Utah Symphony

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Utah Symphony (USO, USUO)
Utah symphony at Abravanel Hall.jpg
The Utah Symphony at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City
Founded 1940
Location Salt Lake City, Utah
Concert hall Abravanel Hall
Principal conductor Thierry Fischer
Website www.utahsymphony.org
Abravanel Hall, home of the Utah Symphony

The Utah Symphony is an American orchestra based in Salt Lake City, Utah. The orchestra's principal venue is Abravanel Hall. In addition to its Salt Lake City subscription concerts, the orchestra travels around the Intermountain West serving communities throughout Utah. The orchestra accompanies the Utah Opera in four productions per year at Salt Lake's Capitol Theatre. In addition, the Utah Symphony and Utah Opera have a summer residency at the [[Deer Valley Music Festival, located in Park City, Utah. The orchestra receives funding from the Utah State Legislature for educational concerts.


The first attempt to create a symphony group in the Utah area occurred in 1892, four years before Utah achieved statehood. The Salt Lake Symphony was created and presented just one concert before disbanding. In 1902, the Salt Lake Symphony Orchestra was formed, and it remained in existence until 1911. In 1913, the Salt Lake Philharmonic was formed, and it continued until 1925.

During the Great Depression, the Federal Music Project (an employment-assistance program which formed part of Federal Project Number One, an arm of the Works Project Administration) hired Reginald Beales to create a musical group in Utah. He formed the Utah State Sinfonietta with a core of 5 members. That group grew rapidly and toured extensively, presenting concerts throughout Utah.


By 1940, federal funding for arts projects had ceased, so local enthusiasts formed the Utah State Symphony Orchestra on April 4, 1940, with Fred E. Smith as president. They scheduled their first concert for May 8, 1940 and asked Hans Henriot to conduct it. The resulting concert was so successful that the group offered Henriot a contract to direct the orchestra. This ensemble consisted of 52 part–time musicians and functioned until the 1960s. Its most prominent music director was Maurice Abravanel, from 1947 to 1979, who built it into a full-time orchestra which gained national respect. He recorded and toured extensively with the orchestra. Under Abravanel, its Music Director from 1947 to 1979, the orchestra first recorded with Vanguard Records and then with Vox Records. including complete symphony cycles of Mahler and of Tchaikovsky, as well as works by Varese, Milhaud, Gottschalk, Honegger and Satie. The Utah Symphony’s recordings of Mahler’s symphonies with Abravanel were the first complete cycle recorded by an American orchestra (Vanguard). Honors for Abravanel's Mahler recordings with the orchestra include the “Mahler Medal of Honor” from the Bruckner Society of America (1965) and the International Gustav Mahler Society award for “Best Mahler Recording” (Fifth Symphony, 1975).

During Abravanel’s tenure, the Orchestra’s music education program grew into one of the most extensive arts education programs in the region. Educational concerts were given on orchestra tours across the Intermountain West and at home in the Salt Lake Valley. These education concerts throughout the state of Utah continue to this day. The Orchestra’s season grew to a year–round schedule in 1980, and today the Orchestra’s 85 full-time professional musicians perform over 175 concerts each season.

The Utah Symphony has performed in many of the world’s most prestigious concert halls including Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, the Musikverein, the Konzerthaus, the Philharmonie, the Schauspielhaus, the Gewandhaus, Royal Festival Hall, the Teatro Colón, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the Brucknerhaus. In addition to numerous regional and domestic tours, it has embarked on seven international tours.

Successors to Abravanel included Varujan Kojian (1980-1983), Joseph Silverstein (1983-1998), and Keith Lockhart (1998-2009).[1] Under Silverstein and Lockhart, the orchestra continued its commitment to contemporary American music. In July 2002, the governing boards of Utah Symphony and Utah Opera made a precedent-setting decision to consolidate both organizations, resulting in the formation of Utah Symphony | Utah Opera. At the time of the merger, it was one of only two merged symphony and opera companies in the United States. In January 2009, the Orchestra named Gerald Steichen as its principal pops conductor.[2]

In September 2009, Thierry Fischer became music director.[3] Contemporary works commissioned by the orchestra during Fischer's tenure have included EOS (Goddess of the Dawn) by Augusta Read Thomas and the percussion concerto Switch by Andrew Norman.[4] Fischer is currently contracted with the Utah Symphony through the 2018-2019 season.[5] The orchestra's current associate conductor is Rei Hotoda, as of autumn 2015.[6]

Music Directors[edit]


  1. ^ Deseret News, February 1, 2009, "Symphony names Steichen principal pops conductor", p. E15
  2. ^ Deseret News, ibid.
  3. ^ Edward Reichel (2009-09-24). "Utah Symphony announces Lockhart replacement". Deseret News. Retrieved 2017-01-15. 
  4. ^ Catherine Reese Newton (2015-11-06). "Review: Utah Symphony, percussionist Colin Currie flip the 'Switch' on an electrifying world premiere". Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 2017-01-15. 
  5. ^ Catherine Reese Newton (2016-09-21). "Utah Symphony's Thierry Fischer adds part-time gig with Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra". Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 2017-01-15. 
  6. ^ Catherine Reese Newton (2014-12-13). "Rei Hotoda joins Utah Symphony conducting staff". Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 2017-01-15. 

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