The London Symphony Orchestra and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in the First World War : musical institutions, cultural identity and national conflict in Britain and Imperial Germany

  • Percy Leung

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


This thesis offers a comparative study of the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO) during the First World War (WWI), examining how their music-making and their performances were affected between 1914 and 1918, how they attempted to support their countries and societies throughout the conflict, as well as how the groups of people associated with them – namely soloists, conductors, orchestral players, critics and concertgoers – contributed to, and also reflected, the identity of classical music in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Britain and Germany. These two distinguished and admired musical institutions are also used as prisms to investigate two contrasting cultural configurations, specifically with regard to issues such as nationalism, patriotism and propaganda. It will be argued that the LSO and the BPO were also agents that made notable social, economic and political contributions to their countries at a time of total war. This thesis is structured in three parts. It first explores how the two orchestras performed and operated, as well as what it meant to be a music-making institution in London and Berlin, during WWI. Then the focus shifts to the symbiotic relationship between music-making and music-listening and how the LSO and the BPO entertained, educated and provided solace for their audiences. Finally, this thesis considers how the two orchestras’ performances and extramusical activities interacted with the political, cultural, charitable and propaganda contexts at the time. This thesis seeks to contribute to four rich fields of historical inquiry, namely cultural history, music history, war history and orchestral history. It contributes to scholarly debates surrounding the role of music in fostering national identity, furthers our understanding of how music could be used to advance cultural and political nationalism and offers a fresh insight into Anglo-German cultural history at the time of WWI.
Date of Award17 Jan 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorFrank Lorenz Müller (Supervisor)


  • First World War
  • Cultural history
  • Classical music
  • Symphony orchestras
  • Musical cultures
  • Cultural nationalism
  • Anglo-German comparative history
  • Transnational history
  • London Symphony Orchestra
  • Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Access Status

  • Full text embargoed until
  • 18th April 2027

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