Title graphic: Orchestras
Orchestras: 1

The founding of the Queen's Hall Orchestra (QHO) in 1895 marked a new departure in London's musical life. Hitherto, orchestras, including those for the many theatres, had been drawn on an ad hoc basis from a pool of professional musicians who lived and taught in the capital. However, although the QHO was not originally constituted on a permanent basis, it became so, benefiting from a corporate identity and stable management (initially Robert Newman). In 1904 a dispute with Henry Wood, its conductor, over a long-standing right to send a deputy if a player had a prior engagement, led around fifty players to break away and form the London Symphony Orchestra, which from the outset was self-governing. Hans Richter became the orchestra's first principal conductor, succeeded more recently by Pierre Monteux (1961), André Previn (1969) and Claudio Abbado (1979). A tour of the United States and Canada in 1912 was the first by a British orchestra, as was the world tour of 1964.

In 1927, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) took over the QHO (since 1915, New QHO), and its players became the nucleus of the BBC Symphony Orchestra (BBCSO), formed in 1930 and conducted by Adrian Boult, who rapidly brought it to the front rank. Players were salaried on a year-round contract, thereby gaining greater security, although this new arrangement was never adopted on a permanent basis by other orchestras (except those at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and the English National Opera), players usually being paid a fee for each engagement. Soon after the BBCSO's inception, guest conductors included Richard Strauss, Felix Weingartner and Bruno Walter, and it was the first British orchestra to be conducted by Arturo Toscanini (in 1935). Other BBC orchestras were formed in the regions, the three most important being the BBC Northern Orchestra at Manchester in 1934 (renamed the BBCN Symphony Orchestra in 1967), and, in 1935, the BBC Scottish Orchestra at Glasgow (the BBCS Symphony Orchestra, 1967) and the BBC Welsh Orchestra at Cardiff (the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, 1995).