conservatoire under Nadia Boulanger. She later studied under Aaron Copland at the Boston Symphony Orchestra's Tanglewood Music Center.

Over seven decades of composing, Musgrave has produced works for various BBC choirs and orchestras, as well as for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and others.

Notable works include her Concerto for Orchestra (1967), Space Play (1974), the opera Mary, Queen of Scots (1977), and Songs for a Winter’s Evening (1995).

Oboists, in particular, have Musgrave to thank for a wide range of new work. Her long friendship with the oboist Nicholas Daniel has resulted in a large body of modern works for that instrument.

Thea Musgrave has also received several fellowships, awards and honours, including IVORs Award, a CBE (2002) and the Queen’s Medal for Music.


Steve Wright
Steve WrightMulti-Platform Content Producer, BBC Music Magazine

Steve has been an avid listener of classical music since childhood, and now contributes a variety of features to BBC Music’s magazine and website. He started writing about music as Arts Editor of an Oxford University student newspaper and has continued ever since, serving as Arts Editor on various magazines.