Philharmonic Orchestra was formed in 1931, when Malcolm Sargent
encouraged Sir Thomas Beecham to contract 106 of the best musicians he
could find, with the patronage of Samuel Courtald
and Robert Mayer.
at Queen’s Hall on 7th October 1932. Sir Thomas was the conductor: He would hold that post for seven years. It was a rowdy atmosphere, by
classical standards, with an extremely vocal audience that did not hold
back its enthusiasm. A scant
three days later, the LPO laid down its first tracks, the first of a myriad
they would record over a long and distinguished career in and out of the
better part of a decade, they released over 300 recordings, returned to
Queen’s Hall for concerts numbering almost 100, and performed full
opera seasons in the Royal Opera House at Covent
A young Yehudi Menuhin was one of the orchestra’s first
guest soloists: In November
1932, he performed a program of wall-to-wall violin concerti, including
works by Johann Sebastian Bach and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Sir Edward Elgar was on hand to
conduct his own “Concerto in B minor”.
The LPO toured
Germany in 1936,
including a stop in Berlin
where they performed for an audience that included Adolf Hitler. At the onset of World War II,
however, Sir Thomas Beecham emigrated to the U.S., potentially leaving the
orchestra in disarray. It did
not help that their patrons jumped ship, as well. Undaunted, the hundred-something
musicians took matters into their own hands, governing themselves and
giving a series of concerts to help boost the morale of the English troops.
When the BBC
Symphony evacuated London
during the heavy German bombings in 1940 and 1941, the LPO continued its
business as usual, commandeering the popular promenade concerts in Queen’s
Hall as well as an active schedule with the Royal Philharmonic Society.
The LPO would
not go untouched by the calamities of war. Queen’s Hall was ravaged by bombings
in 1941, which left Royal Albert Hall as the only major concert venue in London. The aforementioned concerts were
relocated there. One other
major problem: The musicians’
instruments were also a casualty.
Fortunately, the public responded to a plea by the BBC to help and
donated their own instruments to the orchestra so they could continue their
In the absence
of Sir Thomas Beecham, the LPO were led by a variety of conductors,
including Adrian Boult, Basil Cameron, Sergiu Celibidache, Wilhelm
Furtwangler, Victor de Sabata, Malcolm Sargent, Richard Tauber and
Eduard van Beinum took the helm in 1947, the same year that saw
the introduction of the London Philharmonic Choir. According to British law, foreign
workers were only allow to ply their craft in the U.K. for half a year, so
Eduard split duties with Jean Martinon. In 1950, Eduard had to step down due
to his failing health. Adrian Boult took over and conducted the orchestra for seven
years. On his watch, the LPO toured the
U.S.S.R. and recommitted themselves to recording,
issuing hundreds of albums, sometimes under the pseudonym, Philharmonic
After Adrian Boult’s tenure was up, he remained active with
the orchestra, assuming presidential responsibilities in 1965. During the late ‘50s, the
conductor’s podium was manned by figures such as Josef Krips and Constantin Silvestri.
In 1958, William Steinberg became the chief conductor of the LPO, in
spite of the fact that he was already serving as music director for the
Pittsburgh Symphony. Serving
double duty did no favors for his physical health, specifically arm issues,
and he resigned in just two years.
In 1962, John
Pritchard succeeded William Steinberg and the orchestra toured Asia, Australia and India. John Pritchard also had another job
as music director for the Glynebourne Opera Festival,
which led to the LPO becoming its orchestra-in-residence. His time with the orchestra was
significant yet short-lived, and he stepped down in 1966.
This time, it
did not take long to find a replacement. Bernard Haitink
took up the reins in 1967, and would pilot the orchestra throughout the
next twelve years. During his
time, the LPO went on international tours that included stops in Russia and the United States. In 1973, they broke new ground by
becoming the first western orchestra to concertize in China.
Solti succeeded Bernard Haitink in 1979 and
remained with the LPO until 1983, when he was awarded emeritus status. He was followed by Klaus Tennstedt, who shepherded the orchestra through the
1986-1987 season. Bad health forced him to abdicate his
post, and the LPO went three years without the benefit of a principal
conductor. That changed in
1990, when Franz Welser-Most assumed control of
the orchestra. His six years of
stewardship were noteworthy for a record deal with EMI and a tour of South Africa.
From 1996 to
2000, the orchestra again went without a principal conductor, so various
guest conductors took turns until Kurt Masur
occupied the post on the cusp of the millennium. He was with the LPO for seven years,
during which time the orchestra began recording on its own label.
was Vladimir Jurowski, who became the twelfth
principal conductor in 2007, which was the 75th anniversary of
the orchestra. He had served as
subsititute guest conductor in 2001 and principal
guest conductor from 2003. Yannick Nezet-Seguin became
principal guest conductor in 2008.
February 2009, the LPO appeared at the Strathmore Music
Center where they
performed the adagio from “Symphony No. 10” by Gustav Mahler, Also Sprach
Zarathustra by Richard Strauss, “Atmospheres”
by Gyorgy Ligeti and “Piano
Concerto No. 23, K. 488” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with Leon
Fleisher at the keys.
They toured Belgium, Finland,
France, Germany, Luxembourg
and South Korea
in 2010 and 2011.
September 2011, they took part in the London
music festival with a concert that featured music from video games such as Angry Birds, Bioshock, CoD Modern War 2, Dead Space,
Enemy Zero, Final Fantasy, Grand
Theft Auto, Halo 3, Little Big Planet, Mario Bros., Splinter Cell, Tetris,
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and World of Warcraft.
participated in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant and the summer
Olympics and Paralympics, for which they were responsible for recording all
205 national anthems, in 2012.
2012-2013 season, they gave the British premiere
of Carl Vine’s “Piano Concerto No. 2”, with soloist Piers Lane.
They teamed up
with Vadim Repin at
Symphony Hall on 8th March 2013 for Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Violin
Concerto No. 1”. The
concert concluded with “Symphony No. 5” by Ludwig van
which they appear include: Bernard Herrmann: Film Classics; Cinema Spectacular; Elgar: Pomp and Circumstance Marches
1-5/Dream Children/The Wand of Youth/Nursery Suite; The Greatest Video Game Music; Janacek: Chamber Music/Orchestral Works; Mahler: Symphony No. 1 Including “Blumine”; Schumann: Symphonies 1 & 4; The Tortoise and the Hare; and, Verdi Arias.
They can also
be heard on the soundtracks of As You
Like It, Before and After, The Cell, The Dream Stone, Excalibur,
The Girl of the Canal, Harry Potter and the Order of the
Phoenix, Iron Man 3, A Kiss Before Dying, Lawrence of Arabia, The Mission, Nobody’s Fool, Piece
of Cake, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, The Sea Shall Not Have Them, Tron and The Yards.
educational outreach programs have included Bright Sparks
Schools concerts and workshops, the Foyle
Future Firsts apprenticeship, FUNHarmonics family
concerts, Roots, SoundBytes, and Subversive
Adagio for Piano and Orchestra (Richard Nanes)