London Symphony Orchestra
About London Symphony Orchestra
Formed in 1904, the London Symphony Orchestra has stood apart from other classical institutions by eschewing the practice of being defined by a single musical director. Instead, its members have chosen the conductors they want to work with, temporarily allowing these guests—some, such as Albert Coates and André Previn, installed for extended terms—to shape the group according to their particular vision. The LSO was launched by a group of musicians who rejected the demand of exclusive contracts by Henry Wood’s Queen’s Hall Orchestra. As a cooperative, it embraced profit-sharing—although it aborted the practice in 1948, when it turned nonprofit—and instilled an autonomy that has endured through booms and busts (particularly when many musicians were conscripted during the two World Wars). That model has engendered an artistic versatility that has seen the orchestra excel at different repertoires depending on the conductor, such as Sir Edward Elgar’s command of English music and Claudio Abbado’s sensitivity toward Austro-German music. Widely considered to be the most recorded orchestra in history, the LSO has also distinguished itself by prodigiously recording film music, including the Vaughan Williams score for 49th Parallel in 1941 and John Williams’ music for Star Wars in 1977. In more recent years, the orchestra and Sir Colin Davis capped an association stretching back decades when he was named principal conductor in 1995 and presided over the widely acclaimed "Berlioz odyssey", performing the composer's complete catalogue. And in 2017, as Britain began the process of exiting the European Union, Simon Rattle, a frequent presence since late '90s, took the position of musical director amid high ambitions for a newly energised ensemble.