Title Holders


Lord Howard de Walden 1920–??
Sir William Walton 1948–57
W Gordon Walker 1950–54 (Hon. Vice President)
Sir Arthur Bliss 1958–??
Dr Karl Bohm 1977–81
Leonard Bernstein 1987–90
Sir Colin Davis 2007–13

Principal Conductors

Hans Richter 1904–11
Sir Edward Elgar 1911–12
Arthur Nikisch 1912–14
Sir Thomas Beecham 1915–16
Albert Coates 1919–22
Willem Mengelberg 1930–31
Sir Hamilton Harty 1932–35
Josef Krips 1950–54
Pierre Monteux 1961–64
Istvan Kertesz 1965–68
Andre Previn 1968–79
Claudio Abbado 1979–88
Michael Tilson Thomas 1988–95
Sir Colin Davis 1995–2006
Valery Gergiev 2006–15
Sir Simon Rattle (Music Director) from September 2017


Arthur W. Payne 1904–12
William H. Reed 1912–36
George Stratton 1937–52
Thomas Matthews 1953
Granville Jones 1954–55
Hugh Maguire 1956–61
Erich Gruenberg 1962–65
John Georgiadis 1965–72
John Brown 1973–76
John Georgiadis/Neville Taweel 1977–78
John Georgiadis/Richard Studt 1978–79
Michael Davis 1979–86
Alexander Barantschik 1989–2001
Gordan Nikolitch 1995–present
Roman Simovic/Gordan Nikolitch 2010–present



Ellis Roberts 1905–09 Violin
Edwin F James 1909–21 Bassoon
Henri van der Meerschen 1922–32 Horn
W H Reed 1932–42 Leader
Gordon Walker 1945–49 Flute/Piccolo
Harry Dugarde 1949–60 Cello
Lowry Sanders 1961–62 Principal Piccolo
Barry Tuckwell 1962–67 Principal Horn
Jack Steadman 1968–70 Violin
Stuart Knussen 1970–71 Principal Double Bass
Howard Snell 1971–75 Principal Trumpet
Anthony Camden 1975–87 Principal Oboe
Terry Morton 1987–88 Violin
Lennox Mackenzie 1988–92 Violin
John Lawley 1992–99 Oboe
Jonathan Vaughan 1999–2002 Double Bass
Timothy Lines 2002–2003 Principal Clarinet
Patrick Harrild 2003–2004 Principal Tuba
Lennox Mackenzie 2004–2016 Sub-Leader, First Violin
Gareth Davies 2016–present Principal Flute

Managing Directors/Secretaries

Thomas Busby 1904–24 Horn
Bertram Jones 1924–29 Violin
Arthur Maney 1929–35 Cello
W G Wood 1935–44 Double Bass
Gordon Walker 1945–48 Flute/Piccolo
Desmond Wrench 1948-49
John Cruft 1949–59 Cor Anglais
Ernest Fleischmann 1959–67
Harold Lawrence 1968–73
John Boyden 1974–75
Michael Kaye 1975–79
Peter Hemmings 1980–84
Clive Gillinson 1984–2005 Cello
Kathryn McDowell 2005–present

First Performances

Since its inception the LSO has given literally hundreds of first performances of some of the most important music written in the last century, and has commissioned many works from the brightest musical talents.

Here we pick out some of the highlights from a century of vibrant and forward-looking programming.


World premiere of Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No 3, conducted by the composer


First London performance of Elgar’s First Symphony (second ever performance), conducted by Hans Richter
World premiere of Delius’s A Dance of Life, conducted by Enrique Fernández Arbós


World premiere of Delius’s Dance Rhapsody No 1, conducted by the composer


First UK performance of Scriabin’s Le poeme de l’extase, conducted by Serge Koussevitzky
World premiere of Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis, conducted by the composer


First UK performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter Festival Overture, conducted by Wassily Safonoff


World premiere of Butterworth’s A Shropshire Lad, conducted by Arthur Nikisch
World premiere of Elgar’s Falstaff, conducted by the composer


World premiere of Delius’s North Country Sketches, conducted by Thomas Beecham


First performance of the first revised version of Vaughan Williams’s ‘London’ Symphony, conducted by Adrian Boult


World premiere of Elgar’s Cello Concerto, with Felix Salmond, conducted by the composer


