It was 20 years ago, in the summer of 2003, that the Lucerne Festival Orchestra was founded by the Italian conductor Claudio Abbado and Festival Executive and Artistic Director Michael Haefliger. In doing so, they established a link with the legendary “elite orchestra” comprising acclaimed virtuosos of his time that Arturo Toscanini assembled into a magnificent ensemble in 1938, the year of the Festival’s founding. Abbado led the Lucerne Festival Orchestra until his death in January 2014. He was succeeded in 2016 by Riccardo Chailly, who has extended his contract until 2026. Guest conductors have included Andris Nelsons, Bernard Haitink, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Herbert Blomstedt, Jakub Hrůša, Iván Fischer, and Andrés Orozco-Estrada. The orchestra comprises renowned principals, chamber musicians, and music teachers, as well as members of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and the Filarmonica della Scala. It presents several symphony concerts during the Summer Festival and, since 2022, has also offered a three-day music festival in the spring. Many of these performances have been broadcast on television and are now available on DVD or CD; these have been awarded such prizes as the Diapason d’or, the BBC Music Magazine Award, and the International Classical Music Award. Their latest release is a Rachmaninoff DVD, conducted by Chailly and featuring Mao Fujita as the soloist, which was released in April 2023. Guest appearances have taken the Lucerne Festival Orchestra to many European musical capitals, 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.