The philharmonic society started off as a local coalition of players, listeners, and financial backers. The initial aim was to sponsor public concerts of orchestral music. It has always been a locus of civic pride. ‘Philharmonia’ examines the history and culture of the philharmonic society from its inception to the twenty-first century. The questions facing the society today have changed little since it started. How to advance the repertoire? How to enable artist musicians to achieve social equality? How to weather competition? Who is listening, and why? The ‘great symphonic boom’ began in the 1930s and lasted about five decades. It was international in scope. However, at the end of the twentieth-century, the institution was in crisis.