The London Symphony Orchestra: the First Decade Revisited

McVeigh, Simon. 2013. The London Symphony Orchestra: the First Decade Revisited. Journal of the Royal Musical Association, 138(2), pp. 313-376. ISSN 0269-0403 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

The early history of the London Symphony Orchestra and its association with Richter and Elgar have been well documented, yet there is much still to be learnt about the 1904 break with the autocratic Henry Wood and about the artistic and commercial decisions facing the new self-governing orchestra. From the start, the LSO confidently allied itself with international standards and cosmopolitan repertoire, and a roster of celebrated conductors to match. But financial security was less easily gained. Detailed analysis of the finances of the prestigious subscription series shows initial eclecticism giving way to concentration on the Austro-German canon in reaction to commercial and social pressures. British music came in and out of focus, despite the nationalistic mood of the time, and the analysis places in sharp relief the successes and failures of the link with Elgar. Furthermore, in an extraordinary sacrifice of self-interest, the freelance members decided to renounce normal fees for the subscription series in order to gain lucrative engagements elsewhere: thus the orchestra acted more as an agency than as a stable business proposition. Nevertheless, the innovative governance structure, underpinning a combination of resolute management, entrepreneurial energy and communal decision-making, eventually proved a viable and sustainable model that has remained influential up to this day.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):


London, orchestra, concert

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Research Office > REF2014


31 October 2013Published

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Date Deposited:

09 Jun 2013 12:31

Last Modified:

30 Jun 2017 09:55

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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