Boston Philharmonic Orchestra

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Boston Philharmonic Orchestra
Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, Benjamin Zander Conductor.jpg
Background information
OriginBoston, Massachusetts, USA
Genresclassical music
Years active1979 (1979)— present

The Boston Philharmonic Orchestra (not to be confused with the Boston Symphony Orchestra) is a semi-professional orchestra based in Boston, Massachusetts. It was founded in 1979 by conductor Benjamin Zander.[1]

The Boston Philharmonic Orchestra features student, professional, and amateur musicians. One of Boston's premier orchestras, the Boston Philharmonic follows a vision of "passionate music making without boundaries" by presenting "top-notch music in a manner that both music aficionados and the casual listener can enjoy".

Conductor Benjamin Zander provides pre-concert talks for each concert. Zander has a unique approach to explaining classical music, and his intense passion for the art form attracts hundreds of attendees for each talk. As a result, audiences describe the Boston Philharmonic as "passionate," "inspiring," "unique," and—perhaps best descriptor—"un-stuffy."

Their concerts take place at New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall and at Harvard University's Sanders Theatre. Currently, the orchestra is conducted by Benjamin Zander.

History of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra[edit]

In 1979, ninety-six enthusiastic players, amateurs, students, and professionals and a dynamic and probing conductor named Benjamin Zander joined together to found the Boston Philharmonic. Today, the musicians represent the original spirited blend, and account for the passion, high level of participation, and technical accomplishment for which this ensemble is celebrated. The professionals maintain the highest standard, the students keep the focus on training and education, and the gifted amateurs-including doctors, lawyers, teachers, and computer programmers-remind everybody that music-making is an expression of enthusiasm and love.

The Boston Philharmonic message rings loud and clear- music making is a privilege and a joy, and above all, a collaborative adventure. The orchestra’s season includes performances at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall, Sanders Theatre at Harvard University and often Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Symphony Hall and Carnegie Hall. The Philharmonic performs with a wide range of soloists from highly gifted performers at the start of their international careers such as Stefan Jackiw, Gabriela Montero and Caitlin Tully, to world-famous artists like Yo-Yo Ma, Alexander Baillie, Russell Sherman, Jon Kimura Parker and Kim Kashkashian and legendary masters such as Ivry Gitlis, Denes Zsigmondy, Georgy Sandor, Leonard Shure and Oscar Shumsky.

The Philharmonic has released five critically acclaimed recordings, including works by Stravinsky, Beethoven, Mahler, Shostakovich and Ravel. Among many other reviews of extravagant praise, Classic CD magazine gave the Boston Philharmonic’s recording of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring the highest rank of all available recordings. Of Mahler’s Symphony No. 6, American Record Guide wrote: “This joins the Rattle and the two Bernstein recordings as the finest on record… All the glory to Zander and his semi-professional orchestra, for the sixth is probably Mahler’s most difficult and complex symphony…All things considered, when I reach for a recording of the sixth to play for my own pleasure, it will most likely be this one.”

Boston Philharmonic concerts have long been a two-part experience; each performance is preceded by one of Benjamin Zander’s pre-concert lectures, which prepare listeners to understand the ideas and the structure of the music they are about to hear. The Philharmonic’s commitment to reaching and educating a wide audience is maintained by its Music Without Boundaries program, which allows access to concerts for school groups and members of our community through local partners who receive free tickets. To further accommodate new and uninitiated listeners, the Boston Philharmonic hosts a long-running weeknight Discovery Series, which incorporates Benjamin Zander’s lecture into the concert.

In March 2002, the Boston Philharmonic performed Mahler’s Ninth Symphony in Carnegie Hall and two days later returned to give a free concert, offered as a gift from the people of Boston to the people of New York in recognition of the extraordinary courage, compassion and generosity they demonstrated in the wake of 9/11. The concert was attended by family members and victims of the attacks as well as dignitaries from the UN and members of the New York Fire and Police Departments. Statements from both the Mayors of New York and Boston were read from the stage.

Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra[edit]

In September 2012, the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra was formed under the auspices of the BPO. Conducted by Benjamin Zander, the BPYO embodies its motto, "Shaping Future Leaders Through Music." The 120 enthusiastic and talented young musicians of the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra range in age from 12 to 21.

BPYO offers a unique opportunity for young instrumentalists who want to study great orchestral repertoire in a musically dynamic and intellectually challenging community. BPYO members are asked not only to master their parts and to gain a deep understanding of the musical score, but also to engage in dialogue with Mr. Zander, through weekly "white sheets," where they are invited to share their thoughts on all aspects of the music and the rehearsal process. These conversations often lead to stimulating discussions on personal leadership and effective contribution.

In the inaugural 2012-13 season, the BPYO performed two concerts to sold-out audiences in Boston's Symphony Hall and undertook a wildly successful five-city tour of the Netherlands, culminating in a performance of Mahler's Second Symphony in Amsterdam's acclaimed Concertgebouw. Six months later, in December 2013, BPYO performed at Carnegie Hall, receiving high praise in the New York Times for their "brilliantly played, fervently felt account."

Benjamin Zander, Founder and Conductor[edit]

Benjamin Zander is the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and a guest conductor around the world.

