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5.0 out of 5 stars Orchestra LSO review, 5 Dec. 2010
This review is from: Orchestra: The LSO: A Century of Triumphs and Turbulence (Paperback)
This book is a fantastic read for anyone with a passing interest in the history of not only the LSO orchestra, but also British classical music and arts culture in the last 100 years or so. It is a witty and opinionated book written with a light touch which is full of entertaining anecdotes, journalistic analysis and personal testimony from LSO players, conductors and management past and present. It covers the ground of the history of the orchestra, but concentrates most on the pivotal moments and the best stories setting them neatly in the music scene of London, the rest of the UK, Europe and America. Did you know that the LSO narrowly missed being on the Titanic, changing their tickets only at the last moment? I particularly enjoyed the chapters on the 70s and 80s which saw the orchestra veering from the heights of artistic brilliance to near financial ruin - often at the same time. I loved reading about the essentially English quality of the players - the 'rock n roll' classical musicians who ran their orchestra in their way with maverick and often dazzlingly brilliant flare. A great read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent account, 29 Dec. 2014
Bacchus (Greater London - Surrey) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Orchestra: The LSO: A Century of Triumphs and Turbulence (Paperback)
The LSO was the first professional orchestra I ever heard. Andre Previn came to our town and conducted a number of works in 1975. I was at primary school at the time and I think it all went over my head. However, I knew that Previn was a big celebrity, especially when I saw his name on various soundtrack LPs (Porgy and Bess, My Fair Lady and Jesus Christ Superstar) that I preferred listening to, I thought he was everywhere.

Anyway, back to the LSO. Anyone watching a professional orchestra like the LSO and seeing the 1,000s of recordings they have made would think that an orchestra is a permanent organisation. Reading this book, you will realise that it is anything but. Richard Morrison tells the story of this orchestra.

It famously began in the Edwardian era in 1904 at a time when orchestral players found as much work playing in theatre bands as they did in permanent 'classical' orchestras. This work was often better paid and Henry Wood, Britain's leading conductor of the Queens Hall Orchestra started to feel a little aggrieved at having a different bunch of players at performance than he had in rehearsal (quite justifiably). The management of the orchestra announced that in future, no member of the orchestra would be permitted to find a deputy. The potential loss of valuable extra income caused a large number of members of the Queens Hall Orchestra to form their own orchestra in which the players were now members and shareholders rather than employees. The London Symphony Orchestra was born.

However, they strove for the highest standards and employed the finest European conductors, like Hans Richter and Artur Nikisch. The fierce independence of the orchestra meant that the relationship between conductor and players was different than with other orchestras and could frequently become quite fractious. The orchestra had and I presume continues to have some very big personalities in it and there have been numbers of fights between conductors players and management.

The book also charts the changing nature of the arts world throughout the Twentieth Century. There were no state patronage of the arts until after the Second World War and British Orchestras have never enjoyed the same amount of wealthy patrons that US orchestras have had. When I read this book, I was often amazed that the LSO survived - it was touch and go at various times.

The LSO is the oldest of London's permanent orchestras. The most famous US orchestras are actually longer established than the London ones. The foundations of the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 1930, the London Philharmonic in 1932, and post-war foundations of the Philharmonia and Royal Philharmonic in 1946 have all had an impact on the competition for the best players, sources of work and audiences for the LSO. Somehow, all five London orchestras have survived and flourished even though some people think that there are too many of them.

However, it is clear that as a band, the LSO proved very adaptable and flexible and the picture at the end (the book was written in 2004), was largely optimistic.

I really need to go out and listen to more live music.
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Orchestra: The LSO: A Century of Triumphs and Turbulence
Orchestra: The LSO: A Century of Triumphs and Turbulence by Richard Morrison (Paperback - 20 Jan. 2005)
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