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, is conducted by the composer


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


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

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.