London Symphony Orchestra unveils future plans

  • Sir Simon Rattle’s inaugural season launched with a ten-day musical celebration
  • Young people and new audiences at the heart of future plans – new ticket schemes announced
  • Stockhausen masterpiece to be staged at Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall
  • 2017/18 season highlights announced
  • British composers a major focus
  • LSO digital partnerships bring the orchestra to the world

The London Symphony Orchestra today unveiled the first stage of ambitious plans for the future under its new Music Director, Sir Simon Rattle, who will take up his post in September 2017. The plans will unfold over the next three years, developed by Simon Rattle in close partnership with the musicians of the Orchestra, and in collaboration with the Barbican and the Guildhall School, as Artist-in-Association.

In his words: 'The London Symphony Orchestra, over a century, has an extraordinary heritage and history. At its core is an orchestra that is always looking forwards, accepting no limitations on what it can achieve. The programme we are announcing today gives a glimmer of things to come. Together we intend to explore the great masterpieces, build our community, and inspire a new generation to join us in the belief that music is for everybody'.

For a full overview of the 2017/18 season, Sir Simon Rattle's vision for the LSO and the new visual identity, please visit 

Plans announced today

A ten-day celebration to mark Sir Simon Rattle’s first season as Music Director running from 14 to 24 September 2017

Amongst the highlights of the celebration, staged in collaboration with the Barbican Centre and the Guildhall School, will be an all-British line-up of composers for the opening concert including a new commission to rising star Helen Grime; a London/Paris link up to celebrate Stravinsky in partnership with the Philharmonie de Paris; a ‘Silent Symphony’ live broadcast to personal headsets in the Barbican Sculpture Court; the creation of an opera in a day with children and young people; and a chance for the public to get behind-the-scenes as Sir Simon Rattle prepares the Orchestra for a performance of Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust. The BBC will broadcast live throughout the ten days including three symphonic concerts in the Barbican Hall and four chamber concerts from LSO St Luke’s. The final concert will be streamed live on the LSO’s YouTube channel and on Classic FM’s website.

Young people and new audiences are at the heart of the plans for the future

In a new scheme announced today, all tickets for under-18s at LSO Barbican concerts will be £5. 2017 also sees the launch of a new initiative to reach new audiences: Half Six Fix – early evening concerts which will be conducted by Gianandrea Noseda, Sir Simon Rattle and François-Xavier Roth, will offer an hour of world-class orchestral music at the end of the working day. The acclaimed LSO Discovery programme already reaching 60,000 young people a year will continue its development and growth. Announced today is a new three-year programme, supported by Youth Music, to increase substantially the provision of musical opportunities for young people in East London with special educational needs and disabilities, working in partnership with nine Music Education Hubs and specialist arts organisations.

New staging of Stockhausen at Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall

Looking beyond the next season, in 2018, Sir Simon Rattle will direct a performance of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s masterpiece, Gruppen (1955-57) in the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern. Scored for 120 musicians divided into three orchestras, this work, more than a concert, an event that envelops and surrounds the audience, is regarded as a landmark in 20th century music.

Highlights of the 2017/18 season unveiled

A celebration of Leonard Bernstein: composer, conductor, author and pianist, in November 2017, ahead of the centenary of his birth in 2018. His unique relationship with the London Symphony Orchestra was deep and enduring and cemented when he became President of the Orchestra in 1987. Marin Alsop will conduct two concerts featuring his Symphonies No 1 ('Jeremiah') and No 3 ('Kaddish'), alongside a special family concert in which Marin Alsop will recreate one of Bernstein’s famous 'Young People’s Concerts' from 1960s America. The series will culminate in a concert version of Bernstein’s electrifying musical, Wonderful Town, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle.

François-Xavier Roth, conductor of the Orchestra’s ground-breaking Panufnik Composers Scheme, will take charge of a major celebration of the music of Claude Debussy in 2018, the centenary of the composer’s death. The series will survey Debussy’s career through three orchestral concerts conducted by François-Xavier Roth, each featuring a different French soloist: Edward Moreau (cello), Cédric Tiberghien (piano) and Renaud Capuçon (violin). As part of the celebration, BBC Radio 3 will broadcast four lunchtime concerts from LSO St Luke’s curated by Cédric Tiberghien; and at Milton Court the Barbican will present an entire day devoted to examining the piano music of Debussy, played, introduced and discussed by Jean-Efflam Bavouzet and Debussy scholar Roger Nichols.

Gianandrea Noseda, Principal Guest Conductor, will continue his exploration of the complete cycle of Shostakovich’s 15 symphonies which will feature in concert at the Barbican, and as recordings on the Orchestra’s own LSO Live label, over the next five years. Complementing these programmes, a series of four BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concerts at LSO St Luke’s will focus on Shostakovich’s chamber music.

In May 2018, Michael Tilson Thomas, the Orchestra’s Conductor Laureate, will conduct Beethoven’s supreme creation, Missa Solemnis, on which he worked for four years.

Championing British composers of today

The London Symphony Orchestra has been a long-standing champion of British composers. Today’s announcement affirms that commitment with an agreement to open each season with a new work by a British composer, each commissioned by the Barbican for Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO. The first of these will be by 36-year-old Helen Grime, whose career has been nurtured through the Orchestra’s composer development programmes. Among the other featured British composers in the new season are Thomas Adès, Harrison Birtwistle and Oliver Knussen.

1,000 singers take part in new choral work

Simon Halsey, the LSO’s Choral Director, has taken the LSO’s singing programme to unparalleled heights since he took up the post in 2013, drawing thousands of enthusiasts to participate in the joy of singing in large groups. As well as growing and improving the London Symphony Chorus’ sound, he has developed the LSO Youth and Community Choirs, memorably the groups with which Gareth Malone cut his teeth as a choir director. In July 2018 Simon Halsey will bring together 1,000 singers of every ability for the European premiere of The Public Domain, a new work by David Lang, co-commissioned with New York’s Lincoln Center.

Pioneering digital partnerships

The LSO is going through a period of exponential digital growth, building a new presence globally through digital partnerships. In 2016, LSO Live hit 20 million streams and the Orchestra now reaches an audience of close to two million on Spotify alone. Its portfolio of digital partners includes Apple, of which the LSO is a member of its Affiliate Programme, and Mezzo TV, broadcasting online in high definition across Europe. Following an early pilot programme, the Orchestra is now undertaking rapid expansion of live streaming of concerts from its own YouTube channel, presented by LSO conductors and other artists.

Plans continue for a new centre for music for London

Plans to develop a new world-class centre for music that provides access to great music for the widest possible audience, in partnership with the Barbican Centre and the Guildhall School, are moving forward. The City of London Corporation recently provided funding to continue work, to be completed in 2018, on a detailed business case for the project.

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Notes to editors

About the LSO

The LSO was established in 1904 and has a unique ethos. As a musical collective, it is built on artistic ownership and partnership. With an inimitable signature sound, the LSO’s mission is to bring the greatest music to the greatest number of people. The LSO has been the Resident Orchestra at the Barbican Centre in the City of London since it opened in 1982. Giving 70 symphonic concerts there every year. Through LSO Discovery, it is a pioneer of music education, offering musical experiences to 60,000 people every year. With the formation of its own recording label LSO Live in 1999 the LSO pioneered a revolution in recording live orchestral music. The LSO strives to embrace new digital technologies – having successfully moved into digital film, Blu-Ray Audio, downloads and streaming – and it continues to innovate with platforms such as LSO Play, a web-based video player that allows people to observe the Orchestra from different angles. The LSO is also a highly successful creative enterprise, with 75% of all funding self-generated.