The London Symphony Orchestra is widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest. This ensemble is an enviable family of artists headed by LSO President Sir Colin Davis and Principal Conductor Valery Gergiev. The orchestra collaborates with some of the leading musicians in the world, among them Leonidas Kavakos, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Mitsuko Uchida and Maria João Pires.
The LSO is proud to be Resident Orchestra at the Barbican, where the musicians perform around seventy concerts a year. Joint projects between the orchestra and the Barbican include London 2012 Festival concerts with Wynton Marsalis and Gilberto Gil. The LSO also enjoys successful residencies at the Lincoln Center (New York), the Salle Pleyel (Paris) and the Aix-en-Provence Festival. Other tour destinations include the Far East, North America and all major European cities.
The LSO is set apart from other international orchestras by the depth of its commitment to music education, reaching over sixty thousand people each year. The LSO Discovery programme enables the orchestra to offer people of all ages opportunities to get involved in music-making. The recent LSO On Track project culminated in young musicians performing Elgar’s opera Nimrod at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. LSO St Luke’s, the UBS and the LSO Music Education Centre are home to LSO Discovery as well as chamber and solo recitals, dance, folk music and much more besides.
The LSO is a world-leader in recording music for CDs, films and events. LSO Live is the most successful label of its kind with eighty releases available globally on CD, SACD and online.
The LSO was the official orchestra of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games opening and closing ceremonies, memorably appearing with Rowan Atkinson performing Chariots of Fire under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle. The LSO has also recorded music for hundreds of films, including Pixar’s latest, Brave, four of the Harry Potter series, The King’s Speech, Superman and all six Star Wars movies.
Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 2 (1957) – a brief intermezzo between the autobiographical Tenth and programme Eleventh Symphonies – to his son Maxim Shostakovich, then a pupil at the Central School of Music of the Moscow Conservatoire. The world of youth is reflected in the light joie de vivre of the music in the concerto. The slow section of the concerto, full of poetic, meditatively dreamy lyricism, is framed by the energetic outer sections, imbued with a feel of festive merriment. The concerto was acclaimed both at concert performances and as a teaching instrument.
“A huge symphonic composition in a new genre, by means of which I shall attempt to make a great impression on my audience,” was how Hector Berlioz (1803–1869) described the score of his Symphonie fantastique (1830), a clear manifesto of musical romanticism. The composer was not relying on the imagination of his audience, which had learned the classicist model of the symphony – from Haydn to Beethoven. And as well as the titles of the movements of the Symphonie fantastique he gave it a well-developed literary programme in which autobiographical motifs are reflected: the story of the young composer’s passionate love for the Irish Harriet Smithson, prima donna of an English theatre company on tour in Paris.
In following the programme, the attentive listener will not miss the details of the plot of this musical “novella”, brilliantly brought to life by means of the symphony orchestra. The central image of the symphony, its idée fixe, is the theme of love which cements together the entire cycle. It appears in various forms – ranging from the dreamlike contours of a beautiful and desirable woman in the first three movements to grotesque and caricature in the final two. The Symphonie fantastique was first performed in Paris on 5 December 1830 under the baton of the composer.