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RCM students rehearsing historical flute and violin

Historical Performance

The Royal College of Music’s Historical Performance Faculty provides intensive training in all aspects of historically informed interpretation from more than 500 years of music history. Students on both historical and modern instruments have the chance to combine unparalleled access to knowledge with a wide range of performance opportunities.

There are outstanding research and study opportunities to support your training, including an extensive collection of manuscripts and early printed editions housed in the RCM Library. The Royal College of Music Museum, which occupies a new, specially designed space in the Blomfield Building, holds approximately 1,000 historical instruments dating as far back as the 15th century. We have one of the largest collections of early keyboards in any higher education institution.

Historical Performance at the RCM

Head of Historical Performance, Professor Ashley Solomon, joins recorder and historical oboe player Katie Cowling to talk about the opportunities RCM students enjoy.

One-to-one lessons

One-to-one lessons are at the very heart of every RCM student’s learning experience. Individual lessons are offered on the complete range of period instruments by a faculty of exceptional professors, many of whom are principal players in major period instrument orchestras, active as soloists and members of well-known ensembles.

Meet the professors

Performance opportunities

Perfomance opportunies usually include chamber projects and concerts, baroque and classical orchestral projects for both modern and historical instruments and regular masterclasses given by world-renowned musicians.

The RCM Baroque Orchestra plays every term as part of the RCM’s extensive programme of events, as well as collaborating with other conservatoires including the Salzburg Mozarteum and Bremen Hochschule. There is also the opportunity for singers to collaborate in performances of Bach Cantatas each year with the orchestra.

There is plenty of scope for chamber music performance, both student-led and through high-profile opportunities internally and externally. Students are encouraged to form their own chamber groups and expand their repertoire. All RCM chamber groups can benefit from unlimited coaching and Historical Performance students can also access 18th-century chamber music coaching from Florilegium, our Ensemble in Association. Additionally, in 2020 we acquired the Kennedy-Mietke Harpsichord, a double-manual harpsichord inspired by Mietke, made by Bruce Kennedy.

In 2021 the RCM launched the New Generation Baroque Ensemble scheme with BBC Radio 3 and the National Centre for Early Music. Each year an early career ensemble will be mentored by the RCM’s Chair & Head of Historical Performance, work in collaborative side-by-side sessions and give two recitals.

The RCM also hosts an International Festival of Viols every year, launched in 2007, featuring concerts, lectures and masterclasses from leading performers.

Beyond the RCM

While the Historical Performance Faculty takes a very active role in the life of the RCM, additional opportunities exist further afield. Our students have frequently appeared at UK festivals and heritage venues including the Bath International Festival, London Handel Festival, London Festival of Baroque Music, Hatchands Park, The V&A and the Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace.

As well as invitations to perform at prestigious UK venues, the Historical Performance Faculty regularly tours overseas. Previous destinations have included Bolivia, Washington DC, New York, Rome, Venice, Frascati and Bologna.

Our students have performed with the Salzburg Mozarteum in the Leipzig Thomaskirche on Good Friday and taken part in video conference masterclass sessions with the Eastman School New York, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Royal Danish Academy of Music and Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.

In 2017, musicians from the Historical Performance faculty took part in a collaboration with the Académie de l’Opéra de Paris and Centre de musique baroque de Versailles to stage Rameau's Les fêtes d’Hébé with performances in both Paris and London. 

 

Historical Performance musicians on tour in Italy

Follow violist Matyas Csiba as he goes on tour to Italy with members of the RCM Historical Performance Faculty.

Practical classes & lectures

Historical Performance students take part in project-based learning, culminating in assessed public performances and presentation classes. These include:

  • Stylus phantasticus – 17th-century Austrian and Italian repertoire with Terence Charlston.
  • Early 18th-century French repertoire with Ashley Solomon.
  • Baroque dance workshops with Mary Collins.
  • Cello continuo classes with Richard Tunnicliffe.
  • Lute song with Jakob Lindberg.
  • Classical and romantic repertoire with Geoffrey Govier.
  • Ornamentation and cadenza classes with Rachel Brown.

Non-assessed regular classes

In addition, we provide regular classes outside of the assessment framework which are designed to widen understanding and provide further opportunities to develop professional skills. These include:

  • Coaching of 18th-century repertoire on modern and historical instruments from Florilegium, the RCM’s Ensemble in Association.
  • Tuning and temperament (16th–18th centuries).
  • Chamber music and continuo techniques.
  • Historical and classical taster sessions for modern woodwind players.
  • Regular viol consort sessions with Dr Sam Stadlen, offering an opportunity for all non specialist viol students to engage with this rich repertoire on an extensive collection of instruments that the RCM owns.

