Henry Lee Higginson founded the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1881 with their inaugural concert taking place at the Old Boston Music Hall, where they performed until 1900. Early music directors included Wilhelm Gericke, George Henschel, Arthur Nikisch, and Emil Paur.
In 1900, the BSO changed venues when Symphony Hall was erected. Karl Muck led the orchestra in 1915 when they travelled to San Francisco, California, and presented a baker’s dozen worth of concerts as part of the Panama-Pacific Exposition. In 1917, they made their first recording at the Victor Talking Machine Company in Camden, New Jersey. At the outset of World War I, Karl was arrested and held as a prisoner—although there was no charge or trial—and he was deported at war’s end.
Henri Rabaud was the music director for one year and Pierre Monteux took the reins from 1919 to 1924. Several musicians went on strike, affording Pierre the opportunity to significantly change the make-up of the orchestra.
In 1924, Serge Koussevitzky took over and would remain the orchestra’s music director for a quarter of a century. Many important advances and improvements happened during his tenure, such as the progression from acoustic to electric recording, live radio broadcasts, and the establishment of Berkshire Music Center, a music school now known as Tanglewood Music Center. Serge was also responsible for commissioning new works by contemporary composers of the day, including Sergei Prokofiev’s “Symphony No. 4” and Igor Stravinsky’s “Symphony of Psalms”.
The baton was passed to Charles Munch in 1949, and he remained with the orchestra until 1962. On his watch, the orchestra unveiled their first recording in stereo, in February 1954.
In 1962, Erich Leinsdorf took the helm, and his reign lasted seven years. During his time at the podium, he got to see the beginning of The Boston Symphony Chamber Players, in 1964.
In 1969, William Steinberg took over, and he witnessed the birth of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, which would become a mainstay of the BSO’s choral performances. He also arranged for the orchestra to record on the Deutsche Grammophon label, a cosmopolitan shift that was furthered by his successor, Seiji Ozawa.
Seiji had been the orchestra’s guest conductor in the sixties. He began a 29-year tenure in 1973, and made sure the BSO was heard not only on Deutsche Grammophon and RCA, but CBS, EMI, Philips, and Telarc. They were also heard on the film soundtracks of Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List, led by composer-conductor, John Williams.
Bernard Haitink became the Principal Guest Conductor in 1995 and James Levine became the music director in 2004. Highlights during his time with the BSO include the Artistic Initiative Fund, a major boost to the orchestra’s $300,000,000 endowment, eighteen premieres, and the launching of BSO Classics. One of their first recordings on the new label, Daphnis et Chloe by Maurice Ravel, received a Grammy in the category of Best Orchestral Performance.
By 2017 Andris Nelsons had become Music Director, Bernard Haitink was Conductor Emeritus and Seiji Ozawa held the title of BSO Music Director Laureate.
The Principal Brass of the New York Philharmonic and Boston Symphony Orchestra recordings
Canzon in Double Echo (Giovanni Gabrieli)
Arranger – Arthur Frackenpohl