The ESO’s beginnings were humble enough, started as a
community orchestra that gave their first performance at the Pantages Theatre in November 1920. A few of their early conductors were
Vernon Barford, Henri Baron, and Weaver Winter.
In 1932, they
disbanded due to financial hardship, but in 1941, they were resurrected
after a fashion as the Edmonton Philharmonic, under the baton of Abe Fratkin. By
1947, they also had a pops orchestra, and this was led by Lee Hepner.
Symphony Society was established on 31st October 1952. This officially made the ESO a
professional orchestra, with the aforementioned Hepner
as their first conductor. They
performed in the Capitol Theatre, which housed up to 1300 audience members. In 1956, they relocated to the
Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium.
resigned in 1960 and was supplanted by associate conductor Tom Rolston from 1960 to 1964. In 1964, Brian Priestman
took the helm, and ran the orchestra until 1968. Lawrence Leonard was his replacement
and took the orchestra into previously uncharted territories.
In 1971, the
ESO recorded a landmark album with Procol Harum, simply titled Procol Harum Live with the Edmonton Symphony
Orchestra. It turned out to
be Procol Harum’s
best-selling record and eclipsed platinum status once the international
totals were in. The LP, now
available in CD form, is thought to be one of the earliest such
collaborations between a rock band and orchestra.
The early ‘70s
were a time of many conductors and recordings, including Music by Haydn, Debussy, Wiren, with John Avison
and Boris Brott, McKuen—The Ballad of Distances: Symphony Suite, Opus 40 and Scarlet and Gold / L’Escarlet
et L’or – Alberta R.C.M.P. Century
Celebrations, 1874-1974, with Tommy Banks, and Music by Ibert, Francaix,
Rameau and Music by Wolf,
Purcell, Adaskin, Warlock, with Pierre Hetu.
became the orchestra’s new conductor in 1981, and they released
several more albums on his watch, such as Canadian and Russian Overtures, Fiala: The Kurelek Suite, Great
Orchestral Marches, Great Tenor
Arias, Great Verdi Arias, Harp Concertos, Music by Britten and Willan, Music by
Forsyth and Freedman, Orchestral
Suites of the British Isles, Russian
Sketches, and Works for Cello and
reign ended in 1994 and Grzegorz Nowak took over
in 1995. The ESO occupied their
new home, the Francis Winspear Centre for Music,
in 1997. Their first concert in
the new venue occurred on 13th September 1997, when they joined
forces with the Calgary Philharmonic to perform “Symphony of a
Thousand” by Gustav Mahler.
In the late
1990s, they issued a handful of CDs:
Electra Rising: Music of Malcolm Forsyth, Music by Smetana and Janacek, and P.J. Perry and the Edmonton Symphony
down in 2002 and a pair of guest conductors, Kazuyoshi Akiyama and
Franz-Paul Decker ran the ship until a full-time replacement, William Eddins, was hired in 2005.
recordings on which the ESO appear include The Arrogant Worms with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Frenergy:
The Music of John Estacio, and Tom Cochrane & Red Rider: The Symphony Sessions.
Edmonton Symphony Orchestra recordings
Overture (Dmitri Kabalevsky)
and Russian Overtures)