Making History With the London Symphony Orchestra

Even if you consider yourself a newbie to classical music, you’re almost certainly familiar with the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO). Remember the thrilling score of Star Wars? That’s the LSO. It’s the same for Superman and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Those classic movie soundtracks – and many others – were all performed by the acclaimed orchestra.

Of course cinematic sounds are only a portion of the London Symphony Orchestra’s historic oeuvre. Founded in 1904, it’s the oldest symphony in the United Kingdom’s capital city, one of the world’s great cultural centers.

The LSO has played through more than a century of change, from world wars to the rise of pop culture. Along the way, it’s become what’s claimed as the most recorded orchestra in history, and its path has included winning numerous Grammy® Awards.

When arrayed on a stage, the LSO is a stunning assembly of musicians and instruments. Nearly 100 artists of the highest caliber perform in cadres of violins, violas, cellos, double basses, flutes, clarinets, bassoons, trumpets, timpani and more.

This moving musical armada made its first visit to Las Vegas, filling Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center March 30.

The evening was led by famed conductor, Michael Tilson Thomas. Tilson Thomas is Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony and is a recipient of the National Medal of Arts. In his lifetime, he’s garnered an astounding 11 Grammy® Awards. This LSO tour is honoring his 70th birthday.

Tilson Thomas conducted the LSO through a trio of distinct and distinguished 20th-century works by Benjamin Britten, Jean Sibelius and George Gershwin.

During Britten’s “Four Sea Interludes op. 33a,” conductor Tilson Thomas took the audience back to the LSO’s home in the British Isles. This evocative musical tableau makes vivid the moody weather of Britain’s coast.

A group of LSO members discuss Michael Tilson Thomas

The Sibelius work, “Symphony No. 2, op 43,” imaginatively transported Reynolds Hall from the austere Mojave Desert to the deep green forests of Scandinavia. Sibelius’ work celebrates Finland’s independence, and delivered a rousing experience.

When Tilson Thomas led the corps to Gershwin territory with “Piano Concerto in F,” he was right at home here in Nevada. Gershwin is an American canon favorite of The Smith Center’s audiences, and this jazz-inflected work complements Las Vegas perfectly.

And with the Gershwin section arrived another highlight of the evening: Yuja Wang.

Soloist Yuja Wang Performs

Chinese-born piano soloist Wang is a virtuoso at the keys. Regarded by many as the premier pianist in contemporary classical music, Wang is noted for her intense, athletic performances. She’s been described as having “sinewy power, stamina and agility” (Chicago Tribune) and “impressive virtuosity and poise” (Boston Globe).

Only 28 years of age, Wang is astounding and enthralling to hear and see.

With the combination of Tilson Thomas, Wang and the entire London Symphony Orchestra on stage, the evening was a milestone for The Smith Center and greater Las Vegas as a whole.

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