The LA Phil Story
The LOS ANGELES PHILHARMONIC, under the vibrant leadership of Music & Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel, presents an inspiring array of music through a commitment to foundational works and adventurous explorations. Both at home and abroad, the LA Phil—recognized as one of the world’s outstanding orchestras—is leading the way in groundbreaking and diverse programming, on stage and in the community, that reflects the orchestra’s artistry and demonstrates its vision. 2021/22 marks the orchestra’s 103rd season.
More than 250 concerts are either performed or presented by the LA Phil at the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, The Ford, and the famed Hollywood Bowl. Collectively, the presentations at the LA Phil’s three iconic venues represent a breadth and depth unrivaled by other orchestras or cultural institutions.
As of 2003, the LA Phil’s winter home has been the inimitable Walt Disney Concert Hall, with approximately 165 performances per season. The LA Phil creates festivals, artist residencies and other thematic programs designed to enhance the audience’s experience and delve further into artists’ or composers’ work. Assisting with this forward-thinking programming is composer, conductor and creative thinker John Adams, the John and Samantha Williams Creative Chair, appointed by Dudamel in 2009. The organization’s commitment to the music of our time is evident throughout the programming and, specifically, in the groundbreaking Green Umbrella series and the LA Phil’s extensive commissioning initiatives. Always inspired to expand its cultural offerings, the LA Phil produces concerts each season that feature distinguished artists in recital, world music, songbook, and visiting orchestra performances, in addition to special holiday concerts and series of chamber music, organ recitals, and Baroque music. The LA Phil is also one of the premier venues to offer a comprehensive jazz series currently helmed by the legendary Herbie Hancock, the LA Phil Creative Chair for Jazz since 2009.
Since its official opening in 1922, the Hollywood Bowl has been the summer home of the LA Phil. One of the largest natural amphitheaters in the world, with a seating capacity of nearly 18,000, the Hollywood Bowl plays host to the finest artists from all genres of music. The Hollywood Bowl has been named Best Major Outdoor Concert Venue 15 times by Pollstar and has been twice awarded the Top Amphitheater prize at the Billboard Live Music Awards. For millions of music lovers across Southern California, the Hollywood Bowl is synonymous with summer.
The Ford is one of the oldest performing arts venues still in operation in Los Angeles, with an outdoor 1,200-seat amphitheater and a rich history dating back to 1920. Situated in a 32-acre park and under the stewardship of the LA Phil since December 2019, The Ford presents an eclectic summer season of music, dance, film, and family events that are reflective of the communities that comprise Los Angeles.
The orchestra’s involvement with Los Angeles extends beyond its venues, with performances in schools, churches, and neighborhood centers of a vastly diverse community. Among its wide-ranging learning initiatives is YOLA (Youth Orchestra Los Angeles) established in 2007. Inspired by Venezuela’s revolutionary El Sistema, the LA Phil and its community partners seek to democratize music education by offering free, high-quality instrumental music instruction in under-resourced neighborhoods across Los Angeles. Through YOLA National, the LA Phil celebrates the work that’s done nationwide by similar programs and convenes young people each summer in Los Angeles at the YOLA National Festival. Opening in August 2021 is the Frank Gehry–designed Judith and Thomas L. Beckmen Center at Inglewood, YOLA’s first permanent, purpose-built facility, which will serve 500 students annually from the surrounding community while also providing a facility that can bring together students from existing and future YOLA venues.