Albert Coates conducts the first complete performance of Holst’s The Planets at the Queen’s Hall as well as the premiere of the second revised version of Vaughan Williams’s ‘London’ Symphony


Prokofiev gives the first UK performance of his Third Piano Concerto, conducted by Albert Coates
World premiere of Bax’s Symphony No 1, conducted by Albert Coates
World premiere of Bliss’s A Colour Symphony, conducted by the composer 1923
UK premiere of Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition (this arrangement originally called The Paintings from the Picture Show), conducted by Serge Koussevitzky


First London performance of Respighi’s Pines of Rome, conducted by Albert Coates


London premiere of Rachmaninov’s Fourth Piano Concerto, played by the composer with Albert Coates conducting


World premiere of Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No 5, conducted by the composer


World premiere of Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast, in Leeds, conducted by Malcolm Sargent
Stravinsky conducts the first UK performance of his Suite from The Firebird


World premiere of Walton’s Symphony No 1 (first three movements), conducted by Sir Hamilton Harty


World premiere of Vaughan Williams’s Serenade to Music, combined London Orchestras conducted by Sir Henry Wood


World premiere of Britten’s Matinées Musicales (Suite No 2), conducted by Anatole Fistoulari


The LSO performs in a film called Instruments of the Orchestra featuring the premiere of Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra conducted by Malcolm Sargent
World premiere of Vaughan Williams’s Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra with Cyril Smith and Phyllis Sellick, conducted by Sir Adrian Boult


First UK performance of Strauss’s Symphonic Fragment, The Legend of Joseph, conducted by Eugene Goossens
First UK performance of Messiaen’s Turangalîla-symphonie, conducted by Walter Goehr with soloists Yvonne Loriod and Ginette Martenot


First UK performance of Mahler’s Das klagende Lied, conducted by Walter Goehr


World premiere of Alexander Goehr’s Violin Concerto with Manoug Parikian, conducted by Antal Dorati


World premiere of Khachaturian’s Concerto-Rhapsody for Cello and Orchestra, with Mstislav Rostropovich, conducted by George Hurst
Hans Werner Henze conducts the UK premiere of his Symphony No 5
World premiere of Tippett’s Concerto for Orchestra, conducted by Colin Davis at the Edinburgh Festival


World premiere of Henze’s Ariosi, conducted by Colin Davis
World premiere of Copland’s Music for a Great City, conducted by the composer


World premiere of Britten’s Voices for Today, conducted by István Kertész, relayed from United Nations HQ in New York


World premiere of Richard Rodney Bennett’s Symphony, conducted by István Kertész
UK premiere of Bernstein’s ‘Jeremiah’ Symphony, conducted by Seiji Ozawa


First Western performance of Shostakovich’s Second Violin Concerto, with David Oistrakh, conducted by Eugene Ormandy


World premiere of Oliver Knussen’s Symphony No 1, conducted by the 15-year-old composer
UK premiere of Aaron Copland’s Inscape, conducted by the composer


UK premiere of Webern’s Three Pieces for Orchestra, conducted by Pierre Boulez
World premiere of Luigi Nono’s Intolleranza, conducted by Claudio Abbado


World premiere of Benjamin Frankel’s Seventh Symphony, conducted by André Previn
World premiere of Previn’s Cello Concerto, with Douglas Cummings, conducted by the composer


First London performance of John McCabe’s Notturni ed Alba, with Sheila Armstrong, conducted by André Previn
World premiere of Ravi Shankar’s Sitar Concerto, with Ravi Shankar, conducted by André Previn
London premiere of Shostakovich’s Thirteenth Symphony (‘Babi Yar’), conducted by André Previn


World premiere of Michael Tippett’s Symphony No 3, with Heather Harper, conducted by Colin Davis


Krzyzstof Penderecki conducts the world premiere of his Symphony No 1
World premiere of Bliss’s Metamorphic Variations, conducted by Leopold Stokowski


World premiere of Walton’s Varii Capricci, conducted by André Previn
World premiere of Andrzej Panufnik’s Sinfonia di sfere, conducted by David Atherton


World premiere of André Previn’s Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, conducted by the composer


World premiere of Tippett’s Triple Concerto, with György Pauk, Nobuko Imai and Ralph Kirshbaum, conducted by Sir Colin Davis


