Liepāja Symphony Orchestra is the oldest orchestra in the Baltic States. It was started in 1881, when the first Philharmonic in the Baltics was established. The establisher Hanss Hohapfel was also a conductor of the orchestra. In the beginning there were 37 musicians playing in the orchestra. During the summers they were accompanied by guest artists from Germany and Poland. As the time moved on, grew both the structure and professionalism of the orchestra, as well as its role in the eyes of general public.
After the World War II orchestra re-commenced its work in 1947, under the wing of the Music School of Liepāja, led by the director of the musics chool for many years – Valdis Vikmanis. Till 1987 he was as well the conductor of the Liepāja Symphony Orchestra. A new chapter in the history of orchestra started at the very end of 1986, when orchestra was granted the status of a professional symphony orchestra, and became the second professional symphony orchestra in Latvia. Special gratitude for that must be paid to the conductors of the orchestra – Laimonis Trubs (LSO conductor from 1986 to 1996) and Jēkabs Ozoliņš (LSO conductor from 1987 to 2008).
The first art director of Liepāja Symphony Orchestra, as well as the first chief conductor was the talented Leningradian Mihail Orehov, who managed to work with Liepāja Symphony Orchestra and took it to the new, higher level. An important time for the orchestra was the period from 1992 to 2009, during which the art director and chief conductor of the orchestra was Imants Resnis. He expanded the range of orchestra performance fundamentally. In addition to the regular concerts in Rīga, Liepāja and other cities of Latvia, orchestra also went on regular tours abroad. Orchestra has played in Spain, Malaysia, Great Britain, Sweden, Germany and other countries. During this period important compositions were recorded, including live records on Latvian Radio and Television.
Imants Resnis was the one, who started the International Piano Stars Festival in 1993. Today more than 170 pianists from about 30 countries had taken part in the festival, such as Vestards Šimkus from Latvia, Julian Joseph from Great Britain, Mikhail Voskresensky from Russia, Cristina Ortiz from Brazil, Freddy Kempf from Great Britain, Noriko Ogawa from Japan, Eldar Djangirov from USA, Robert Mitchell from Great Britain and many more. Now for the second year the festival has expanded its borders becoming Liepāja International Stars Festival.
A valuable tradition is also Liepājas vasara concerts that were started by Valdis Vikmanis; he was inspired by orchestra’s summer seasons at its dawn when concerts were all sold out. So as of 2010, the Festival Liepājas vasara took place to renew the tradition of hundred summers ago. The Festival includes sacred music, chamber music and open-air concerts.
Liepāja Symphony Orchestra holds a special place in the national cultural life. Orchestra has received the highest national music award – The Great Music Award in 2006, as well as the Latvian Recordings Awards of the years 2008; 2006; 2004; 2001; 2000; 1998. In 2010 Liepāja Symphony Orchestra was granted the status of a national orchestra.
With a brilliant debut in January 2010, Atvars Lakstīgala started his work as the chief conductor of Liepāja Symphony Orchestra, receiving the Latvian Great Music Award 2010 in the end of the year. Since 2015 home of the orchestra is the new concert hall of Liepāja - the "Great Amber".