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Los Angeles Philharmonic | Photo: Sam Comen Los Angeles Philharmonic | Photo: Sam Comen

Los Angeles Philharmonic at 100

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Bold, visionary, compelling, the Los Angeles Philharmonic is one of the world’s finest and most established orchestras.

Three strands run through their work: the popular; the contemporary and the classical, showcasing their extraordinary range and artistry. Music and Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel has soared to become one of today's most charismatic conductors – and is the driving force behind the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s performances of breathtaking passion and galvanising energy.

Born in 1981, Dudamel was shaped by his childhood experience with El Sistema, Venezuela’s extraordinary programme for youth music education. Driven by an unwavering belief in the power of music to heal, unite, and inspire, Dudamel’s remarkable career of musical achievements and championing of access to the arts for young people around the world demonstrates music’s extraordinary capacity to transform lives. Under Dudamel’s direction, the LA Phil has become one of the leading orchestras in the world, admired for its unmatched commitment to new music, diversity, and inclusion. The celebration of the LA Phil’s 100th season showcases the extraordinary versatility and vision of both the orchestra and Dudamel’s cross genre appeal, mainstream impact, and ability to transcend traditional classical music.


We spoke to the superstar conductor about coming to the International Festival and why music is an essential part of humanity...

Click here to watch a captioned version of the video.

As they celebrate their centenary with a dazzling season of new work, collaborations and a world-tour, we look at some of the formative moments in the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s history.

1919  William Andrews Clark Jr., an amateur musician and son of a millionaire copper baron, founds the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Walter Henry Rothwell, an English conductor and former assistant of Gustav Mahler, is named the orchestra’s first Music Director, and the first concert is held on October 24, when they play Dvořák’s ‘New World’ Symphony, Liszt’s Les Preludes, and more.

The audience was not especially notable as to size, the glamour of a premiere was not broadly apparent, but the people who were there represented musical taste.

LA Times, 25 October 1919

The following year, the orchestra move to Philharmonic Hall.

1922  The Los Angeles Philharmonic plays its first concert at the Hollywood Bowl, performing selections from Wagner, Brahms, Grieg, and Rossini. It is one of the largest natural amphitheatres in the world, with a seating capacity of nearly 18,000.

1925  British pianist and composer Ethel Leginska becomes the first woman to conduct the LA Phil.

1927  Georg Schnéevoigt, a Finnish conductor and cellist, becomes Music Director.

1928  The orchestra is recorded live for the first time. Symphonies Under the Stars becomes the first in a long line of recordings featuring the LA Phil.

1929  Artur Rodziński, a Polish conductor of opera and symphonic music, becomes Music Director.

1933  Otto Klemperer, a Jewish German-born conductor and composer, becomes Music Director.

1935  A pair of legendary musical mavericks — Igor Stravinsky and Arnold Schoenberg — lead the LA Phil on separate occasions.

1943  The LA Phil holds the first of its many Symphonies for Youth, a creation of music director Alfred Wallenstein, an American cellist and conductor who holds the post 1943-1956.

1951  In a move that will shape the future of the LA Phil for decades to come, Dorothy Chandler becomes Executive Vice President of the Southern California Symphony Association.

1956  Eduard van Beinum, a Dutch conductor, becomes Music Director.

1961  Zubin Mehta, an Indian conductor, is named Music Director during the opening concert of the 1961/62 season. The elated audience gives a standing ovation in response.

1964  The orchestra moves into the newly opened Music Center, a three-venue campus that is largely the brainchild of Dorothy Chandler, wife of LA Times publisher Norman Chandler and a staunch supporter of the arts in LA.  

1978  Carlo Maria Giulini, an Italian conductor, becomes Music Director.

1984  André Previn is named Music Director of the LA Phil. A gifted pianist and composer, Previn is a four-time Oscar winner and the recipient of ten Grammys.

1992  Esa-Pekka Salonen, a Finnish composer and conductor, leads his first concert as Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Under his baton, the LA Phil will give the world or American premieres of 120 compositions.

2002  The LA Phil play two dates at Edinburgh International Festival featuring pieces by Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Ravel, Sibelius and Mahler.

The LA magicians come fully armed with their utterly amazing, sensational music director, the mighty Finn, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and two mouthwatering programmes.

The Herald, 1 August 2002

2003  The LA Phil moves into its current home, the Walt Disney Concert Hall. A marvel of architecture and acoustic engineering, the Frank Gehry designed masterpiece instantly becomes an icon of the city of Los Angeles.

2004  Scottish composer Sir James MacMillan’s A Scotch Bestiary premieres at the Walt Disney Concert Hall on 7 October 2004, performed by the organist Wayne Marshall and the LA Phil under the direction of Esa-Pekka Salonen. Inspired by the surroundings of the concert hall, MacMillan musically bases the episodes on the style of early Disney cartoons.

2007  Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA) is founded. YOLA will go on to provide instruments, education, and performance experience to thousands of young musicians, providing access to quality music education to over 1200 children annually from underserved communities around Los Angeles.

Youth Orchestra Los Angeles | Photo: Los Angeles Philharmonic Association

2009  Gustavo Dudamel, a Venezuelan conductor and violinist, debuts as Music Director of the LA Phil. Eighteen thousand people descend on the Hollywood Bowl for ¡Bienvenido Gustavo!, the scene of his first-ever US concert. He is named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2009. He is 28 years old.

2012  Dudamel travels to Raploch, Stirling, with the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra to perform with the children of the Big Noise Orchestra. The concert is the opening event of the London 2012 festival, a series of cultural events ushering in the Olympic Games. The open-air concert for 8000 people, set against the backdrop of Stirling Castle, is broadcast live on BBC Four.

That same year Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic win a Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance for Brahms’ Symphony No 4.

2018  The LA Phil enters a new era with the dawning of its Centennial, celebrating with more than 50 commissions of new work, technological partnerships, and star collaborations. 10,000 free tickets are distributed to underserved audiences around Los Angeles as a centennial gift to the community.

No classical institution in the world rivals the LA Phil in breadth of vision.

The New Yorker, 19 November 2018

2019  Gustavo Dudamel, celebrating his tenth year with the LA Phil, is awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and the 2019 Distinguished Artist Award from the International Society for the Performing Arts (ISPA). Construction begins on a new Frank Gehry designed facility for YOLA in Inglewood, California. 

In August, the LA Phil perform a special three concert-residency at the Edinburgh International Festival. The orchestra celebrate the movie music of Hollywood in the Aberdeen Standard Investments Opening Event: LA Phil at Tynecastle which features music by John Williams, the best-loved film composer on the planet.

The orchestra also perform in two Usher Hall concerts featuring Mahler's Resurrection Symphony with the Edinburgh Festival Chorus and the European premiere of John Adams' new work Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes? with Chinese pianist Yuja Wang. A group of musicians from LA Phil's youth orchestra programme YOLA join the orchestra on tour to collaborate with young people from Scotland's Big Noise Orchestra, culminating in a free open rehearsal in the Usher Hall led by Gustavo Dudamel.

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