World premiere of Colin Matthews’s Quatrain, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas
UK premiere of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mlada, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas


World premiere of John Taverner’s The Repentant Thief, with LSO Principal Clarinet Andrew Marriner, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas


World premiere of Panufnik’s Cello Concerto, with Mstislav Rostropovich, conducted by Hugh Wolff


World premiere of Robert Saxton’s Cello Concerto, with Mstislav Rostropovich, conducted by Oliver Knussen


World premiere of James MacMillan’s Britannia, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas
World premiere of Rodion Shchedrin’s Cello Concerto, with Mstislav Rostropovich, conducted by Seiji Ozawa
World premiere of John Adams’s Violin Concerto, with Gidon Kremer, conducted by Kent Nagano


World premiere of Tippett’s The Rose Lake, conducted by Sir Colin Davis
World premiere of Peter Maxwell Davies’s The Three Kings, conducted by Richard Hickox


World premiere of James MacMillan’s Cello Concerto, with Mstislav Rostropovich, conducted by Sir Colin Davis
First performance of James Macmillan’s The World’s Ransoming, with LSO Principal Cor Anglais Christine Pendrill as soloist, conducted by Kent Nagano


World premiere of Bernstein’s A White House Cantata, conducted by Kent Nagano
World premiere of James MacMillan’s ‘Vigil’ Symphony, conducted by Mstislav Rostropovich
World premiere of Paul McCartney’s Standing Stone, conducted by Lawrence Foster


World premiere of George Benjamin’s Palimpsest, conducted by Pierre Boulez


First European performance of Previn’s Violin Concerto, performed by Anne-Sophie Mutter, conducted by the composer


World premiere of George Benjamin’s Shadowlines, conducted by the composer
World premiere of James MacMillan’s A Deep But Dazzling Darkness at LSO St Luke’s, conducted by the composer
UK premiere of Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire, conducted by the composer


LSO Centenary Year commissions include: Dmitri Smirnov, Triple Concerto No 2 for double bass, harp and violin; Richard Bissill, Sinfonia concertante for trumpet, horn and clarinet; Karl Jenkins, LSO Centenary Concertante for percussion, flute and piano; Huw Watkins, LSO Centenary Concertante for bassoon, violin and harp.


The LSO and UBS Sound Adventures scheme launches, giving 18 composers over 3 years the opportunity to compose for the LSO. This year sees works by Tansy Davies (Tilting) and Luke Stoneham (Proem)


World premieres of Tim Garland’s Overture to the Life of a Real Boy, Joe Culter’s Ulf, James Olsen’s Composition (30 January 2006), Daniel Basford’s Shift, Bryn Harrison’s Shifting Light and Anna Meredith’s noisy are some of the Sound Adventures pieces heard so far in 2006.


World premiere of Jonathan Dove’s Stargazer, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas
British premiere of Sofia Gubaidulina’s Violin Concerto In tempus praesens, performed by Anne-Sophie Mutter and conduted by André Previn


World premiere of James MacMillian’s St John Passion, commissioned by the LSO for the 80th birthday of Sir Colin Davis. The performance was conducted by Sir Colin himself
Pierre Boulez conducts the European premiere of Matthias Pintscher’s Osiris
World premiere of Augusta Reid Thomas’s Helios Choros II, conducted by Daniel Harding


The LSO performs the first concert premiere of Tan Dan’s Internet Symphony ‘Eroica’, written for the YouTube Symphony Orchestra project. The same concert also includes the European premiere of Tan Dun’s Piano Concerto, performed by Lang Lang. Tan Dun himself conducted both works.


European premiere of John Adams’s City Noir, conducted by the composer.

James MacMillan’s Violin Concerto receives its world premiere performance by Vadim Repin, conducted by Valery Gergiev

World premiere of Eric Whitacre’s Songs of Immortality, commissioned by the London Symphony Chorus and conducted by the composer


World premiere of Tim Garland's Concerto for Percussion, Saxophone and Orchestra, conducted by François-Xavier Roth

Vlad Maistorovici's Halo is 2011's 10-minute Panufnik Composers Scheme commission


UK premiere of Dutilleux's Le temps l'horloge at the City of London Festival

UK premiere of Wynton Marsalis' Swing Symphony (Symphony No 3) during the London 201 Cultural Olympiad

