On a June afternoon in 1904, Hans Richter raised his baton to conduct the inaugural concert given by the newly formed London Symphony Orchestra (= LSO). The first independent, self-governing orchestra in this country, it soon became a limited company, owned and managed by the players.
Many distinguished conductors followed Richter: Sir Edward Elgar, Artur Nikisch, Sir Thomas Beecham, Albert Coates, Sir Hamilton Harty, Josef Krips, Pierre Monteux, István Kertész; and more recently André Previn, Claudio Abbado, Michael Tilson Thomas and Sir Colin Davis. Throughout its history the LSO has invited a number of eminent musical figures to take on the role of Honorary President, thus cementing the close relationships formed with Sir William Walton, Sir Arthur Bliss, Karl Böhm and latterly Leonard Bernstein.
The LSO has always attracted players of top quality: founding Principals of the Orchestra were known as 'God's own'. And the introduction in recent years of a 'joint Principal' scheme enables the LSO to secure musicians of the highest calibre, allowing them the flexibility to pursue solo and chamber careers, and recognising the musical value this breadth of experience brings to the orchestra's performances.
The LSO's pioneering spirit was strong even in its infancy. It was the first British orchestra to tour abroad when it visited Paris in 1906, and it later became the first British orchestra to travel to America (1912), Israel (1960) and Japan (1963). In 1966 the Orchestra was invited to take up a biennial residency at the Florida International Festival - one which continues to this day - and seven years later it was the first British orchestra to be invited to appear at the prestigious Salzburg Festival.
Today the LSO exports its characteristic vibrant sound around the globe with regular visits across Europe and in the USA, where it holds an additional residency at Avery Fisher Hall in New York. Japan is also a frequent destination, where the founded the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, along with Leonard Bernstein and Michael Tilson Thomas.
Away from the concert platform, the LSO continues its prolific recording activity, which began before World War I. Many of this century's greatest composers and conductors have recorded with the LSO since those early days and the LSO's movie credits are equally impressive including scores by John Williams, James Horner and David Arnold. In 1999, the LSO launched its own-label CD brand, LSO Live, enabling the Orchestra to make available its finest live performances on disc at an accessible price.
The LSO's groundbreaking education programme, Discovery, brings yet another dimension to the LSO's work. LSO Discovery is dedicated to bringing music to people of every age and from all walks of life. Work has now begun on converting the derelict Grade I listed church, St. Luke's in Old Street, to create a state-of-the-art music education facility which will enable the LSO's education programme to expand both nationally and internationally.