The Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra (= LAPO) was founded in 1919 by Los Angeles multi-millionaire and avid amateur musician William Andrews Clark, Jr. Walter Henry Rothwell was the orchestra's first music director. Rehearsals began on October 13, and the first concert was October 24 at Trinity Auditorium in downtown Los Angeles. The next year the LAPO moved into The Temple, a church built in 1907 and renamed Philharmonic Auditorium. Despite the name change, the hall remained a place of worship, and the orchestra had to plan its activities around those of the church. The LAPO benefited from the attraction that California held for European expatriates; following Rothwell, its music directors were Georg Schnéevoigt (1927-1929), Artur Rodzinski (1929-1933), Otto Klemperer (1933-1939), Alfred Wallenstein (1943-1956), and Eduard van Beinum (1956-1959).
In 1945 Leopold Stokowski had founded the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra for the summer concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, a striking art-deco outdoor concert shell in a lovely natural amphitheater. That orchestra disbanded two years later, and the LAPO replaced them as the regular orchestra for this series; though many American orchestras offer summer concerts, few have as high a profile in the cultural lives of their cities as this one did (and still does). In 1962 Zubin Mehta began his long and productive tenure as music director, which lasted until 1978. He burnished the sound of the orchestra, and initiated a successful series of recordings. He was succeeded by Carlo Maria Giulini (1978-1984), who brought his strong identification with the Classical repertory to the orchestra. He was succeeded by André Previn, who had a successful tenure from 1985 to 1989.
In 1964 the LAPO moved into a new home, the Dorothy Chandler Music Pavilion in downtown Los Angeles. The hall was shared with the Civic Light Opera Association and other concert and theater companies, a situation that grew uncomfortable and limiting for the LAPO.
In 1990, the LAPO followed the lead of the Boston Pops Orchestra by making an organizational distinction between its winter concerts and his summer series by founding the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra as a separate entity from the LAPO. John Mauceri was appointed its music director. In concerts, and on recordings the HBSO stresses its identification with the film capital.
The LAPO gives an annual 30-week winter season. The LAPO's music director since 1992 has been Esa-Pekka Salonen, an exciting young Finnish conductor whose programming is built around the great established classics of the 20th century, some new music, and a solid representation of established repertoire. By the end of the 20th century, the LAPO had established itself as one of the world's leading orchestras. Like other ensembles on the West Coast of the USA, it has served as an important forum for contemporary music. A new permanent home for the orchestra, Walt Disney Hall, featuring a striking design, and titanium- and brushed-stainless-steel exterior, was inaugurated in October 2003.