It was founded in 1904 as an independent, self governing organisation, the first such orchestra in the UK. It played its first concert on the 9th of June in that year, when Hans Richter conducted. He remained principal conductor until 1911, when Edward Elgar took over for a year.
More recently, its principal conductors have included Pierre Monteux (1961-64), Istvan Kertesz (1965-68), André Previn (1968-79) and Claudio Abbado (1979-88). In 1988, the American Michael Tilson-Thomas took over, and in 1995, he was replaced by Colin Davis, Tilson-Thomas becoming Principal Guest Conductor.
The LSO became the first British orchestra to play overseas when it went to Paris in 1906. It was also the first to play in the United States, in 1912, and in 1973 it was the first to be invited to take part in the Salzburg Festival. It continues to make tours around the world.
Other London-based orchestras include the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the English Chamber Orchestra, the Philharmonia and the BBC Symphony Orchestra.