The London Symphony Orchestra (LSO), founded in 1904, is the oldest of London's symphony orchestras. It was set up by a group of players who left Henry Wood's Queen's Hall Orchestra because of a new rule requiring players to give the orchestra their exclusive services. The LSO itself later introduced a similar rule for its members. From the outset, the LSO was organised on co-operative lines, with all players sharing the profits at the end of each season. This practice continued for the orchestra's first four decades.
The great Bohemian-born composer Gustav Mahler once said, "A symphony must be like the world. It must embrace everything." Over the course of its nearly 300-year life, the symphony has indeed embraced almost every trend to be found in Western concert music.
"Bernard Haitink: The Symphony Edition" is one of two recent box sets from Decca, marking Haitink's eighty-fifth birthday in 2014. Together with Haitink: The Philips Years this set offers a broad, tantalizing overview of the great Dutch conductor's compelling artistry, and makes a near-perfect introduction to one of the truly magnificent recorded legacies of our time. Haitink will be 85 on 4 March 2014, and this set presents his six complete symphonic cycles by cornerstone classical composers: Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, Mahler, Schumann and Tchaikovsky.
The 18th century saw an explosion of symphonies (over 18,000 composed in just 60 years, by one estimate). ‘Birth of the Symphony: Handel to Haydn' surveys some of the diverse works which were central to the genre as we know it today. The recording begins with Handel's Sinfonia from Saul, an example of the oratorio sinfonia which supplied models for the early symphony's scoring. Works from the avant-garde Mannheim composers Stamitz and Richter demonstrate the new sonic possibilities of the form, with which Mozart also engages in his very first attempt at the symphony. The recording ends with an example of a mature classical symphony, Haydn's 'La passione'.