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The summer of 2003 saw the birth of the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA, which was founded by the Italian conductor Claudio Abbado and the Festival’s Executive and Artistic Director Michael Haefliger. They established a link with the legendary “elite orchestra” for which Arturo Toscanini assembled acclaimed virtuosos of his time to create a magnificent ensemble, introducing it in a “Concert de Gala” in 1938, the year of the Festival’s founding. Abbado served as Music Director of the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA up until his death in January 2014. Riccardo Chailly was appointed his successor in 2016 and has since extended his contract until 2023. Guest conductors have included Andris Nelsons, Bernard Haitink, and Yannick Nézet-Séguin. The orchestra consists of internationally acclaimed principals, chamber musicians, and music teachers, as well as members of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and the Filarmonica della Scala. At the “Life Is Live” Festival in the summer of 2020, it is appearing for the first time under the baton of the Swedish maestro Herbert Blomstedt in two all-Beethoven programs. There will be an additional chamber music program of septets by Mozart and Beethoven. Many of the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA’s performances have been broadcast on television and then released on DVD or CD. These have garnered such awards as the Diapason d’Or, the BBC Music Magazine Award, and the International Classical Music Award. Their most-recent releases include a CD of orchestral works by Richard Strauss, which came out in 2019, and, in the summer of 2020, a DVD of the first part of their Rachmaninoff cycle under Riccardo Chailly, featuring the Third Piano Concerto with Denis Matsuev as the soloist and the Third Symphony. The LUCERNE FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA has previously toured to many of the musical metropolises in Europe, as well as to New York, Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, Shenzhen, and Shanghai.
The LUCERNE FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA has been performing annually at the Summer Festival since its first appearance in 2003.