Recommendations from our Archive of Recordings

While the Barbican Hall is closed and you are unable to hear the orchestra live, the LSO Live catalogue may provide some compensation, preserving Barbican performances since 1999.

But the LSO has been recording for much longer than that, playing in the studios on nearly three thousand occasions since 1913 – more than any other orchestra in the world. Much of this legacy can readily be downloaded – or indeed purchased on CD. Each week until normal service can be resumed, our discographer, Philip Stuart, will offer some suggestions for exploring the LSO’s history in sound. Listen to excerpts from Philip's selection below, and find these recordings in full on Apple Music with a 3-month free trial*. 


Wednesday 27 May: In Case You Have Also Been Missing The Opera

The mortality rate among characters portrayed by sopranos in Puccini operas is exceptionally high: Manon Lescaut, Mimi, Tosca, Cio-Cio-San, Suor Angelica and Liù all expire before the final curtain.
Happily, a couple of the survivors were portrayed by Angela Gheorghiu on recordings with the LSO.

In Gianni Schicchi Lauretta persuades her daddy to let her marry her boyfriend:


> Listen to the full album on Apple Music 

Magda, in the relatively unfamiliar La rondine, enjoys a drink with her lover:

>Listen to the full album on Apple Music

But if you are missing tragic operas, there are plenty of fatal conclusions elsewhere:

Verdi’s Aida performed by Leontyne Price

> Listen to the full album on Apple Music

Gounod’s Faust with Dame Joan Sutherland
> Listen to the full album on Apple Music

Bizet’s Carmen with Teresa Berganza and Plácido Domingo
> Listen to the full album on Apple Music

Strauss’ Salome with Montserrat Caballé
> Listen to the full album on Apple Music

Listen to the above recordings in full with a 3 month free trial of Apple Music*


Wednesday 20 May: For frustrated choristers...

The cancellation of live performances is bad enough for audiences – even worse for those who had looked forward to singing in them.

This week’s selection is dedicated to the relay racers of the London Symphony Chorus.

Sing along, or imagine yourself rehearsing

with Sir Colin Davis

> Listen to the full album on Apple Music 

or István Kertész

> Listen to the full album on Apple Music 

or André Previn

> Listen to the full album on Apple Music 

or Claudio Abbado

> Listen to the full album on Apple Music 

or Michael Tilson Thomas

> Listen to the full album on Apple Music 

And if you want to find out more about our 16 illustrious Principal Conductors (and Music Directors) check out our new blog.
> Read the blog here 

Listen to the above recordings in full with a 3 month free trial of Apple Music*


Wednesday 12 May: Letting out hair down...

Our (Samuel) Barber selection drew some comments about a certain Rossini opera. The LSO recorded The Barber of Seville twice in the 1970s (but nothing from Cornelius’s Der Barbier von Bagdad) but it will have to wait, as this week we look at a rather different coiffure. The LSO most notoriously let its hair down with 'Classic Rock', ten albums of contemporary hits recorded between 1976 and 1994. Lots of titles to choose from but, whatever your personal favourites, don’t miss Sailing:

> Listen to the full album on Apple Music

Those were all cover versions, but the LSO had a Number One hit single of its own with Whitney Houston's One Moment In Time which was released to mark the start of the 1988 Seoul Olympics:

> Listen to the full album on Apple Music

and were you aware of some singers’ posthumous recordings with the orchestra?

> Listen to the full album on Apple Music

> Listen to the full album on Apple Music

As for film music, do any of you now have hair like Merida’s in Brave? (See our regular Movie Nights choices.)

Listen to the above recordings in full with a 3 month free trial of Apple Music*. 


Wednesday 6 May: 1932 - A memorable year

Elgar and Menuhin1932 was scarily memorable in many ways: there was competition from the recently formed BBC Symphony Orchestra and, when Sir Thomas Beecham’s offer to turn the LSO into a permanent, salaried orchestra was turned down, he poached LSO players to establish his London Philharmonic Orchestra. But it was also the year of the most famous classical recording photograph: Sir Edward Elgar standing with the young Yehudi Menuhin on the steps outside Abbey Road, presumably taken while the LSO was tuning up inside Studio One. That was in July 1932 and what is remarkable is that between March and June the orchestra had made four of its most significant pre-war recordings there:

Artur Schnabel playing Beethoven’s First and Fifth Piano Concertos:

> Listen to the full album on Apple Music

Artur Rubinstein playing Tchaikovky’s First:

> Listen to the full album on Apple Music

the first ever recordings of Sibelius’ Third and Fifth symphonies:

> Listen to the full album on Apple Music

and Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto with the composer as soloist:

> Listen to the full concert on Apple Music

Listen to the above recordings in full with a 3 month free trial of Apple Music*. 


Wednesday 29 April: Not allowed to visit your barber?

