Toronto Symphony Orchestra

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This article is about the currently active orchestra of this name. For the orchestra active from 1906-1918, see Toronto Symphony Orchestra (Welsman).
Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO)
Full orchestra small.jpg
Music Director Peter Oundjian posing with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in Roy Thomson Hall before a concert on January 18, 2012.
Former name New Symphony Orchestra
Founded 1922
Principal conductor Peter Oundjian
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra logo

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) is a Canadian orchestra based in Toronto, Ontario. Founded in 1922, the TSO gave regular concerts at Massey Hall until 1982, and since then has performed at Roy Thomson Hall. The TSO also manages the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra (TSYO).

In 2015, the music director of the TSO is Peter Oundjian, and its conductor lauriate is Andrew Davis. Other members of the TSO’s 2015 artistic team are: Steven Reineke, Principal Pops Conductor (appointed 2012); Shalom Bard, RBC Resident Conductor; Gary Kulesha, Composer Advisor; and Kevin Lau, RBC Affiliate Composer.


The TSO was founded in 1922 as the New Symphony Orchestra, and gave its first concert at Massey Hall in April 1923 with 58 musicians. The first conductor was Luigi von Kunits, and that season there were twenty concerts, as well as a performance at a spring festival.[1]

In the summer of 1924, the symphony performed at the Canadian National Exhibition. Shortly thereafter, the TSO began holding children's concerts.[1] The orchestra changed its name to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in 1927. In 1929, the TSO made its radio debut with a one hour broadcast on CBC Radio from the Arcadian Court of Simpson's department store.[1]

After von Kunits' death in 1931, the orchestra was lead by conductor and composer Ernest MacMillan.[1]

The orchestra had also made headlines in 1951, during the McCarthyism movement, for refusing to renew the contracts of 6 musicians accused of communist sympathies.

The TSO continued to give regular concerts at Massey Hall until 1982, after which the performances were moved to the new Roy Thomson Hall.

Peter Oundjian conducts Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto, June 2014

Andrew Davis was the TSO's music director from 1975 to 1988, and in 2015 remains the orchestra's conductor laureate.

The orchestra had financial and audience size problems in the 1990s, and in 1992 TSO musicians had accepted a 16% pay cut because of a threat of bankruptcy to the orchestra, with a promise from management to make up the loss in subsequent contract negotiations. By 1999, this pay restoration had not happened, which led to an 11-week musicians' strike that autumn.[2] Relations between the musicians and management deteriorated, and music director at the time, Jukka-Pekka Saraste offered to serve as mediator in the situation. In addition, there was a lack of public sympathy to the orchestra musicians' situation.[3]

Former logo of Toronto Symphony Orchestra

By 2001, the orchestra had debt of $7 million (Canadian), and both of its former executive directors, Ed Smith, and Saraste had left the ensemble.[4] Subscribers numbered around 20,000 as of the 2000-2001 season, and audience average capacity was 56% in 2001.

Peter Oundjian was appointed as music director in January 2003 and became music director with the 2004-2005 season.[5] The 2005 documentary film Five Days in September: The Rebirth of an Orchestra (Canada, 2005) recorded the first days of the TSO's inaugural season with Oundjian as its new music director.

By the 2006-2007 season, the subscriber base had increased to about 25,000, and the audience average capacity also increased to 84%.[6] In November 2008, the orchestra reported its third consecutive year of budget surpluses, with average audience attendance of 88% (excluding concerts for schoolchildren), although the orchestra still retains overall debt of $8.9 million (Canadian).[7]

In April 2015 the TSO cancelled performance of Valentina Lisitsa, a world famous pianist born in Ukraine. It accused her of Public incitement of hatred [8] and asked her to remain silent about the scandal.[9] Lisitsa had publicly criticized the current regime in Kiev for, among other things, having Nazi leanings. (See Svoboda_(political_party), Azov_Battalion).

In 2015, Concerts of the orchestra are broadcast over CBC Radio 2.

The TSO is governed by a board of 25 directors. In 2015, the board is chaired by M. George Lewis.[10]



The TSOUNDCHECK program is designed to connect young people to classical music by providing reduced ticket prices for people aged 14 to 35 on selected concerts and seating. Tickets become available about a week before a performance and the amount of availability is dependent on ticket sales and the orchestra's discretion.



The Adopt-a-player program is aimed at elementary schools in the Greater Toronto Area and surrounding area. Selected musicians from the Toronto Symphony Orchestra are "adopted" by schools. Each musician collaborates with a Grade 4 or 5 class for one day a week for six weeks to teach the elements of music and aid in the creation of a new piece of music. At the end of the program, each class presents its composition to other program participants, as well as family and friends at a Showcase Event. Students also have the opportunity to attend a TSO rehearsal and an evening, weekend or student concert.


Members of the symphony lead masterclasses for high school bands and orchestras in collaboration with existing music programs. The classes focus on specific topics such as solo and orchestral performance, technique or work on specific repertoire.

Young People's Concert[edit]

The TSO organize a series of five one-hour concerts on Saturday afternoons for children between the ages of 5 and 12. Concerts are held at the Roy Thomson Hall and may feature guest artists.

Music directors[edit]


The post of concertmaster vacated by Jacques Israelievitch in 2008 was filled in 2011 by Canadian violinist Jonathan Crow.


  1. ^ a b c d Vyhnak, Carola. "Birth of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra". Toronto Star, 14 June 2015, page A12.
  2. ^ "Toronto Symphony negotiations hit sour note". CBC News. 25 September 1999. Retrieved 2008-11-08. 
  3. ^ Warren, Richard, It Begins With The Oboe. University of Toronto Press (Toronto, 2002; ISBN 978-0-8020-3588-2), pp. 209-211.
  4. ^ Tamara Bernstein (25 October 2001). "Toronto Symphony Teeters on the Edge of Ruin". (overall site now defunct). Retrieved 2008-11-02. 
  5. ^ John Terauds (8 February 2007). "Conductor puts mark on TSO through '12". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2008-11-02. 
  6. ^ John Terauds (3 February 2007). "TSO's new season". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2008-11-02. 
  7. ^ John Terauds (20 November 2008). "TSO salutes its third surplus in row". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2008-11-21. 
  8. ^ title=section 319(2) of the Criminal Code of Canada title=section 319(2) of the Criminal Code of Canada.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ "Music and Politics: The Toronto Symphony Orchestra Silences Ukrainian Musician Valentina Lisitsa". 8 April 2015. Retrieved 2015-04-08. 
  10. ^ "Toronto Symphony Orchestra: About the TSO". Retrieved 2013-05-01. 

External links[edit]