Founded in 1922, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra is one of Canada’s leading cultural institutions. Today, more than 225,000 patrons and over 50,000 students visit the Orchestra at Roy Thomson Hall each year, and an additional five million Canadians tune in to concert broadcasts on CBC Radio. Under the leadership of Music Director Peter Oundjian, the Orchestra has increased recording and touring projects to include a self-produced record label, and performances throughout the US and Canada. The Orchestra continues to develop its international presence by being an active commissioning body for new Canadian and international works, as well as attracting distinguished guest artists and conductors to performances at Roy Thomson Hall.
The Orchestra was founded in 1922 by a group of Toronto musicians and Viennese-born conductor Luigi von Kunits. The New Symphony Orchestra, as it was then called, gave its first performance in April 1923 at Massey Hall. The name Toronto Symphony Orchestra was adopted four years later.
The Orchestra’s second season in 1924/1925 included the first orchestra concert for children, pioneering a focus on efforts towards programming for young people. Today, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra serves the community with one of the largest educational programmes in Canada, connecting students throughout Ontario with curriculum-based outreach.
Following the death of Luigi von Kunits in 1931, Sir Ernest MacMillan was appointed Music Director and would become the Orchestra's longest-standing Music Director, presiding from 1931 until 1956. During MacMillan's 25 seasons on the podium, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra soared in stature and scope, introducing Toronto audiences to then-contemporary composers such as Holst, Sibelius, and Stravinsky, who conducted the Orchestra in performances of his own music in 1937.
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra developed an international presence through a history of touring to venues in the United States, Europe, and Asia, including a groundbreaking trip to China in 1978 as the first Canadian orchestra to be invited to enter China after the Cultural Revolution.
Under Music Director Sir Andrew Davis’s leadership (who continues to serve the TSO as Conductor Laureate), the Orchestra moved from Massey Hall to Roy Thomson Hall in 1982. During the 2001/2002 season, Roy Thomson Hall underwent a successful sound makeover and the Roy Thomson Hall Acoustic Enhancement Project resulted in improved acoustics.
The TSO is committed to innovative programming and showcases a roster of distinguished guest artists and conductors. Throughout its history, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra has welcomed some of the greatest international artists, including Martha Argerich, Maxim Vengerov, Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Evgeny Kissin, Kathleen Battle, Jessye Norman, Karen Kain, Maureen Forrester, Lang Lang (in his first week-long residency program in North America), and actor Christopher Plummer.
Renowned composers Henri Dutilleux, R. Murray Schafer, Aaron Copland, Phillip Glass, John Adams, Tan Dun, Osvaldo Golijov, and the late Sir Michael Tippett, among many others, have been in attendance for the Orchestra's presentations of their music. In 2004, under the leadership of TSO Music Director Peter Oundjian, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra began an annual celebration of new music, showcasing new and premièring commissioned works. Now an audience favourite, the New Creations Festival celebrates the best in contemporary orchestral music and attracts celebrated contemporary composers.
TORONTO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA MUSIC DIRECTORS
Luigi von Kunits (1923-1931)
Sir Ernest MacMillan (1931-1956)
Walter Susskind (1957-1964)
Seiji Ozawa (1965-1969)
Karl Ancerl (1969-1972)
Victor Feldbrill Resident Conductor (1973-1975)
Sir Andrew Davis (1975-1988), Conductor Laureate (1988 - present)
Gunther Herbig (1989-1994)
Jukka-Pekka Saraste (1994-2001)
Peter Oundjian (2004 to the present)