The Boston Symphony Orchestra is one of the most historic of all American orchestras. Established in 1881, it is considered as a member of the prestigious “Big Five”. Calling the Boston Symphony Hall and the Tanglewood Music Center as their homes, they are still very much active in the classical music scene.
This orchestra first opened in 1881. Its founder, Henry Lee Higginson, would hire George Henschel as its first conductor. A close friend of the legendary Johannes Brahms, he was not just a skilled conductor but also a renowned baritone. With the help of Brahms, Henschel would then create the orchestral seating charts for the Symphony Hall. Following the orders of Higginson, 4 Austrians were hired in succession as musical conductors from 1884-1906. Among them was the spectacularly-talented Arthur Nikisch.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra experienced some down times during the time of World War I, but they rose back to prominence with the leadership of Serge Koussevitzky. During his reign, regular radio broadcasts were performed, pieces from prominent composers such as Igor Stravinsky were commissioned, and Tanglewood was established as the orchestra’s official summer home. He would then bestow his position to Charles Munch. During Munch’s time, the BSO hired flutist Doriot Anthony Dwyer as the first woman to hold a principal position in a major US orchestra.
The next stage for the BSO would be during the reign of Seiji Ozawa. Holding the music director title from 1973 to 2002, his leadership was marred by controversy, mainly for his policies in the Tanglewood Music Center. The leadership of the music center from 1996 onwards was tumultuous to say the least, with most members of the faculty quitting their posts. He left in July 2002, with the orchestra left in a critical transition period. James Levine made the BSO relevant once more since taking the role of music director by taking a more contemporary approach.
Over their existence, the Boston Symphony Orchestra has a long list of accomplishments under their name. Their first recording goes way back in 1917. Over the years, they have made alliances with the likes of RCA Victor, Deutsche Grammophon, and Philips, before establishing their own record label, BSO Classics. They also made musical scores for big movies such as Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan. And they have sister ensembles such as the Boston Pops Orchestra, the Boston Symphony Chamber Players, and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus.
Leave a Reply