With London's famed Philharmonia Orchestra he is recording the complete cycle of Mahler symphonies, recordings that have been received with extraordinary critical acclaim both for the performance and Zander's now famous full-length disc explaining the music for the lay listener. Their recordings of Mahler 9th and Bruckner's 5th Symphony were nominated for Grammys for Best Orchestral Performance. Their latest recording, Mahler's 2nd Symphony, was nominated for a Grammy in 2014.

For the past 50 years Benjamin Zander has occupied a unique place as a master teacher, deeply insightful and probing interpreter, and as a profound source of inspiration for audiences, students, professional musicians, corporate leaders, politicians and more. He has persistently engaged well-informed musical and public intellectuals in a quest for insight and understanding into the western musical canon and the underlying spiritual, social, and political issues that inspired its creation.

Zander started his musical life as a composer and cellist. At age twelve, he began studying composition under Benjamin Britten and Imogen Holst. At fifteen, he left home to train for five years in Florence and Cologne with the great Spanish cellist, Gaspar Cassadó. After completing his degree at the University of London, he was awarded a Harkness Fellowship which brought him to the United States. In 1965, he settled in Boston where he began his journey as a conductor.

His performances have inspired thousands of musicians, renewed their sense of idealism, and shed fresh, insightful, and sometimes provocative light on the interpretation of the central symphonic repertoire of the 19th and 20th centuries. Critics and the public have been united in their praise of Zander’s interpretations of the central repertory.

For 25 years, Zander has enjoyed a unique relationship with the Philharmonia Orchestra. They have made eleven recordings together, including a nearly complete cycle of Mahler symphonies as well as symphonies of Bruckner and Beethoven. High Fidelity Magazine named their recording of Mahler’s 6th Symphony as ‘The Best Classical Recording’ of 2002; their Mahler 3rd was awarded ‘Critic’s Choice’ by the German Record Critics’ Award Association; their Mahler 9th and Bruckner 5th recordings were nominated for Grammy awards for ‘Best Orchestral Performance.’ Throughout his career, Zander has remained deeply committed to making classical music accessible and engaging for all listeners. With this mission in mind, he has prepared an audio explanation that is included as a separate disc with each of his Philharmonia recordings.

In 2012, Zander founded the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra (BPYO), which draws young musicians aged twelve to twenty-one from the entire northeastern US to its weekly rehearsals and performances in Boston’s Symphony Hall. This tuition-free orchestra tours regularly and has performed in Carnegie Hall, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, and the Berlin Philharmonie, among many other renowned halls. In the summer of 2017 the BPYO toured South America; their 2018 tour includes performances of Mahler’s 9th Symphony in eight European cities.

From 1965-2012, Zander was on the faculty of the New England Conservatory of Music (NEC), where he taught Musical Interpretation, and conducted the Youth Philharmonic and the Conservatory orchestras. He was the founding Artistic Director of NEC’s joint program with The Walnut Hill School, a high school for the Performing Arts. Zander led the NEC Youth Philharmonic on fifteen international tours and made several documentaries for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). His interpretation classes, “Interpretations of Music: Lessons for Life,” have been viewed online by tens of thousands of people around the world. In 2018, the Benjamin Zander Center was established to support this dimension of his career. Through an immersive multimedia platform, the Center provides comprehensive access to all aspects of Zander’s musical work.

Zander enjoys an international career as a speaker on leadership, with several keynote speeches at the Davos World Economic Forum, where he was presented with the Crystal Award for “Outstanding Contributions in the Arts and International Relations.” The best-selling book, The Art of Possibility, co-authored with leading psychotherapist Rosamund Zander, has been translated into eighteen languages. In 2002, Mr. Zander was awarded the Caring Citizen of the Humanities Award by the United Nations. In 2007, he was awarded the Golden Door award by the International Institute of Boston for his “outstanding contribution to American society” as a United States citizen of foreign birth. His TED talk on The Transformative Power of Classical Music has been seen by over ten million people.

Crescendo! The Boston Philharmonic's Community Engagement and Education Program[edit]

The Boston Philharmonic Orchestra’s Crescendo! Education and Community Engagement program was developed to support the specific musical needs of the inner city students of the Boston Public School System. It aligns with the Boston Public School Arts Initiative and provides unique educational programs in which Boston Philharmonic musicians bring high-quality, consistent, and individualized music instruction to the students.

Boston MOSAIC (Musical Opportunities Supporting Arts in Communities)[edit]

Boston MOSAIC, the Boston Philharmonic’s Musical Opportunities Supporting Arts in Communities initiative, is the third and newest among a series of partnerships with the Boston Public Library. MOSAIC programs complement the Interpretation Classes and Concerts in the Courtyard. MOSAIC events are presented in Boston Public Library branches across the greater Boston area, and performed by BPO and BPYO musicians, as well as affiliate artists and ensembles. Through MOSAIC,the BPO and BPYO reach diverse audiences who range in age from 6 to 61+, from classical music aficionados to those for whom MOSAIC will be their first live classical music experience.

All MOSAIC events are free and open to the public, thereby ensuring accessibility to all. Each event features not only a concert portion, but also opportunities to interact with the musicians, ask questions about the music, and even a chance to play the instruments at an Instrument Playground.


  1. ^ "History of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra". Boston Philharmonic Orchestra. Retrieved 15 August 2018.

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