By the mid-2010s, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra had established itself as a model for the image and role of the symphony orchestra in contemporary society, and as one of the top orchestras in the U.S. and the world. Under the vibrant leadership of music and artistic director Gustavo Dudamel, a product of Venezuela's innovative El Sistema program of classical music education, the orchestra has shown a commitment to foundational works and adventurous explorations.
The Los Angeles Philharmonic was founded in 1919 by Los Angeles multi-millionaire and avid amateur musician William Andrews Clark, Jr. The orchestra's first music director was Walter Henry Rothwell. The next year, the Philharmonic moved into The Temple, a church built in 1907 and renamed Philharmonic Auditorium. Despite the name change, the hall remained a place of worship, and the orchestra had to plan its activities around those of the church. The Philharmonic benefited from the attraction that California held for European expatriates; following Rothwell, its music directors were Georg Schnéevoigt (1927-1929), Artur Rodzinski (1929-1933), Otto Klemperer (1933-1939), Alfred Wallenstein (1943-1956), and Eduard van Beinum (1956-1959).
In 1945, Leopold Stokowski had founded the Hollywood Bowl Symphony for the summer concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, a striking art deco outdoor concert shell in a lovely natural amphitheater. The Los Angeles Philharmonic soon replaced it as the regular orchestra for this series, becoming a beloved part of the city's public cultural life. In 1962, Zubin Mehta began his long and productive tenure as music director, which lasted until 1978. He was succeeded by Carlo Maria Giulini (1978-1984), and in turn, by André Previn (1985-1989). The L.A. Philharmonic's music director from 1992 to 2009 was Esa-Pekka Salonen, the exciting young conductor and composer whose programming was built around the great established classics of the 20th century, new music, and a solid representation of established repertoire. Gustavo Dudamel assumed leadership of the orchestra in 2009.
In 1964, the L.A. Philharmonic moved into a new home, the Dorothy Chandler Music Pavilion in downtown Los Angeles. The hall was shared with the Civic Light Opera Association and other concert and theater companies, a situation that grew uncomfortable and limiting for the Philharmonic. A new permanent home for the orchestra, Walt Disney Hall, featuring a striking design by Frank Gehry and titanium and brushed stainless steel exterior, was inaugurated in October 2003. In 2007, inspired by the success of El Sistema, the L.A. Philharmonic and Dudamel established the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles, which offers free music education and instruments to students in the Los Angeles area.
The L.A. Philharmonic gives an annual 30-week winter season. More than 250 concerts are either performed or presented at its two iconic venues: Walt Disney Hall and the Hollywood Bowl. These presentations represent a breadth and depth unrivaled by other orchestras or cultural institutions. With a strong commitment to contemporary music from its earliest days, the Philharmonic remains noted for the extraordinary number and variety of new works it has commissioned.