London is perhaps the most musically active city in the world, supporting five full-sized symphony orchestras and numerous smaller and specialty orchestral ensembles, of which the London Mozart Players is the oldest and one of the most honored.
After World War II, there was considerable uncertainty as to what form concert life would take and what organizations would survive. During the war, smaller ensembles had been formed to keep up morale; many played at daytime concerts such as the famous National Gallery Concerts held in the emptied art museum (its paintings having been shipped out of London to avoid their being damaged by Luftwaffe bombing raids). Among these groups were the Blech String Quartet (founded in 1933) and the London Wind Players (1942). Both these had been founded by Harry Blech (1910-1999), a former orchestral player.
These wartime concerts had revealed a public interest in chamber and small ensemble performances and specialized concerts. Hoping to serve this taste, Blech in 1949 founded the Haydn-Mozart Society and then, under its auspices, the London Mozart Players. The LMP had a clear identity and mission: to present the music of the Viennese classic masters and other core Classical-era works in performance by an orchestra similar in size to that most commonly used during that era. The LMP thus was the first chamber orchestra in Britain to specialize in this repertory, giving its first performance at London's Wigmore Hall on February 11, 1949. (When Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan, then working in London, heard of the London Mozart Players he huffed that he was going back to Salzburg to found the Salzburg Shakespeare Players.)
From the beginning, Blech took his orchestra from the great metropolis and its major concert halls to rural venues and smaller cities around Britain. His performances were, says New Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, "lively and clear-textured (if not always well-poised)." He did not confine his attentions to Wolfgang Mozart and Joseph Haydn, but also explored other composers active in Vienna at the time. His engaging style of music making and his interest in taking the music to the countryside won the LMP a large and steady following. Frequent performance sites include the Anvil in Basingstoke, the Turner Sims Concert Hall in Southampton, Wingfield Arts in East Anglia, the Thames Concert Society in Kingston, the Concert Hall and Hexagon in Reading, the Blackheath Halls in South London, St. John's, Smith Square in London, the Barbican Centre in the City of London, the Warwick Arts Centre, and the Royal Festival Hall. It is, in fact, the only orchestra to have appeared in the RFH every year since it opened in 1951 and, as such, the LMP is a mainstay of the South Bank Festival in London, which is centered on that hall. It has established a formal residency at the Fairfield Concert Hall and the Borough of Croydon in London.
Blech remained music director until 1984, when he was succeeded by Jane Glover, followed in 1992 by Matthias Bamert and in 1999 by Andrew Parrott. Although Parrott is primarily known as a "period instruments" conductor, the LMP remains a standard instruments ensemble, though over the years it has willingly adopted new understanding of performance practices of the classical era. Its principal guest conductor is the great flutist James Galway. Under its later directors, the LMP has expanded its area of interest. It has commissioned some new compositions, but its core remains the Classical era. It maintains one of the most active and successful educational programs of any London orchestra.