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Pittsburgh Symphony

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Title: Pittsburgh Symphony  
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Subject: Pittsburgh, Victor Herbert, Oakland (Pittsburgh), Concerto in F (Gershwin), John Harbison, Odetta, Byron Janis, András Schiff, Steven Stucky, William Steinberg
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Pittsburgh Symphony

Template:Infobox orchestra

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) is an American orchestra based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The orchestra's home is Heinz Hall, located in Pittsburgh's Cultural District.


The orchestra was founded by the Pittsburgh Arts Society with conductor Frederic Archer in 1895, who brought with him a number of musicians from the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and led the PSO in its first concert the following year.

Archer left in 1898 and was replaced by Victor Herbert, who took the orchestra on several tours and greatly increased the orchestra's presence. Herbert was replaced by Emil Paur in 1904. The orchestra attracted a number of prominent guest conductors during these early years, including Edward Elgar and Richard Strauss, but was dissolved in 1910 because of financial difficulties.


In 1926, the orchestra was resurrected, with its members rehearsing for no fee, and each contributing money to make a new season the following year possible. The orchestra's leader, Elias Breeskin, was also its conductor for the first few years. In 1930, Antonio Modarelli was brought in as conductor. In 1937, Otto Klemperer was brought in to reorganise the orchestra, quickly raising the orchestra to an international level.

Since then, the orchestra has experienced ongoing growth and development, including building a substantial endowment fund. Fritz Reiner (1938–48) led the orchestra as Music Director for a decade, imposing his precise technical demands while also triggering substantial turnover in personnel exacerbated by the World War II military draft. He also made a number of recordings of a wide range of repertory, including music by Mozart, Richard Strauss, and Béla Bartók. From 1948-52, a series of guest conductors led the orchestra, including Leonard Bernstein and Leopold Stokowski.

William Steinberg (1952–76) then became the orchestra's Music Director, taking them on a tour of Europe and recording a great deal of repertory. André Previn (1976–84) succeeded Steinberg and brought the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra to a national audience with a PBS television series, Previn and the Pittsburgh. Lorin Maazel, a Pittsburgh native, served as Music consultant to the orchestra from 1984–1988, and served as the PSO Music Director from 1988-1996. He took the orchestra on several international tours. Marvin Hamlisch served as principal pops conductor from 1995 until his death in 2012. Mariss Jansons succeeded Maazel as the PSO's Music Director from 1997–2004, and maintained the high artistic reputation of the orchestra.[1]

In 2005, the PSO formally began a period without a single music director. During this time, a new collective bargaining agreement was in effect, which gave the musicians increased authority over matters of running the orchestra such as the hiring of musicians and choice of repertoire. Starting in 2005, Sir Andrew Davis served as the PSO artistic advisor, with Yan Pascal Tortelier as principal guest conductor and Marek Janowski holding the "endowed guest conductor chair." Davis was originally scheduled to step down after the 2007-2008 season, but in October 2007, Davis and the PSO mutually agreed to terminate his contract early and for him not to conduct his scheduled concerts in the 2007-2008 season, because of increased demands on Davis' schedule.[2] The contracts of Tortelier and Janowski also expired in 2008.[3] Janowski now holds the Otto Klemperer Guest Conductor Chair with the PSO.

PSO today

In a change of conductor leadership format, returning to the traditional music director hierarchy, the PSO announced on January 24, 2007, that with the 2008-2009 season, the Austrian conductor Manfred Honeck would become the PSO's ninth music director.[4][5] Honeck first conducted the symphony in May 2006, and returned for another guest appearance in November 2006. His initial contract was for three years. In September 2009, the PSO announced the extension of Honeck's contract to the 2015-2016 season.[6] In February 2012, the PSO announced the further extension of Honeck's contract through the 2019-2020 season.[7] In June 2007, the orchestra announced the appointment of American conductor Leonard Slatkin as the orchestra's principal guest conductor, as of the 2008-2009 season.[8]

After playing concerts in its earliest form at Carnegie Music Hall, the orchestra moved to the Syria Mosque, where some of their recordings were done. Most of Steinberg's recordings were completed in the still standing Soldiers and Sailors Memorial. The Mosque proved to be an unsuitable venue for the orchestra, as it held far more seats than could reasonably be filled for orchestral concerts, and it was also acoustically unsatisfactory. In 1971 the orchestra moved to the newly renovated Loew's Penn Theater, a move funded by H. J. Heinz II of the H. J. Heinz Company. To honor his involvement, the building was renamed Heinz Hall.

On January 17, 2004, the Pittsburgh Symphony participated in the historic Papal Concert of Reconciliation, becoming the first American orchestra to perform for a Pope at the Vatican.[9] The concert, created and conducted by Sir Gilbert Levine,[10] reached out to all three Abrahamic faithsJudaism, Christianity, and Islam—and was part of the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the pontificate of Pope John Paul II.[11] The PSO was joined by the London Philharmonic Choir, Krakow Philharmonic Choir, Ankara Polyphonic Choir and members of the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh in a program that included the world premiere of “Abraham,” a sacred motet by John Harbison, and Mahler Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection”.[11][12] The event, which was attended by the Pontiff, Rav Elio Toaff, Imam Abdulawahab Hussein Gomaa, and 7,000 invited guests, was telecast on RAI, on PBS, and throughout the world, and released on DVD by WQED Multimedia, Pittsburgh.[13] Subsequent to this concert, at Levine's impetus, the Pittsburgh Symphony founded a series of concerts entitled "Music for the Spirit."[14] He led the first two of these, performances of the Haydn "Creation" and Mahler Symphony No. 3 in Pittsburgh in 2006.[15] The Pittsburgh Symphony has continued this program in subsequent years.[16]

The PSO has been facing financial concerns related to historical declines in ticket sales and increased expenses.[17] In November 2006, the PSO announced a pledge of US$29.5 million from the Richard P. Simmons family as the start of a capital challenge for the orchestra to address long-standing financial concerns.[18] In December 2006, the PSO announced the launch of an $80 million capital fund-raising drive, after the initial $29.5 million boost from the Simmons family.[19] In March 2009, the PSO announced the discontinuation of its chamber orchestra series after the 2008-2009 season, along with staff reductions of 9 positions.[20]

Music Directors and other artistic leaders

Pittsburgh portal


External links

  • Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra official website
  • Ramesh Santanam, "Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Announces Second Contract Extension for Music Director Manfred Honeck." PSO Blog, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, 13 February 2012
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