Historical keyboard studies

Keyboard students in the Historical Performance Faculty perform on historical instruments, benefitting from studying their playing styles first-hand. This takes place both within the RCM and in collaboration with other institutions. We have the largest collection of historical keyboard instruments at any UK conservatoire, including the earliest playable example.

The collections of keyboard instruments and primary source materials make for an unparalleled learning environment, supplemented by concerts, workshops, conferences and other events tailored for keyboard students.

Recent visiting artists

The faculty holds regular masterclasses with distinguished visiting international musicians. Recent visitors, online and in-person, have included:

  • Kees Boeke
  • Christophe Coin
  • Enrico Gatti
  • Walter van Hauwe
  • Wilbert Hazlet
  • Monica Huggett
  • Elizabeth Kenny
  • Ton Koopman
  • Paulo Pandolfo
  • Rachel Podger
  • Jean Rondeau
  • David Watkin

Graduate destinations

Historical Performance alumni currently hold positions with:

  • Academy of Ancient Music
  • English Baroque Soloists
  • English Concert
  • Florilegium
  • Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
  • Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique

Career development

The RCM’s Creative Careers Centre, which is recognised internationally for its innovative approach to supporting young musicians, provides an unparalleled service to current students and recent alumni. The dedicated team partners with leading consultants, reputable arts organisations and local communities, delivering unique career-building opportunities and a direct route to the music industry.

The work of the Creative Careers Centre allows students to discover their professional identity, gain hands-on experience and new skills, develop an entrepreneurial mind-set and build a fulfilling professional portfolio.

Extensive performance and teaching opportunities are available, as well as valuable guidance on CV and biography writing, concert programming, communication skills, project management, marketing and publicity, online promotion, financial matters and how to develop a business idea.

Find out more about the Creative Careers Centre

Facilities

The Royal College of Music is proud to offer its students fantastic practice and performance facilities with resources to support teaching and learning. We continually improve our facilities to ensure RCM students have the best opportunities.

Explore our facilities with a video tour of the RCM

Key facilities at the RCM include:

  • The Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall - our primary performance venue for orchestras and large ensembles.
  • Our 400-seat Britten Theatre, home to the RCM’s thriving International Opera School.
  • A new Performance Hall, offering an alternative space for ensembles, with a retractable stage, Fazioli grand piano and variable acoustics.
  • Intimate spaces for solo and chamber performance in our Performance Studio and Parry Rooms.
  • Sound-proofed Amadeus Music Pods for private practice.
  • A purpose-built percussion suite – you can watch a video tour on YouTube.
  • Over 160 pianos, including 60 grand pianos and 20 early keyboards, as well as organ rooms.
  • A Blüthner Practice Suite which holds ten Blüthner Model A upright pianos.
  • Instrument surgeries including luthier services.
  • RCM Studios: a commercial-grade facility, enabling live broadcasts around the world.
  • Digital Innovation Lab: a state of the art recording and mixing suite.
  • RCM Library with more than 200,000 scores, books and recordings in its lending collection, as well as access to more than 400 music journals.
  • Recently refurbished RCM Museum, holding more than 14,000 instruments, portraits and images, as well as a climate-controlled performance space and dedicated research facility.

Find out more about RCM facilities

Courses available

Undergraduate

Bachelor of Music, BMus(Hons)

Postgraduate

Master of Performance, MPerf

Master of Music in Performance, MMus(Perf)

Artist Diploma in Performance, ArtDip

Audition requirements

Fellowships available

Mills Williams Junior Fellowship

Constant & Kit Lambert Junior Fellowship

Fellowship in Historical Keyboards

Please note that the audition and application process for Fellowships is not the same as it is for our courses. Please refer to the individual Fellowship pages for more details.

Contact the Historical Performance Faculty

If you have any general queries about Historical Performance at the RCM please contact our Historical Performance Faculty Administration team. If you have any queries about auditions or the admissions process, please contact our Admissions team.

Historical Performance Administration

General enquiries about the operation of the faculty and consultation lessons

historicalperformance@rcm.ac.uk

Admissions

Admissions and general audition enquiries

+44 (0)20 7591 4362

admissions@rcm.ac.uk