World premiere of Fanfare: Her Majesty's Welcome by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, written for joint forces of LSO On Track and the LSO wind and brass players to perform at the Queen's Medal for Music Gala Concert in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen


World premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage's Speranza, commissioned by the LSO with support from Susie Thomson, conducted by Daniel Harding

The first LSO Futures features two world premieres, Modo Hit Blow by Jason Yarde and Panufnik Variations by Colin Matthews, a work which contained ten variations based on a work by Andrzej Panufnik by ten Panufnik Composers Scheme alumni


World premiere of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies' Tenth Symphony, conducted by Sir Antonio Pappano

World premiere of Huw Watkins' Flute Concerto, performed by LSO Principal Flute Adam Walker

World premiere of Sally Beamish's Equal Voices, marking 100 years since the start of World War I, conducted by Gianandrea Noseda


World premiere of Wynton Marsalis' Violin Concerto, performed by Nicola Benedetti, conducted by James Gaffigan

UK premiere of Jonathan Dove's The Monster in the Maze, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, a joint commission between LSO, Berliner Philharmoniker and Festival d'Aix-en-Provence


World premiere of Peter Maxwell Davies' The Hogboon, an opera for children, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle. The premiere was given three months after the composer's death

World premieres of commissions from the Panufnik Composers included Elizabeth Ogonek's Sleep and Unremembrance, Jack Sheen's Lung and Michael Taplin's Ebbing Tides.


World premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage's Remembering: in memoriam Evan Scofield, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle. A co-commission between the LSO, Berliner Philharmoniker and Boston Symphony Orchestra, the work was generously supported by Susie Thomson

UK premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage's Håkan, performed by its dedicatee Håkan Hardenberger (trumpet) and conducted by John Wilson

The world premiere of a Fanfare by Helen Grime opens Sir Simon Rattle's first season as Music Director


A complete list of first performances up to 2004 can be found in the book Orchestra: A Century of Triumph and Turbulence by Richard Morrison.

Top photo: Sir Edward Elgar with soloists L to R: Arthur Cranmer, Astra Desmond, Isobel Ballie, Eric Greene, Frank Phillips, Harold Williams and the Croydon Philharmonic Choir during a rehearsal at the Croydon Civic Hall for The Apostles in 1932.


Every session!

It is more than a hundred years since the LSO made its first recording and its discography recently passed the 2500 mark.

For its centenary in 2004 the LSO published its complete discography, compiled by freelance discographer Philip Stuart. The discography contains details of every recording session the LSO has undertaken – where, when, who and what; from core classical works to pop crossovers, films sessions to video games – along with the details of subsequent releases and reissues, and is a document that charts the history of recorded classical music from the infancy of the technology to the present day. Since 2004 Philip Stuart has continued to update the discography with new sessions, and to revise and add details as new information comes to light.

We are delighted to make this document available for browsing. Try looking up the first LSO disc you bought, whether that was last year or half a century ago. Search for artists, repertoire and record labels or discover where the orchestra has made its recordings (not just Abbey Road, but more than a hundred different venues over the years). You may find that you can re-hear a concert you attended at the Barbican, the Proms or long ago at the Royal Festival Hall. You can check whether a favourite LP has been transferred to CD - then by putting the catalogue number into Amazon’s search facility you may be able to locate a copy.

The discography also lists the recordings physically held in our archives, and indeed those we have not been able to locate. If you are able to assist Philip in filling in the gaps, either with information or a donation of recordings, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

If you find this discography interesting and/or useful, you may like to make a donation to help us fill some of the gaps. Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and/or donate online here.

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Download the discography (1086 pages)
Word version (4MB) | PDF version (6MB)

To search the Discography: use CTRL+F


Selected highlights

The official opening of Abbey Road Studios, 11 & 12 November 1931
Sir Edward Elgar conducted Land of Hope and Glory, Nursery Suite and Falstaff for visitors and a Pathé newsreel documenting the occasion.

The 15-year-old Yehudi Menuhin’s first concerto recording, 25 & 26 November 1931
Bruch's Violin Concerto conducted by Landon Ronald.

Sergei Prokofiev recording his own Third Piano Concerto, 27 & 28 June 1932
Conducted by Piero Coppola. The discography notes that Prince George made a visit to the studio during these sessions, and that the visit was filmed.