The LA Phil also undertakes tours, both domestically and internationally, including regular visits with partners in New York, London (where the orchestra is the Barbican Centre’s International Orchestral Partner), Paris and Tokyo, among many others. As part of the orchestra’s global Centennial activities, the orchestra visited Seoul, Tokyo, Mexico City, London, Boston and New York. The LA Phil’s first tour was in 1921, and the orchestra has made annual tours since the 1969/70 season.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, all three venues were forced to close, and the 2019/20 season at Walt Disney Concert Hall was cut short, the 2020 seasons at the Hollywood Bowl and The Ford were canceled, as well as the 2020/21 season at Walt Disney Concert Hall. The LA Phil pivoted to producing digital media in order to continue to engage and broaden its audiences when in-person gathering was no longer permitted. With local classical radio station KUSC, Gustavo Dudamel and other special guests hosted the series At Home With, and the station also broadcast a series of concerts recorded during the 2019/20 season at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Local NPR-affiliate radio station KCRW curated a series of programs created from archival, iconic Hollywood Bowl performances. The LA Phil engaged with broadcast partners PBS nationally and KCET locally to present In Concert at the Hollywood Bowl, a television series hosted by Gustavo Dudamel consisting of highlights from concerts over the last 10 years at the historic venue. Once filming was permitted outdoors at the Hollywood Bowl and The Ford, two series of Sound/Stage were created and distributed for free. These digitally streamed concert films featured performances, conversations, essays and artwork, and were hosted by Gustavo Dudamel. The LA Phil’s first season at The Ford was also launched digitally through a series of new and archival streamed performances, in-depth conversations, family workshops and virtual festivals. Programs were created to support the region’s artistic communities, inviting audiences to experience music, dance, and poetry, making their work widely accessible. The Hollywood Bowl also provided a vital community resource, providing a safe, outdoor space not only as a public park, but also for civic activities including as a voting center and a location for several food drives.
Outside of the pandemic, the LA Phil continues to broaden its audiences offering expansive worldwide radio broadcasts and the on-demand streaming of LA Phil concerts from Walt Disney Concert Hall with Classic FM in the UK, WFMT, American Public Media’s Performance Today and SymphonyCast programs, and listener-supported KUSC, alongside a substantial catalog of concerts available online, including the first full-length classical music video released on iTunes.
In the past few years, the orchestra has released an array of critically acclaimed audio recordings. In November 2018, the LA Phil and Music & Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel released Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker in partnership with Deutsche Grammophon. March 2019 saw the release of Conductor Laureate Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Cello Concerto featuring Yo-Yo Ma and a live recording featuring Dudamel and the LA Phil performing the music of John Williams. For its Centennial, the LA Phil released a limited-edition, 32-CD and 3-DVD box set. The epic Centennial Birthday Celebration concert featuring all three living music directors—Zubin Mehta, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Gustavo Dudamel—was broadcast by PBS as part of its Great Performances series and released on DVD and Blu-Ray by C Major Entertainment. A recording partnership with Deutsche Grammophon and Gustavo Dudamel led to the release of the live, world premiere recording of Andrew Norman’s Sustain (August 2019) which won a Grammy® Award for Best Orchestral Performance; the world premiere recording of the LA Phil-commissioned John Adams’ Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes? (August 2020); the Complete Symphonies of Charles Ives (August 2020), which also received the Grammy® Award for Best Orchestral Performance; followed by Mahler Symphony No. 8 “Symphony of a Thousand” (June 2021). In March 2021, Nonesuch released the world premiere performance of the LA Phil-commissioned Louis Andreissen’s The only one led by Esa-Pekka Salonen.
Throughout its history, the LA Phil has been recognized by the entertainment industry. In 2016, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Esa-Pekka Salonen were nominated for a Grammy for Best Classical Compendium for their live recording of Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels. Rhapsody in Blue: Opening Night Concert and Gala was telecast as part of the PBS series Great Performances and garnered a 2012 Emmy nomination. In 2012, the LA Phil and Gustavo Dudamel won a Grammy® Award for Best Orchestral Performance for their recording of Brahms’ Symphony No. 4. In 1974, the LA Phil under Zubin Mehta won an Academy Award® for The Bolero, a 30-minute short subject featuring Maurice Ravel’s famous orchestral work.
The Los Angeles Philharmonic was founded by William Andrews Clark, Jr., a philanthropist and amateur musician, who established it as the city’s first permanent symphony orchestra in 1919. Walter Henry Rothwell became its first Music Director, serving until 1927; since then, 10 renowned conductors have served in that capacity: Georg Schnéevoigt (1927–1929), Artur Rodziński (1929–1933), Otto Klemperer (1933–1939), Alfred Wallenstein (1943–1956), Eduard van Beinum (1956–1959), Zubin Mehta (1962–1978), Carlo Maria Giulini (1978–1984), André Previn (1985–1989), Esa-Pekka Salonen (1992–2009), and Gustavo Dudamel (2009–present).