Toronto Symphony Orchestra

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) is a Canadian orchestra based in Toronto, Ontario. Founded in 1906, 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). The TSO's most recent music director was Peter Oundjian, from 2004 to 2018. Sir Andrew Davis, conductor laureate of the TSO, has most recently served as the orchestra's interim artistic director. Gustavo Gimeno is music director of the TSO, since the 2020–2021 season.[1]

Toronto Symphony Orchestra
Former nameNew Symphony Orchestra
Founded1906 (disbanded between 1918 and 1922)
LocationToronto, Ontario, Canada
Concert hallRoy Thomson Hall
Music directorGustavo Gimeno


Then-music director Peter Oundjian posing with the TSO at Roy Thomson Hall before a concert in January 2012
Peter Oundjian conducting the TSO at Roy Thomson Hall in June 2014

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.[2]

In the summer of 1924, the symphony performed at the Canadian National Exhibition. Shortly thereafter, the TSO began holding children's concerts.[2] 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.[2]

After von Kunits' death in 1931, conductor and composer Ernest MacMillan served as music director for 25 years.[2] The orchestra had made headlines for its hiring practices in 1951, when it declined to renew the contracts of musicians, thereafter known as the Symphony Six, who had been denied entry to the United States on suspicion of communist activities, during the McCarthy Era.

Andrew Davis was the TSO's music director from 1975 to 1988. The TSO subsequently granted Davis the title of conductor laureate.[3]

The orchestra had financial and audience size problems during the 1990s, and in 1992, TSO musicians 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.[4] Relations between the musicians and management deteriorated, and the 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.[5] By 2001, the TSO had debt of $7 million (Canadian), and both executive director Ed Smith and music director Saraste had left the ensemble.[6]

Peter Oundjian was appointed as music director in January 2003 and became music director with the 2004–2005 season.[7] 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.[8] His most recent TSO contract extension was through the 2017-2018 season.[9] He concluded his TSO tenure at the close of the 2017-2018 season and was given the title of conductor emeritus.[10] With Oundjian, the TSO made commercial recordings for its own TSO Live label and for such labels as Chandos.[11][12]

By the 2006–2007 season, the subscriber base had increased to about 25,000, and the audience average capacity also increased to 84%.[13] 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).[14]

In April 2015, controversy ensued after the TSO cancelled the appearance of Valentina Lisitsa, citing Twitter postings by her in relation to the conflict in Ukraine which were seen as conducive to 'public incitement of hatred' under the Criminal Code of Canada.[15]

In January 2017, the TSO announced its participation in the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of Canada, with a cross-country celebration of Canadian music and musicians to involve 40 orchestras and as many as 60 new commissions called "Canada Mosaic" and funded by the Canadian government.[16][17]

In May 2017, the TSO announced the return of Davis to the orchestra as its interim artistic director, beginning with the 2018-2019 season, for a period of two seasons.[18] In April 2018, the TSO announced the appointment of Matthew Loden as its next chief executive officer (CEO), effective July 2018.[19]

In February 2018, Gustavo Gimeno first guest-conducted the TSO. On the basis of this appearance, the TSO announced the appointment of Gimeno as its next music director, effective with the 2020-2021 season, with an initial contract of 5 years.[20]

In July 2020, the TSO announced the cancellation of its originally scheduled 2020-2021 concert season, with plans to be announced for replacement concerts on a smaller scale in various Toronto venues, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.[21] In July 2021, the TSO announced that Matthew Loden is to stand down as its CEO, effective 22 September 2021.[22] In January 2022, the TSO announced the appointment of Mark Williams as its next chief executive officer, effective April 2022.[23] In November 2022, the TSO announced the extension of Gimeno's contract as its music director through 2030.[24]

