The London Symphony Orchestra (LSO), founded in 1904, is the oldest of London's symphony orchestras. It was set up by a group of players who left Henry Wood's Queen's Hall Orchestra because of a new rule requiring players to give the orchestra their exclusive services. The LSO itself later introduced a similar rule for its members. The orchestra underwent periods of eclipse in the 1930s and 1950s when it was regarded as inferior in quality to new London orchestras, to which it lost players and bookings. By the 1960s it had recovered its leading position, which it has retained subsequently.
A self-governing body, the orchestra selects the conductors with whom it works. At some stages in its history it has dispensed with a principal conductor and worked only with guests. Among conductors with whom it is most associated are, in its early days, Hans Richter, Sir Edward Elgar, and Sir Thomas Beecham, and in recent decades Pierre Monteux, André Previn, Claudio Abbado, Sir Colin Davis and Valery Gergiev.
Since 1982, the LSO has been based in the Barbican Centre in the City of London. It claims to be the world's most recorded orchestra, and in addition to making gramophone recordings since 1912 it has played on more than 200 soundtrack recordings for the cinema, of which the best known include the Star Wars series.
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“London Bridge is broken down,
Dance oer my lady lee,
London Bridge is broken down,
With a gay lady.
How shall we build it up again?
Dance oer my lady lee,”
—Unknown. London Bridge (l. 16)
“The truth is, as every one knows, that the great artists of the world are never Puritans, and seldom even ordinarily respectable. No virtuous manthat is, virtuous in the Y.M.C.A. sensehas ever painted a picture worth looking at, or written a symphony worth hearing, or a book worth reading, and it is highly improbable that the thing has ever been done by a virtuous woman.”
—H.L. (Henry Lewis)
“As the artist
extends his world with
one gratuitous flourisha stroke of white or
a run on the clarinet above the
bass tones of the orchestra ...”
—Denise Levertov (b. 1923)