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Canadian composer Glenn Gould first performed with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra when he was 14 years old.Supplied

Toronto’s first symphony orchestra was founded 114 years ago, in 1908, and performed for a decade before disbanding. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) as we know it emerged after the First World War and went on to establish itself as a keystone of the city’s cultural life, as well as one of Canada’s great musical institutions. Here are some of the milestones in its century-long history:

1922: The New Symphony Orchestra is formed under expatriate Viennese conductor Luigi von Kunitz. Its first concert takes place at Toronto’s Massey Hall on April 23 of the following year, with a program featuring Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony.

1927: The orchestra is renamed the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and, in 1929, makes its broadcast debut performing for CBC Radio from the Arcadian Court in Simpsons department store.

1930: Montreal musician Ethel Stark becomes the first woman to conduct the TSO.

1937: The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir begins its long collaboration with the TSO, which includes the traditional holiday performance of Handel’s Messiah.

1947: Iconoclastic Canadian pianist and composer Glenn Gould makes his TSO debut at the age of 14.

1963: The orchestra makes its Carnegie Hall debut in New York in 1963 under the leadership of Czech-born British conductor Walter Susskind.

1956-69: Japanese maestro Seiji Ozawa leads the TSO for a short but notable tenure that includes the landmark 1967 recording of Messiaen’s Turangalîla-Symphonie.

A TSO concert at Ontario Place.Supplied

1971: The orchestra gives the first in its series of summer concerts at the new Ontario Place Forum.

1975: British maestro Sir Andrew Davis is appointed as the TSO’s sixth music director in 1975.

1978: The TSO makes history as the first Canadian orchestra to tour China since the Cultural Revolution. Guest soloists on the tour include famed contralto Maureen Forrester and teenage pianist Louis Lortie.

1982: Roy Thomson Hall opens – a state-of-the-art concert venue designed by Arthur Erickson.

1986: The TSO becomes the first Canadian orchestra to play the London Proms and the Edinburgh International Festival.

1987: The TSO goes to the Far North, becoming the first symphony orchestra to play Inuvik, NWT, as part of its Canadian Odyssey tour.

2004: Toronto-born musician Peter Oundjian takes over as music director and initiates the annual New Creations and Mozart festivals and the Decades Project, a survey of the eclectic music of the early 20th century.

2017: To celebrate Canada’s bicentennial, the TSO performs more than 40 new Canadian works, co-commissioned with other Canadian orchestras.

2018: The TSO’s 10th and current music director, Spanish conductor Gustavo Gimeno, is appointed. He joins the orchestra for the 2020-21 season.

2020: The COVID-19 pandemic forces the TSO to pivot to outdoor concerts with smaller ensembles and digital performances. Its video collaboration with Against the Grain Theatre, Messiah/Complex, wins international acclaim.

2021: The TSO’s recording of Massenet’s Thaïs, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, wins the 2021 Juno Award for Best Classical Album: Vocal or Choral.

TSO conductor Gustavo Gimeno.Supplied

2021: Live TSO performances at Roy Thomson Hall resume in the fall of 2021, with Gimeno making his onstage debut as music director.


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