Music directors


See also



  1. ^ Michael Cooper (2018-09-17). "Toronto Symphony Taps Gustavo Gimeno as Its Music Director". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-09-18.
  2. ^ a b c d Vyhnak, Carola. "Birth of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra". Toronto Star, 14 June 2015, page A12.
  3. ^ William Littler (2015-05-08). "The TSO's Englishman in Toronto". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2018-09-18.
  4. ^ "Toronto Symphony negotiations hit sour note". CBC News. 25 September 1999. Retrieved 2008-11-08.
  5. ^ Warren, Richard, It Begins With The Oboe. University of Toronto Press (Toronto, 2002; ISBN 978-0-8020-3588-2), pp. 209–211.
  6. ^ Tamara Bernstein (25 October 2001). "Toronto Symphony Teeters on the Edge of Ruin". Archived from the original on November 17, 2002. Retrieved 2008-11-02.
  7. ^ John Terauds (8 February 2007). "Conductor puts mark on TSO through '12". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2008-11-02.
  8. ^ James R Oestreich (2011-03-16). "Orchestra, Back From the Brink". New York Times. Retrieved 2017-05-29.
  9. ^ Arthur Kaptainis (2016-02-05). "Two more seasons for TSO's Peter Oundjian". National Post. Retrieved 2016-03-20.
  10. ^ Robert Harris (2017-01-25). "Toronto Symphony Orchestra unveils its final Oundjian-led season". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2017-05-29.
  11. ^ Arthur Kaptainis (2018-06-14). "Peter Oundjian On The Eve Of Saying Goodbye". Ludwig Van - Toronto. Retrieved 2020-05-25.
  12. ^ "Vaughan Williams: Orchestral Works featuring the Toronto Symphony Orchestra receives JUNO Award" (Press release). Toronto Symphony Orchestra. 16 March 2019. Retrieved 2020-05-22.
  13. ^ John Terauds (3 February 2007). "TSO's new season". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2008-11-02.
  14. ^ John Terauds (20 November 2008). "TSO salutes its third surplus in row". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2008-11-21.
  15. ^ "Toronto symphony bans Ukrainian-born pianist over 'provocative' tweets denouncing Kyiv's 'neo-Nazis'". National Post. 2015-04-07. Retrieved 2016-03-20.
  16. ^ Harris, Robert (20 January 2017). "Canada Mosaic: An imperfect but important cultural program". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 8 February 2017.
  17. ^ Littler, William (16 January 2017). "Canada Mosaic puts Canadian music on the map | Toronto Star". Toronto Star. Retrieved 8 February 2017.
  18. ^ "Sir Andrew Davis to provide interim artistic leadership during TSO Music Director search" (Press release). Toronto Symphony Orchestra. 31 May 2017. Retrieved 2018-05-08.
  19. ^ "Toronto Symphony Orchestra Appoints Matthew Loden As Chief Executive Officer" (Press release). Toronto Symphony Orchestra. 30 April 2018. Archived from the original on 2018-05-06. Retrieved 2018-05-08.
  20. ^ "Toronto Symphony Orchestra Announces Gustavo Gimeno as Next Music Director" (Press release). Toronto Symphony Orchestra. 17 September 2018. Archived from the original on 2018-09-18. Retrieved 2018-09-18.
  21. ^ "TSO Replaces Season with Plans to Perform Smaller Events across the GTA" (Press release). Toronto Symphony Orchestra. 6 July 2020. Retrieved 2020-07-14.
  22. ^ "CEO Matthew Loden to Depart the TSO" (Press release). Toronto Symphony Orchestra. 7 July 2021. Retrieved 2021-07-12.
  23. ^ "Mark Williams Announced as New CEO of Toronto Symphony Orchestra" (Press release). Seattle Symphony. 12 January 2022. Retrieved 2022-01-17.
  24. ^ Brad Wheeler (2022-11-21). "Toronto Symphony Orchestra extends contract of music director Gustavo Gimeno through 2029-30 season". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2022-11-28.
  25. ^ "Toronto Symphony Orchestra extends contract of music director Gustavo Gimeno through 2029-30 season". The Globe and Mail. 21 November 2022.