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, both the structure and professionalism of the orchestra grew, as well as its role in the eyes of general public.
After the World War II the orchestra re-commenced its work in 1947, under the wing of the Music School of Liepāja, led by the director of the music school for many years – Valdis Vikmanis. Till 1987 he was also the conductor of the Liepāja Symphony Orchestra. A new chapter in the history of orchestra started at the end of 1986, when the 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, the orchestra also toured regularly abroad. The orchestra has performed in Spain, Malaysia, Great Britain, Sweden, Germany as well as 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 annual International Piano Stars Festival in 1993. Today more than 170 pianists from about 30 countries have participated in the festival including 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 the festival has expanded its borders becoming Liepāja International Stars Festival.
A valuable tradition is also "Liepājas vasara" concerts that were initiated by Valdis Vikmanis; he was inspired by the 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. In 2010, the Liepāja Symphony Orchestra was granted the status of a national orchestra.
With a brilliant debut in January 2010, Atvars Lakstīgala started as the chief conductor of the Liepāja Symphony Orchestra, receiving the Latvian Great Music Award 2010 in the end of the year. Since 2015 the home of the orchestra is the new concert hall of Liepāja, the "Great Amber".
Since 2017 the art director and chief conductor of the orchestra is Gintaras Rinkevicius (Lithuania).
In the repertoire politics special attention is paid to Latvian music – the orchestra has repeatedly premiered and commissioned new works. In the recent seasons all the 12 monumental opuses of Liepaja concert series initiated by Liepāja Symphony Orchestra have been submitted to public and specialist evaluation. They have been released by such record labels as “Odradek Records” and “Skani”. The orchestra has twice received the highest national music award – The Great Music Award, as well as numerous Latvian Recordings Awards.
The orchestra regularly tours concert halls in Latvia, and goes on tours abroad.