We are pleased to present a very special, free digital magazine produced to celebrate the 20th birthday of the London Symphony Orchestra's own record label, LSO Live. Containing the original Gramophone reviews of many of the greatest LSO Live recordings, simply follow the link to enjoy the magazine on Exact Editions.
Editor-in-Chief James Jolly, pays tribute to the LSO Live label...
When the CD market peaked towards the end of the last century, many of the ensembles who’d relied on a regular stream of recordings started to think about how to prepare for the future. The Berlin Philharmonic, for example, with its long tradition of performing in front of the cameras (a tradition started by Herbert von Karajan) launched its Digital Concert Hall. The LSO, as the world’s most-recorded symphony orchestra, decided to take back control and make its own recordings in-house, bypassing the traditional record label association. Its Principal Conductor at the time was Sir Colin Davis, someone whose relationship with the orchestra went back to 1959. He was no stranger to making recordings, having lived and worked through one of the richest periods for classical music on disc. And even though he had a vast catalogue under his belt, he still had a lot to offer. Renowned as the world’s greatest living Berlioz conductor, he embarked on a huge programme of re-visiting the major works of the composer’s canon with an orchestra that understood this music like few others. Pretty well all of Davis’s LSO Live Berlioz recordings became modern classics, not least his second recording of Les Troyens which took Gramophone’s Opera Award in 2002. And his Elgar and Nielsen were still unknown quantities …
LSO Live was launched in 1999 and, as the name would imply, is based on live recordings made in the orchestra’s home hall in the Barbican in the City of London. As one of the world’s great orchestras it plays host to the crème de la crème of conductors and soloists and its Principal Conductors – often very varied from one to the next – are from the very top flight. After Davis came Valery Gergiev (2007-15), one of whose first projects was a complete Mahler symphony cycle, and after him, from the start of the 2017, Sir Simon Rattle, who enjoys the title of Music Director. Rattle has continued the tradition of recording many of his core enthusiasms, including a healthy amount of new music. Caught live, he has given the LSO Live catalogue numerous gems including an incandescent recording of an opera very close to his heart, Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande.
But LSO Live isn’t all about the LSO’s Principal Conductors, some of its guests have been honoured with recordings too: Bernard Haitink, a very close friend of the orchestra during the autumn of his career, has given us wonderful cycles of the Beethoven and Brahms symphonies as well as some core works of his repertoire. Sir John Eliot Gardiner, too, has shaken up the orchestra’s approach to the classics and his LSO Live legacy includes superb accounts of the five symphonies by Mendelssohn and, just launched, the Schumann symphonies.
After 20 years, LSO Live not only enriches the classical music catalogue, but it also gives an almost unique insight into a great orchestra’s day-to-day music-making and the extraordinary virtuosity and musicality of its legendary players.
Read our free digital magazine: LSO Live at 20