Elgar’s last recording before he died, 22 January 1934
The discography notes that Elgar was too ill to leave home in Worcester, and so the sessions were relayed to him there so he could supervise. The Orchestra was conducted by the producer Lawrance Collingwood.

Polish propaganda recorded during World War II, 5 March 1945
Polish works recorded by Polish musicians, paid for by the Polish government's Ministry of Information while in exile in London.

Pinchas Zukerman's first recording, 16 & 17 December 1968
Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto conducted by Antal Dorati. Zuckerman was a last minute replacement for Raymond Lewenthal who had been taken ill.

Ravi Shankar’s Sitar Concerto, 29 & 30 May 1971
An LSO commission.

André Previn's Music Night album, 15 & 16 May 1974
An album of music to accompany the hit BBC TV series that ran 1971–78.

Classic Rock, 1976 onwards
The first sessions of the perennially popular Classic Rock albums took place in 1976 and continued into the 1990s.

Simon Rattle's first recording with the LSO and the legend that followed, 7–9 July 1977
The 22-year-old Rattle was a late replacement for Louis Frémaux. Rumour has it that he and the Orchestra did not get on and he refused to conduct the Orchestra for many years afterwards.

The first digital recordings made in the UK, October 1978
It was still more than four years before analogue recording was superseded.

The LSO in World War I

In August 1914 the face of the nation was changed as a generation of young men went off to fight in World War I.

No family was unaffected and no profession was exempt from losing vast swathes of men to military service, and the London Symphony Orchestra was no exception. In 1914 the LSO had just reached its 10th birthday. Financially strong and freely acknowledged to already be among the finest in the world, the Board minutes of the AGM of July 1914 show that the Orchestra was rightly proud of its achievements in the first decade.

Sydney Moxon in France, 1916At first the outbreak of war looked bleak for London’s cultural scene. The first difficulties were the cancellation of numerous conductors and artists who suddenly found it impossible to travel; and personnel troubles in the shape of early enlistments in the forces by two of its trumpeters, Sydney Moxon and Ernest Hall, and a letter from the wife of violinist William Boxall, explaining that he had been in Hungary at the outbreak of war and would be remaining there until the end of the conflict. Nevertheless the LSO boldly declared that it would continue playing concerts, and the Board minutes commended the “patriotic action” of Sydney and Ernest, passing a resolution that “Members who have joined the army for the duration of the War shall be exempt from paying deputies’ fees and their positions kept open.” They would later regret this decision when violinist Robert Carrodus was spotted playing at the Savoy Theatre every night in October 1916 whilst claiming exception from deputies’ fees because he was in military uniform!

In 1916 things were getting increasingly difficult for the LSO. A new threat in the shape of Zeppelins dropping bombs from the air meant audiences were increasingly cautious about venturing out during the evenings, and gloomy news from the Front of vast numbers of casualties had perhaps dampened the appetite for entertainment. An Extraordinary General Meeting was convened on 25 February 1916 to discuss the motion “Owing to the losses sustained by the company … this meeting is of the opinion that the own-promoted series of Symphony Concerts should be curtailed and the Company’s expenses reduced accordingly”. On that occasion the Board was able to put off the decision to suspend operations as the Chairman revealed that the same morning he had spoken with Sir Thomas Beecham, who had agreed to accept financial responsibility for the remaining concerts that season. He had also presented the Orchestra with £100 – a considerable sum – as a late Christmas gift. In addition, conscription was introduced at the start of 1916, meaning that every man aged 18–45 was obliged to join up. Minutes of the AGM in July 1917 show that 33 members were away on active service, around a third of the total membership. Replacements were difficult to come by, so female players started making more appearances in what had been until then mostly a male-orientated profession.

Pall-Mall-Gazette against German composersThe War was also having an effect on the artistic content of concerts. The overwhelming presence of German music in the Orchestra’s annual “Three Bs” festival, featuring the music of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, did not go unnoticed. In September 1916 the Pall Mall Gazette launched an attack on the LSO for promoting nothing less than a “German Festival”, which led to the replacing of Brahms’ Second Symphony with the thoroughly British Granville Bantock’s Hebridean Symphony. One observer was moved to quip that the Orchestra had only managed to further the cause of German music! Other composers who made appearances in patriotic programming were Austin, Bax, Delius, Elgar, Grainger, Harty, Holbrooke, McEwen, O’Neill, Pitt, Scott, Ethel Smyth, Stanford, Wallace and Vaughan Williams – some of whom had more staying power than others.

