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London Philharmonic Orchestra

The London 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.

They debuted 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 studio.

Over 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 Garden.

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 important work.

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 Bruno Walter.

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 Promenade Orchestra.

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.

Sir Georg 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.

His successor 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.

On 26th February 2009, the LPO appeared at the Strathmore Music Center where they performed the adagio from “Symphony No. 10” by Gustav Mahler, Also SprachZarathustra 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.

On 2nd September 2011, they took part in the London music festival with a concert that featured music from video games such as Angry BirdsBioshockCoD Modern War 2Dead SpaceEnemy ZeroFinal FantasyGrand Theft AutoHalo 3Little Big PlanetMario Bros.Splinter CellTetrisUncharted:  Drake’s Fortune and World of Warcraft.

They 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.  In 2016 these recordings were re-used at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro

During the 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 Beethoven.

Recordings on which they appear include:  Bernard Herrmann:  Film ClassicsCinema SpectacularElgar:  Pomp and Circumstance Marches 1-5/Dream Children/The Wand of Youth/Nursery SuiteThe Greatest Video Game MusicJanacek:  Chamber Music/Orchestral WorksMahler:  Symphony No. 1 Including “Blumine”Schumann:  Symphonies 1 & 4The Tortoise and the Hare; and, Verdi Arias.

They can also be heard on the soundtracks of As You Like ItBefore and AfterThe CellThe Dream StoneExcaliburThe Girl of the CanalHarry Potter and the Order of the PhoenixIron Man 3A Kiss Before DyingLawrence of ArabiaThe MissionNobody’s FoolPiece of CakeResident Evil:  ApocalypseThe Sea Shall Not Have ThemTron and The Yards.

Their educational outreach programs have included Bright Sparks Schools concerts and workshops, the Foyle Future Firsts apprenticeship, FUNHarmonics family concerts, Roots, SoundBytes, and Subversive Symphonies.

Richard Nanes recordings
Adagio for Piano and Orchestra (Richard Nanes)
Conductor—Thomas Sanderling
CD single:  Delfon 9090

Johann Strauss Jr. recordings
Emperor Waltz 
EMI 69838 (CD: Johann Strauss Jr.: Waltzes & Overtures)
Conductor – Franz Welser-Most