LSO Widens its Audience Appeal

As Classic FM celebrates its partnership with the London Symphony Orchestra with a series of special Full Works Concerts dedicated to profiling some of the orchestra’s finest recordings, the orchestra’s managing director, Kathryn McDowell, has told us of the efforts made to reach out to a wider audience.

Back in May when the country was experiencing a rare burst of extended sunshine, the LSO left their more familiar environs to new and different surroundings. 

“It was an ambition of ours for some time to take the orchestra out of the concert hall and into the heart of London and to reach a whole different group of people and we did exactly that,” says McDowell. 

Explaining the rationale behind the move, she continues: “What we wanted to do was to take [conductor Valery] Gergiev with a major concert programme so it was wall-to-wall Stravinsky and we wanted to take it somewhere like Trafalgar Square and to perform for thousands of people and that’s exactly what happened. It was a terrific evening and we had over 10,000 people.” 

The ambition to reach out beyond the orchestra’s usual constituency had been in place for some time. 

“Since Gergiev has been with the orchestra we’ve wanted to find ways of reaching a much wider audience and I think that’s at the heart of what the LSO seeks to do,” she explains. 

“We want to reach as many people as possible but we want to take brilliant music making, we want to take Stravinsky, we want to take Prokofiev, we want to take full works and to present them in a way that people can actually listen to them.” 

McDowell takes a great of pride as she recalls the concert. For her, it wasn’t just that the LSO played to a whole new audience but the fact that these new fans came together with a new generation of musicians led by a great conductor marshaling an orchestra on top of its game.

“That night in Trafalgar Square we did a complete Firebird Rites of Spring,” she remembers. 

“Then we had our young people with us as well and some ways the Trafalgar Square concerts sums up a great deal of what the LSO does stand for because we had our young performers playing a version of the Rites of Spring with us. We had these great ballet scores conducted by Gergiev and the orchestra sounding at its blistering best.” 

With this week’s series of concerts about to start, it looks as if that audience may keep growing.

Listen to the full interview with Kathryn McDowell below.