Why not be pampered by Samuel Barber instead? His Adagio has long been a consolation in tragic circumstances. But it is not his only work. Try his Violin Concerto once - or twice:

With André Previn and Gil Shaham:

> Listen to the full album on Apple Music

Or with Mikhail Simonyan and Kristjan Järvi 

> Listen to the full album on Apple Music

This week the LSO should have been performing in Samuel Barber's American homeland, so for some more Americana, how about Appalachian Spring, recorded for Mercury in 1961:

> Listen to the full album on Apple Music

or, for the adventurous, Charles Ives:

> Listen to the full album on Apple Music

or, even more so, another Violin Concerto, by John Adams:

> Listen to the full album on Apple Music

Listen to the above recordings in full with a 3 month free trial of Apple Music*. 


Wednesday 22 April: You can't escape Beethoven in 2020

It is often said that Karajan's 1962 Berlin Philharmonic recording of Beethoven’s Symphonies was 'the first set of the nine in the history of the gramophone to be released as a single cycle', but that is untrue.
That honour actually belongs to Josef Krips’ 1960 Everest cycle with the LSO, released as an eight LP box set, but only in the USA. Here it came out on World Record Club in eight instalments during 1961–63:

Listen to the full album on Apple Music

The LSO’s very first recording (in 1913) was Beethoven's Overture to Egmont:

> Listen to the track in full on Apple Music 

and, in a recent Gramophone article, Rob Cowan drew attention to Antal Doráti conducting Beethoven's Fifth Symphony:

> Listen to the full album on Apple Music

For something off-beat, try rarely recorded choral works under Michael Tilson Thomas:

> Listen to the full album on Apple Music

Incidentally, our archive collection lacks the recordings of the Violin Concerto by Toshiya Eto (RCA, 1970) and Piano Concertos by Hiroko Nakamura (Nos.4&5, Sony, 1987) and Maria Tipo (Nos.1&4, EMI, 1989) - can anyone help? If you are able to assist Philip in filling in the gaps of these recordings, either with information or a donation, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Listen to the above recordings in full with a 3 month free trial of Apple Music*. 


Wednesday 15 April: Past Principals 

Orchestral players do not always love their Principal Conductors, but the LSO loved Pierre Monteux and he loved them. In fact, having begun a Beethoven cycle with the Vienna Philharmonic he switched to the London Symphony Orchestra after four symphonies. He was determined not to be confined to French repertoire and recorded Brahms, Dvořák, Sibelius and Elgar, all included in a large box of CDs:

> Buy the CD boxset

All the same, his Ravel is very special, try: 

Listen to the full albums on Apple Music: 
Ravel: Orchestral Favourites 
> Ravel: Daphnis et Chloe

Colin Davis was also much loved by the 1990s. Thirty years earlier the relationship had been challenging, but despite that some excellent recordings were made.
Listen to one that has only recently been transferred to CD:

> Listen to the full album on Apple Music

Listen to the above recordings in full with a 3 month free trial of Apple Music*. 


Wednesday 8 April: Impossible dreams?

Edward Elgar: the sketches for Symphony No 3 elaborated by Anthony Payne
Billy Reed was the LSO’s leader for twenty years from 1912. Ten years earlier he had met Elgar - just too late for him to be an “Enigma” variation. Visiting the dying composer in 1933, he was shown the sketches for the Third Symphony. Both doubted that the work could ever be performed, but, in 1997 the result of Anthony Payne’s combination of detective work and inspiration was unveiled. It was recorded by Colin Davis and the LSO a few years later:

> Listen to the full album on Apple Music

Listen to the above recording in full with a 3 month free trial of Apple Music*. 

> Buy the CD

Gustav Holst: The Collected Recorded Works
Elgar was by no means the only British composer to record his works with the LSO in the early days. Rutland Boughton, Stanford and Bridge all appeared but none more frequently than Gustav Holst. All his LSO recordings have been assembled on CD as a labour of love.

Listen to the full album on Apple Music

Listen to the above recording in full with a 3 month free trial of Apple Music*. 

> Buy the CD


Wednesday 1 April: A Past President

For most of its history, the LSO has not had a President, but in 1987 Leonard Bernstein was granted that title. He had recorded his first Mahler cycle with the New York Philharmonic, except for the Eighth Symphony, which he set down in his first LSO sessions in 1966.

> Listen to the full album on Apple Music

Listen to the above recording in full with a 3 month free trial of Apple Music*. 

His last sessions, for his own Candide in 1989, were seriously disrupted by flu infecting the conductor and several singers. Some years earlier the lively Overture had been the LSO’s party piece and may bring back memories of Andre Previn’s Music Night.

> Listen to the full album on Apple Music

Listen to the above recording in full with a 3 month free trial of Apple Music*. 


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