London Philharmonic Orchestra

London Philharmonic Orchestra

Symphony Orchestra

• Founded 1932

Editor's Choice

It's hard to imagine a time when London wasn't bursting with high-quality professional orchestras, but in the early 1930s, its musical landscape was very different to the one enjoyed by today's fans. The London Philharmonic Orchestra was founded to raise the standard of British orchestral playing to the level of those in continental Europe and the USA. Founded by legendary conductors Malcolm Sargeant and Thomas Beecham, the LPO approaches its centenary with a rich and exciting history, enormous discography, and solid reputation as one of the United Kingdom's finest orchestras. Beyond its core repertoire of the standard symphony and concerto performances, the LPO enjoys a long association with the annual summer opera festival at Glyndebourne, has recorded extensively for all the major labels and runs an engaging education and community programme. Its adventurous spirit is evident in its encouragement of fresh talent and new music, through its Future Firsts and Young Composer Schemes. Its no surprise, then, that its in-house record label produced this important album of three works by contemporary composers. Thomas Adès, who has also appeared as a conductor with the orchestra, composed his Chamber Symphony in 1990 while still a student at Cambridge. James MacMillan's orchestral requiem for a persecuted Scottish woman dates from the same period. Jennifer Higdon's 2005 Percussion Concerto is the real star of this album, however. Performed by Colin Currie and presided over by Marin Alsop, this interpretation netted Higdon a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition in 2009.


Sir Thomas Beecham founded the London Philharmonic Orchestra in 1932 with assistance from arts patrons Robert Mayer and Samuel Courtauld. Consisting then of 106 players and giving more than 70 concerts yearly, the ensemble immediately established itself as a major orchestra. On October 7, 1932, its inaugural concert took place at Queen's Hall, with Beecham conducting. The orchestra began making recordings in 1933, but their number remained scarce until the 1950s. In 1936, the LPO made a highly successful tour of Germany, giving one concert in Berlin in the presence of Adolf Hitler. Financial difficulties beset the orchestra by 1939, prompting Beecham to help raise money. Soon, however, he resigned and relocated to the United States for a stint with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, though he maintained ties to the orchestra. Adrian Boult, Malcolm Sargent, and Basil Cameron shared podium duties until 1945. In 1947, the LPO formed the London Philharmonic Choir and named Eduard van Beinum, long associated with the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, as principal conductor. Van Beinum had a successful but brief reign and was succeeded in 1951 by Adrian Boult. Under his leadership, the LPO began recording heavily and would continue to do so thereafter, becoming one of the most heavily recorded ensembles among the world's major orchestras, with hundreds of LP and (then later) CD titles issued by various major labels. American William Steinberg succeeded Boult in 1958, but served only two seasons, leaving the orchestra once more without a principal conductor. John Pritchard was appointed his successor in 1962 and effected many important changes in the orchestra personnel and repertory. In 1966, Bernard Haitink succeeded Pritchard and had a tenure longer than any previous or subsequent conductor, serving until 1979. Georg Solti was appointed principal conductor that year, holding the post until 1983, at which time he took on emeritus status, thereby maintaining ties to the orchestra. East German conductor Klaus Tennstedt became principal conductor in 1983. Another, but far younger, German conductor, Franz Welser-Möst, succeeded him in 1990 and led an often controversial tenure. Still, his concert tour of South Africa was a great success, as were several recordings. Kurt Masur, took the reins as principal conductor in September 2000. As the LPO marked its 75th anniversary in 2007, Vladimir Jurowski was named as the twelfth Principal Conductor.

The LPO regularly performs in Royal Festival Hall, London.