In 1887 the Detroit Symphony Orchestra performed their first subscription concert with the conductor Rudolf Speil. He was replaced before long and after several other conductors the orchestra ceased performing in 1900. Four years went by and in 1914 ten young women from Detroit each contributed $100 and found 100 subscribers to give $10 each and the orchestra returned.
Their first concert took place on 26th February 1914 with their newly appointed music director, the 27-year-old Weston Gales, who was a church organist from Boston. He left them in 1917 to be replaced by the Russian pianist Ossip Gabrilowitsch, who was the son-in-law of the writer Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) and friend of Gustav Mahler and Sergei Rachmaninoff. At his insistence a new Orchestra Hall was built and opened in 1919 and the orchestra grew in fame over the next few decades, becoming one of America’s finest.
They gave the world’s first radio broadcast of a symphonic concert in 1922 and became the first official radio broadcast orchestra appearing on the Ford Symphony Hour from 1934 until 1942. They made their first recording in 1928 but following the death of Gabrilowitsch in 1936 they fell into economic problems, disbanded twice and moved venues three times.
Once the Music Director Paul Paray joined them, they had begun to rebuild themselves and under his conductorship they made 70 recordings over 11 years. After Paray stepped down they had many acclaimed directors including Antal Dorati, Sixten Ehrling, Neeme Jarvi and Leonard Slatkin who is the current holder of the position.
After having played at the Ford Auditorium for several decades, the original Orchestra Hall was saved from demolition by some concerned Detroitcitizens and restored over 20 years. The orchestra moved back into it in 1989.
In 2010 the musicians went on strike due to a labour dispute until 6 months or so later a settlement was agreed upon and they resumed in April 2011. Also in April 2011 they launched the webcast Live from Orchestra Hall with worldwide streaming on classical weekends.
Adolphe Charles Adams Recordings
If I Were King
Mercury 434 332-2 (CD – Marches and Overtures a la Francais)
Conductor – Paul Paray
Leroy Anderson recordings
BGD 0117 (CD: Joy!)
Conductor – Neeme Jarvi