And it was not just in the press that anti-enemy feeling reared its head. One of the Orchestra’s founding members, horn player Adolf Borsdorf, was born in Germany but had been living in Britain for more than 30 years at the time of the outbreak of war, and had married a British wife. It was sadly not enough for the Orchestra’s members. Three days after war was declared, a joint letter from the membership was sent to the Board complaining that they were uncomfortable having a German in their ranks. Initially the Board dealt with the complaint by first demoting Borsdorf and later suspending him from playing duties, using his earlier problems with the gum disease Pyorrhoea as their reason. But in the summer and autumn of 1915 the members and the Board stepped up the campaign to get rid of Borsdorf, repeatedly requesting his resignation and sending him letters reminding him of the rules surrounding the forfeiture of shares. At the end of October that year he was categorically told that he would not be allowed to play again until the end of the war, and in the November he finally sent his resignation letter. Bordorf never played professionally again, and his horn-playing sons were later to change their surname during the World War II period, presumably to avoid a similar fate.

By September 1917 the Orchestra’s finances had become so difficult that an Extraordinary General Meeting was held at which the ominous words were spoken: “It was unanimously resolved that no further symphony concerts be given until the termination of the war.” Through the series of Sunday League Concerts at the Palladium, a commercial engagement, the LSO would continue to play in some small way during the remainder of the War, but it was not until 1920 that the Orchestra was able to regain a stable footing and continue their own-promoted series of concerts where they left off.

Minute book detailing members on active service

Miraculously only one LSO Member was killed in the atrocities: trumpeter Sydney Moxon, who died in 1916 near Ypres whilst bravely helping a wounded colleague to safety. Three other musicians who had played with the pre-war LSO also lost their lives – violinist Harold Grimson and horn player George Bennett, both during the Battle of Cambrai in December 1917, and flautist Eli Hudson, who had been both a soldier and a volunteer providing entertainment to injured troops in the trenches, in a military hospital soon after the end of the war. Others suffered injuries and illnesses, some career-changing, like French hornist Harry Jackson, who had been kicked in the face by a horse, and violinist Samuel Grimson (brother of Harold) whose physical and mental injuries meant he would never play again. Violinist Sidney Freedman spent time in a Prisoner of War camp in Bonn.

Other LSO Members provided essential services for the war, such as cellist Arthur Maney and violinist Charles Woodhouse who both served in the Motor Transport section of the Army Service Corps; and some used their civilian job to their advantage and joined the military bands, such as clarinettist Edward Augarde who performed with the band of the Honourable Artillery Company, and violinist David Roy Robertson who learned woodwind instruments in addition to his string playing skills and joined the band of the Scots Guards (they of red tunics and Busby hats). Most of the men returned to their jobs in the Orchestra after the War, as promised by the Board’s resolution in 1914 – some having distinguished careers, such as trumpeter Ernest Hall who was awarded an OBE in 1962 - but how they had suffered mentally as a result we will never know.

Read more about the Members of the London Symphony Orchestra who fought in World War I and about the story of an orchestra at war on the LSO blog series still unfolding using the links on the right, and on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War digital memorial: livesofthefirstworldwar.org/community/561


If you are looking for some information on the LSO and are thinking of contacting the LSO, here are the answers to some frequently asked questions

I’m researching my family history and believe that my grandfather played with the LSO – can you confirm this and tell me when?

We have an LSO player database which includes all members of the LSO since 1904, so we can tell you if your grandfather was a member, his rank and the dates of his membership. We cannot, however, tell you about those players who were hired in as ‘extras’ or who played regularly with the LSO but were not members.

My favourite LSO LP/Cassette/CD has worn out – can I buy a new copy of it from you?

Apart from our own record label, LSO Live, we do not sell any recordings from the LSO office. We suggest that you try the Amazon or HMV websites to buy these recordings.


My final year dissertation concerns pre-war concert repertoire, may I come and look at your concert programmes?

You may, of course, come and look at our programmes but an appointment is necessary – please contact the archivist on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Alternatively, you can call the archivist on 020 7382 2533 who can print out a list for you between the dates that you require.

