Back to top      
An RCM lutenist and vocalist perform at the Royal Academy of Arts

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. Our collection also contains a wide array of historical instruments which are available to borrow. We also 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 professors who are active as soloists and in leading period instrument ensembles.

Meet the professors

Performance opportunities

Our full schedule of performances includes frequent chamber projects and concerts, baroque and classical orchestral projects for both modern and historical instruments and regular masterclasses given by world-renowned musicians. There are also opportunities to perform at prestigious heritage venues across London, including the Queen’s Gallery Buckingham Palace, with whom we have a strong relationship.

The RCM Baroque Orchestra plays every term as part of the RCM’s extensive programme of events, with additional performances at festivals in London and around the UK. There is also the opportunity for singers to collaborate in performances of Bach Cantatas each year with the orchestra.

Sir Roger Norrington regularly visits the RCM to direct historically informed performances of Classical and Romantic repertoire on modern instruments, and has previously conducted our students at the BBC Proms.

There is plenty of scope for chamber music performance, both student-led and through high profile opportunities internally and externally. Students have performed chamber music with the Handel Festival, Guildford Festival, Tilford Bach Society, Hatchlands Concert Series, Kent Early Music Festival, London Organ Forum, St Martin-in-the-Fields and the British Library.

The RCM also hosts an International Festival of Viols every year, 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 sessions with the Eastman School New York, Sydney Conservatorium, Danish Academy of Music and Hong Kong Academy.

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. 

 

Practical classes & lectures

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

  • Medieval classes with William Lyons (Dufay Collective).
  • Stylus phantasticus – 17th-century Austrian and Italian repertoire with Terence Charlston.
  • Early 18th-century French repertoire with Lisa Beznosiuk.
  • 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.

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, who have included:

  • Christophe Coin
  • Fretwork
  • Vittorio Ghielmi
  • Ketil Haugsand
  • Walter van Hauwe
  • Wilbert Hazelzet
  • Ton Koopman
  • Wieland Kuijken
  • Andrew Manze
  • Dorothy Oberlinger
  • Paolo Pandolfo
  • Phantasm
  • Rachel Podger
  • Jordi Savall
  • Masaaki Suzuki
  • Melvyn Tan
  • Matthew Truscott

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

Facilities

We continually invest in our facilities to ensure RCM students have the very best opportunities. Our impressive performance spaces are matched by top-quality academic and technical provisions, such as our historic library and professional grade studios. The Royal College of Music is proud to offer some of the finest facilities anywhere in the world.

The RCM’s largest performance spaces are the Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall, which has an illustrious history, and the 400-seat Britten Theatre, which boasts excellent technical facilities for the RCM’s thriving International Opera School. In addition, more intimate spaces include The Parry Rooms, which have unparalleled views of the Royal Albert Hall, and our 100-seat Recital Hall.

As well as practice rooms and space for one-to-one and group teaching, the RCM contains dedicated opera rehearsal spaces, 11 Amadeus Music Pods and organ rooms. We have over 140 pianos, including 60 grand pianos and 20 early keyboards, instrument storage with special facilities for harps and double basses, plus in-house instrument workshops.

RCM Studios is a top commercial-grade facility, equipped with the latest audio, video and composition technologies, supporting the RCM’s recording needs and enabling live broadcast of performances around the world.

The RCM Library contains more than 400,000 items of printed music, 9,000 CD recordings, extensive music literature, more than 400 music journals, plus an internationally renowned collection of original manuscripts (including examples from Mozart and Elgar) and early printed editions.

The RCM Museum holds more than 1,000 instruments dating from the late 15th century to the present day, some of which are the earliest known examples of their kind. The collection is a unique resource and many of the instruments can be studied or played by RCM students.

The public museum is currently closed for refurbishment, but its vital resources are still available to our students. 

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 team

Admissions and general audition enquiries

admissions@rcm.ac.uk