Founded in 1922, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra is one of Canada’s most important cultural institutions, recognized internationally. Peter Oundjian, now in his 13th season as the TSO’s Music Director, leads the Orchestra with a commitment to innovative programming and audience engagement through a broad range of performances that showcase the exceptional talents of the Orchestra along with a roster of distinguished guest artists and conductors. The TSO also serves the larger community with TSOUNDCHECK, the original under-35 ticket program; the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra; and music education programs that reach tens of thousands of students each year.
Under Oundjian’s leadership, the TSO has distinguished itself as an active supporter of new Canadian and international works, predominantly through its annual New Creations Festival. Since 2008, the Orchestra has released eight recordings under its self-produced label, TSO Live, and the first of several recordings with the prestigious Chandos Records label in 2014. Over the past decade, the TSO has toured to regions in Canada and the US, including regular excursions to Northern Ontario, as well as two sold-out appearances at Carnegie Hall. In August 2014, the Orchestra completed a critically acclaimed European tour which included the first performance of a North American orchestra at Reykjavik’s Harpa Hall.
The Orchestra was founded in 1922 by a group of Toronto musicians and Viennese-born conductor Luigi von Kunits. The New Symphony Orchestra, as it was then called, gave its first performance in April 1923 at Massey Hall. The name Toronto Symphony Orchestra was adopted four years later.
The Orchestra’s second season in 1924/25 included the first orchestra concert for children, pioneering a focus on efforts toward programming for young people. Today, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra serves the community with one of the largest educational programs in Canada, connecting students throughout Ontario with curriculum-based outreach.
Following the death of Luigi von Kunits in 1931, Sir Ernest MacMillan was appointed Music Director and would become the Orchestra’s longest-standing Music Director, presiding from 1931 until 1956. During MacMillan's 25 seasons on the podium, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra soared in stature and scope, introducing Toronto audiences to then-contemporary composers such as Holst, Sibelius, and Stravinsky, who conducted the Orchestra in performances of his own music in 1937.
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra developed an international presence through a history of touring to venues in the United States, Europe, and Asia, including a groundbreaking trip to China in 1978 as the first Canadian orchestra to be invited to enter China after the Cultural Revolution.
Under the leadership of Music Director Sir Andrew Davis (who continues to serve the TSO as Conductor Laureate), the Orchestra moved from Massey Hall to Roy Thomson Hall in 1982. During the 2001/02 season, Roy Thomson Hall underwent a successful sound makeover and the Roy Thomson Hall Acoustic Enhancement Project resulted in improved acoustics.
Throughout its history, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra has welcomed some of the greatest international artists, including James Ehnes, Maxim Vengerov, Emanuel Ax, Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Jessye Norman, Karen Kain, Yefim Bronfman, Angela Hewitt, Lang Lang (in his first week-long residency program in North America), and actor Christopher Plummer. Renowned composers Henri Dutilleux, R. Murray Schafer, Aaron Copland, Phillip Glass, John Adams, and Tan Dun, among many others, have been in attendance for the Orchestra’s presentations of their music.