I’m clearing out the attic and have found some old LSO programmes and records – can I donate them to the archive?

We are always delighted to receive donations of any material relating to the LSO’s history, photographs are particularly welcome.

I’m writing an article about Claudio Abbado, can you give me any information about his time as Principal Conductor of the LSO?

We can give you a list of all the concerts he conducted which were promoted by the LSO and some tours.

I’ve been trying to find a recording of Classic Rock but it doesn’t seem to be available, how can I find it?

This was a series of recordings of popular songs given classical arrangements which the LSO made in the 1970s. The original recordings are no longer available but it is still possible to buy a compilation album The Best of Classic Rock from amazon.co.uk

About the LSO Archive

The LSO is London’s oldest orchestra and has a fascinating history.

The Orchestra is happy to make its archive available to the public but as the archivist works part-time, it is essential to make an appointment to view any of the material. Much of the Orchestra’s performance history has been input to a database and, although not yet complete, it is possible for the archivist to supply enquirers with lists (either by post or email) upon request.

The following can be found within the archive:

  • A complete collection of programmes for the LSO’s own promoted concerts dating from 1904 and bound in volumes
  • Loose copies of programmes from the 1920s, including outside engagements (eg Proms, Edinburgh Festival, provincial venues, etc)
  • A collection of publicity leaflets and posters (incomplete) dating from 1904
  • Bound minute books from LSO Board meetings, 1905-1979
  • Photographs following the LSO’s history, in particular a good collection from the 1912 trip to the USA
  • Many letters, memorabilia and documents some signed by conductors and artists (not yet catalogued)
  • Oral history CDs – a collection of interviews with past players and administrators of the LSO giving their personal memories of their time in the Orchestra
  • Attendance sheets and diaries for all LSO engagements dating from 1968


Did You Know...?

The LSO was formed in 1904 when 50 members of the Queen’s Hall Orchestra rebelled against Sir Henry Wood’s edict that ‘no deputies’ be sent to rehearsals and concerts.

W.H. Reed played violin for the LSO for 38 years (23 as Leader) and during that time became a great friend of Elgar – one of the reasons the composer was so attached to the Orchestra.

Over thirty members of the Orchestra served in the Forces during World War I. One member, trumpeter Sydney Moxon, died while helping a wounded colleague to safety in Ypres, October 1916.

The LSO has always flown the flag and was the first British orchestra to visit the US (1912), Japan (1963), and South Africa (1956).

When the Orchestra toured to the US in 1912 it originally had tickets for the Titanic. An accident in testing one of her sister ships meant the Titanic's maiden voyage was delayed, leaving the LSO to choose between delaying the start of its tour or leave on the replacement (but less newsworthy) Baltic. Choosing the latter because of the scheduling of concerts, they heard the news of the disaster involving Titanic when they reached St Louis.

Sir John Barbirolli made his London debut with the LSO in 1927. He later married Evelyn Rothwell, who was a member of the LSO’s oboe section.

The LSO gave a concert at the United Nations HQ in New York during the first World Tour in 1964. U Thant, Secretary General at the time, was present at the concert.

The LSO performed the fiftieth anniversary concert of The Rite of Spring at the Albert Hall in 1963, with Pierre Monteux conducting (he had conducted the first performance) and with Stravinsky in the audience.

In 1966, the LSO was given a biennial residency at the Florida International Festival (Daytona Beach), a residency which continued until 2009.

In 1973 the LSO was the first British orchestra to be invited to play at the Salzburg Festival. André Previn conducted.

In 1975 the LSO Trust, together with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, restored Holy Trinity Church in Southwark, turning it into a rehearsal and recording hall. Some years later the LSO raised the funds, with assistance from UBS, to convert the abandoned church, St Luke’s in Old Street, into their community and education centre.

Carlos Kleiber conducted the LSO only once, in 1981 in Milan and London. Although the audiences were ecstatic, the reviews were extremely critical and as a result Kleiber never returned to London.

In 1965 Mstislav Rostropovich joined the LSO and conductor Gennadi Rozhdestvensky for a marathon series of concerts when he performed practically every cello concerto in the repertoire, from Vivaldi to Shostakovich.

The biggest audience that the Orchestra has performed to was in 2012 when it appeared in a sketch with Rowan Atkinson at the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. The global audience was estimated at 4 billion.