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 into a magnificent ensemble 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. He was succeeded in 2016 by Riccardo Chailly, who has since extended his contract until 2026. Guest conductors have included Andris Nelsons, Bernard Haitink, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Herbert Blomstedt, and Jakub Hrůša. The orchestra comprises internationally renowned soloists, chamber musicians, and music professors, as well as members of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and the Filarmonica della Scala. It performs several symphony concerts during the Summer Festival and, since 2022, a three-day music festival in the spring. Many of these performances have been broadcast on television and are available on DVD or CD, receiving such prizes as the Diapason d’or, the BBC Music Magazine Award, and the International Classical Music Award. Their most recent release, from the fall of 2021, is a DVD of Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto, with Martha Argerich as the soloist, and his Second and Third Symphonies, all led by Herbert Blomstedt. Guest appearances have taken the orchestra to numerous European music centers, 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.