Detroit Symphony Orchestra

Detroit Symphony Orchestra

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The Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) is an American orchestra based in Detroit, Michigan. Its main performance center is Orchestra Hall at the Max M. Fisher Music Center in Detroit's Midtown neighborhood. The DSO performs throughout the metro Detroit area in both paid neighborhood series concerts and free community concerts. The DSO can also be seen and heard live on the web at


The Detroit Symphony Orchestra performed the first concert of its first subscription season at 8:00 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 19, 1887 at the Detroit Opera House. The conductor was Rudolph Speil. He was succeeded in subsequent seasons by a variety of conductors until 1900 when Hugo Kalsow was appointed and served until the orchestra ceased operations in 1910.

The Detroit Symphony resumed operations in 1914 when ten Detroit society women each contributed $100 to the organization and pledged to find 100 additional subscribers. They soon hired a music director, Weston Gales, a 27-year-old church organist from Boston, who led the first performance of the reconstituted orchestra on February 26, 1914, again at the old Detroit Opera House.

The appointment of the Russian pianist Ossip Gabrilowitsch as music director in 1918 brought instant status to the new orchestra. A friend of composers Gustav Mahler and Sergei Rachmaninoff, Gabrilowitsch demanded a new auditorium be built as a condition of his accepting the position. Orchestra Hall was completed for the new music director in 1919 in four months and twenty-three days. Under Gabrilowitsch, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra quickly became one of the most prominent orchestras in the country, performing with the leading artists of the day. In 1922, the orchestra gave the world's first radio broadcast of a symphony orchestra concert with Gabrilowitsch conducting and guest artist Artur Schnabel at the piano. From 1934 to 1942, the orchestra performed for millions across the country as the official orchestra of The Ford Sunday Evening Hour (later the Ford Symphony Hour) national radio show.

In 1939, three years after Gabrilowitsch's premature death, the orchestra moved from Orchestra Hall to the Masonic Temple Theatre due to major financial problems caused by the Great Depression. In the 1940s, the orchestra disbanded twice and moved to three different performing venues. In 1946, the orchestra moved to the Wilson Theater which was renamed Music Hall. In 1956, the orchestra moved to Ford Auditorium on the waterfront of the Detroit River, where it remained for the next 33 years. The orchestra once again enjoyed national prestige under music director Paul Paray, winning numerous awards for its 70 recordings on the Mercury label. Paray was followed by noted music directors Sixten Ehrling, Aldo Ceccato, Antal Doráti, and Günther Herbig.

In popular music, the orchestra provided the recorded string accompaniments on many of Motown Records's classic hits of the 1960s, usually under the direction of the orchestra's concertmaster of the time, Gordon Staples. Two Motown albums featured the strings with the Motown rhythm section the Funk Brothers. The combined ensemble was known as the San Remo Golden Strings and enjoyed two hit singles: "Hungry for Love" (#3 Adult Contemporary) and "I'm Satisfied," which charted on the Billboard Top 100. In 1966, members of the orchestra were seen recording in the Motown studio on West Grand Boulevard with The Supremes for the ABC TV documentary "Anatomy of Pop: The Music Explosion." The song they perform is the hit "My World Is Empty Without You" by Holland, Dozier, and Holland. There were 2 full albums released by the group: "Hungry for Love" on Motown (1967) and "Swing" on Gordy (1968).

In 1970, the DSO instituted the Detroit Symphony Youth Orchestra as a training group, under Paul Freeman.

In 1989, following a 20-year rescue and restoration effort, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra returned to Orchestra Hall. Further renovations to the hall were completed in 2003, including a $60 million addition and a recital hall and education wing, the Max M. Fisher Music Center. A fine arts high school, the Detroit School of Arts, was added to the DSO campus in 2004.

Neeme Järvi began his music directorship in 1990, and served through 2005, the second-longest in the orchestra's history. After a five-year search, the DSO announced on October 7, 2007, the appointment of Leonard Slatkin as its twelfth music director.[1] Prior to Slatkin's appointment, Peter Oundjian was the DSO's Artistic Advisor, and continues to hold the title of Principal Guest Conductor. In February 2010, the orchestra announced the extension of Slatkin's contract as DSO music director through the 2012-2013 season. Slatkin took a salary reduction to help relieve the orchestra's financial difficulties.[2]

The symphony has produced many recordings on the Victor, London, Decca, Mercury, RCA, Chandos and DSO labels. The DSO recording of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring was the first CD to win the prestigious Grand Prix du Disque award. The DSO currently records for the Naxos label. Recent and upcoming releases include music of Rachmaninoff, Aaron Copland, and John Williams. In early 2010, George Blood Audio and Video [in Philadelphia, PA] began transferring recordings, dating back to the 1959-1960 concert season, to the digital medium.

