The BBC Symphony Orchestra (BBC SO) is a British radio orchestra based in London. Founded in 1930, it was the first permanent salaried orchestra in London, and is the only one of the city's five major symphony orchestras not to be self-governing. The BBC SO is the principal broadcast orchestra of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
The orchestra was originally conceived as a joint enterprise by the BBC and the conductor Sir Thomas Beecham, but the latter withdrew, and the task of assembling and training the orchestra fell to the BBC's director of music, Adrian Boult. Among its guest conductors in its first years was Arturo Toscanini, who judged it the finest orchestra he had ever conducted. During the Second World War, Boult strove to maintain standards, but the senior management of the post-war BBC denied the orchestra the resources to meet competition from new and well-funded orchestras.
From the 1950s to the 1970s the orchestra failed to regain its pre-war standing, but after initiatives begun by the BBC controller of music William Glock, performing standards began to rise. By the first decades of the 21st century the orchestra was once again regarded by critics as of first-class status. From the outset the orchestra has been known for pioneering avant garde music, and it continues to do so, at the Proms, in concerts at the Barbican Centre, and in studio concerts from its base at BBC Maida Vale studios.
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