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London Symphony Orchestra

London Symphony Orchestra - © London Symphony Orchestra

London Symphony Orchestra

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London Symphony Orchestra

The London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) is a major orchestra of the United Kingdom, as well as one of the best-known orchestras in the world. Since 1982, the LSO has been based in London's Barbican Centre.


The LSO was founded in 1904 as an independent, self governing organization, the first such orchestra in the UK. It played its first concert on 9 June of that year, with Hans Richter conducting. He remained principal conductor until 1911, when Edward Elgar took over for a year, leading six concerts as principal conductor.

The LSO became the first British orchestra to play overseas when it went to Paris in 1906, and the first to play in the United States, in 1912. The LSO was due to sail on the

for a concert in New York in April 1912 but fortunately had to change the booking at the last minute. Another kind of narrow escape occurred during the Great War; despite in its early years having attracted the world's greatest conductors, after 1914 it was subject to financial adversity and in 1917 suspended giving concerts altogether.[1] When peace resumed, many of the former players were unavailable and so the training of a new team fell to the young Albert Coates; as a revitalised body, they gave their first concert in October 1919.

In 1956, the orchestra appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's film The Man Who Knew Too Much, conducted by composer Bernard Herrmann in the climactic scene, filmed in the Royal Albert Hall.

In 1966, the London Symphony Chorus (LSC) was formed to complement the work of the LSO. With more than two hundred amateur singers, the LSC maintains a close association with the LSO; however it has developed an independent life, which allows it to partner other leading orchestras.

In 1973 it was the first British orchestra to be invited to take part in the Salzburg Festival. It continues to make tours around the world.

Recently, its principal conductors have included Pierre Monteux (1961–64), István Kertész (1965–68), André Previn (1968–79) and Claudio Abbado (1979–88). From 1988-1995, the American Michael Tilson Thomas took over, and in 1995, became principal guest conductor. Sir Colin Davis served as the LSO's Principal Conductor from 1995-2006, and in 2007 took the post of President of the orchestra. On 1 January 2007, Valery Gergiev became the LSO's Principal Conductor. Previn holds the title of Conductor Laureate. In 2006, Daniel Harding became the co-principal guest conductor alongside Tilson Thomas.

The LSO has long been considered the most extrovert of the London orchestras. For most of its life it refused to allow women to become members, ostensibly on the grounds that women would affect the sound of the orchestra (there has been a similar controversy at the Vienna Philharmonic). One of the first women to join the orchestra was the oboist Evelyn Rothwell. There is an air of youthful high spirits to much of its music-making that is shown off in performances of such composers as Berlioz and Prokofiev. The LSO has often had internationally-known players as wind soloists, including such artists as James Galway (flute), Gervase de Peyer (clarinet), Roger Lord (oboe), and Barry Tuckwell (horn). Like most ensembles, the orchestra has a great ability to vary its sound, producing very different tone colours under such diverse conductors as Leopold Stokowski (with whom it made a series of memorable recordings), Adrian Boult, Jascha Horenstein, Eugen Jochum, Georg Solti, André Previn, George Szell, Claudio Abbado, Leonard Bernstein, John Barbirolli, and Karl Böhm, who developed a close relationship with the orchestra late in his life. Böhm and Bernstein each held the title of LSO President in their later years.

During its history, the LSO has commissioned new works from many major composers. The orchestra has had a close working relationship with giants of 20th Century music as diverse as Ralph Vaughan Williams, Pierre Boulez and John Adams. In recent years the 'UBS Soundscapes: Pioneers' commissioning scheme has initiated a number of impressive new works for orchestra by young British composers including Luke Bedford, Anna Meredith, Emily Howard, Edward Rushton, Emily Hall, Paul Newland, Tansy Davies and Matthew King.

Clive Gillinson, a former cellist with the orchestra, served as the LSO's Managing Director from 1984 to 2005, and is widely credited with bringing great stability to the LSO's organisation after severe fiscal troubles.[2] Since 2005, Kathryn McDowell has been Managing Director.[3]


The LSO has made recordings since the early days of recording, including some acoustic performances with Arthur Nikisch. It recorded extensively for HMV and EMI for many years. In the early 1960s, the veteran French conductor Pierre Monteux made a series of stereophonic recordings with the orchestra for Philips Records, many of which been reissued on CD.

The LSO is also renowned for recording many motion picture film scores, since its first film music foray in 1935.[4] These include, under the baton of such noted composers as John Williams, Alan Silvestri, James Horner and most recently Alexandre Desplat, all the Star Wars films (with Maurice Murphy playing the main trumpet theme in all of them), Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Queen, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Land Before Time, Braveheart, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 and Part 2, Eragon, Thor, and Superman, as well as the innovative IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth at the American Disney theme park, Epcot and the World of Color show at Disney California Adventure Park. It has also performed on many pop recordings, including The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Neil Young's Harvest, Grace Slick's Manhole, and songs from the Thriller and Bad albums by Michael Jackson. On television the LSO has featured on, among others, André Previn's Music Night and as a small cameo role in The Simpsons. The LSO also made recordings for popular anime shows composed and conducted by Toshihiko Sahashi. More recently, the orchestra has been one of the first orchestras to play video game music, providing background music for Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness and playing Koichi Sugiyama's score for the Dragon Quest series. Other commercial successes included a series of "Classic Rock albums" with rock/pop arrangements.

Since 2000, the LSO has been issuing commercial CD recordings on its own label, LSO Live, which was established under Gillinson's watch. Recordings are made live at the Barbican hall over several dates and are edited in post production. While initially available on CD they are now issued on Super Audio CD (SACD) and also as downloads through digital music stores including iTunes, eMusic and Amazon. LSO Live has made over 70 recordings featuring conductors including Valery Gergiev, Sir Colin Davis and Bernard Haitink.

On-Screen Highlights

Principal Conductors

The LSO had no principal conductor between 1922 and 1930.[5]


  1. Albert Coates: Great Conductors of the Twentieth Century series. CD sleevenote: EMI 2002
  2. Michael Kennedy, Triumphs, tears and toccatas, Telegraph, 19 January 2004. URL accessed on 2007-04-30.
  3. Penny Wark, Taming the music makers, The Times, 27 July 2005. URL accessed on 2007-04-30.
  4. London Symphony Orchestra and Film Music LSO. Retrieved 30 June 2011
  5. LSO past Principal Conductors and Title Holders. London Symphony Orchestra. Retrieved on 2009-06-09.

Further reading

Morrison, Richard (2004). Orchestra: The LSO: A Century of Triumph and Turbulence. London: Faber. Retrieved 2011-10-23.

See also

  • LSO St Luke's

External links

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This page was last modified 21.11.2011 21:29:53

This article uses material from the article London Symphony Orchestra from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia and it is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.