2010-2011 DSO Musicians Strike

A labor dispute prompted DSO musicians to strike on October 4, 2010.[3] On February 19, 2011, after the musicians rejected a final offer made on February 15, 2011, DSO management announced it would suspend the remainder of the 2010-2011 concert season. Following a six-month strike, the musicians and management reached an agreement on April 3, 2011.[4] Concerts resumed April 9, 2011, with a weekend of free concerts. The DSO's first weekend back, tickets for all concerts were priced at $20. The DSO instituted similar "patron-minded pricing" for the 2011-12 season with most seats to all classical concerts priced at $15 or $25.[5]

On the anniversary of the strike a member of the musicians' negotiating committee, violinist Marian Tanau, spoke to the World Socialist Web Site about the new conditions. He remarked on the loss of significant members of the orchestra and the prevalence of substitute musicians, leading to a slight decline in quality. Tanau claimed that the 30% wage cut and loss of prestige meant that the DSO could no longer attract the "best of the best".[6]

Live from Orchestra Hall

On April 10, 2011, the DSO launched Live from Orchestra Hall, the first free webcast series by an orchestra. During classical weekends, DSO concerts are streamed live to a worldwide audience at, featuring guest artists like Joshua Bell, Emanuel Ax, Branford Marsalis, and Leila Josefowicz. On October 9, 2010, the DSO expanded the series to mobile devices through the DSO to Go mobile app for iOS and Android devices. The first full season of Live from Orchestra Hall reached 120,000 viewers in 75 countries.

On October 7, 2012, the DSO webcast their first Pops concert, Cirque de la Symphonie, which was also projected onto the building for the general public for the orchestra's first ever, larger-than-life "MaxCast."

Live from Orchestra Hall is also available via the classical music platforms Paraclassics and ClassicalTV.

Music directors

  • Weston Gales (1914-1917)
  • Ossip Gabrilowitsch (1918-1936)
  • Franco Ghione (1936-1940)
  • Victor Kolar (1940-1942)
  • Karl Krueger (1944-1949)
  • Orchestra disbanded from 1949 to 1951
  • Paul Paray (1951-1962)
  • Sixten Ehrling (1963-1973)
  • Aldo Ceccato (1973-1977)
  • Antal Doráti (1977-1981)
  • Günther Herbig (1984-1990)
  • Neeme Järvi (1990-2005)
  • Leonard Slatkin (2008present)


  1. Stryker, Mark, World-class maestro is heading to Detroit, Detroit Free Press, PopMatters, October 7, 2007. URL accessed on 2014-05-08.
  2. Stryker, Mark, Slatkin extends contract with Detroit Symphony Orchestra, takes pay cut, Detroit Free Press, February 11, 2010. URL accessed on 2014-05-08.
  3. Stryker, Mark, DSO musicians go on strike, Detroit Free Press, October 4, 2010. URL accessed on 2010-12-01.
  4. {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}
  5. Musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Ratify New Contract - April 8, 2011. Press release. Retrieved on 2014-05-08
  6. Jones, Shannon, Interview with Detroit Symphony violinist: "We went on strike because we didnt want the orchestra to be destroyed", World Socialist Web Site, October 10, 2011. URL accessed on 2014-05-08.


  • Gavrilovich, Peter and Bill McGraw. The Detroit Almanac, Detroit Free Press (2000, ISBN 0-937247-34-0).
  • Heiles, Ann Mischakoff, America's Concertmasters (Detroit Monographs in Musicology). Harmonie Park (2007, ISBN 0-89990-139-5).
  • Woodford, Arthur M., This is Detroit 1701-2001. Wayne State University Press (2001, ISBN 0-8143-2914-4).

External links

  • Detroit Symphony Orchestra
  • Musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

See also

  • Orchestra Hall, Detroit
  • Alexander Mishnaevski (the orchestra's principal violist)
  • Robert deMaine (the orchestra's principal cellist)
  • Robert S. Williams (the orchestra's principal bassoonist)
  • List of symphony orchestras
This page was last modified 12.05.2014 03:44:57

This article uses material from the article Detroit Symphony Orchestra from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia and it is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.