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Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (Symphony Orchestra)

Founded: 1919 Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, as a not-for-profit Society
Resumed operation: 1930

The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (= VSO) is a Canadian orchestra based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Its primary venue is the Orpheum Theatre. Other venues at which the VSO performs include: Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, University of British Columbia; Vancouver Playhouse Theatre; Bell Performing Arts Centre (Surrey, BC).

With an annual operating budget of $13.5 million, it is the third largest symphony orchestra in Canada and the largest performing arts organization in Western Canada. It performs 140 concerts per season. The VSO broadcasts annually on the CBC.

The VSO was founded by the Vancouver Symphony Society in 1919, largely through the efforts of arts patron Elisabeth (Mrs B.T.) Rogers. A previous unrelated orchestra had operated under the name of the "Vancouver Symphony Orchestra", which was formed in 1897 by Adolf Gregory and lasted for only one season. The first conductor of the current VSO was Henry Green, with F.L. Beecher as its president and Rogers as its vice-president. The orchestra performed for two seasons before financial strains and the disappearance of Green forced the orchestra to suspend activities in 1921. Performances resumed in 1930.

Performances were held at the Georgia Auditorium from the 1940's, until 1959, when the Orchestra moved its performances to the new Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

The VSO also served as the Vancouver Opera company's orchestra during the 1960's and 1970's, until creation of the separate Vancouver Opera Orchestra in 1977. During the late 1960's and 1970's, the orchestra often appeared in joint concerts with the Vancouver Woodwind Quintet.

In 1979-1980, the VSO had the largest subscription list of any symphony in North America. However, in spite of a CBC recording contract, a quarterly magazine and an ambitious touring schedule, the VSO began to encounter financial difficulties. In 1988, the VSO was forced to shut down for five months to regroup and deal with a $2.3 million deficit. With local financial intervention, and a $500,000 federal grant, the VSO began to rebuild, focusing more attention on popular works and collaborations with contemporary artists. To this end, the VSO has continually appointed a composer in residence since 1996.

Since 2000, the VSO's Music Director is Bramwell Tovey. His initial contract was extended in December 2004 through the 2009-2010 season, and further extended in January 2010 through the 2014-2015 season. In November 2013, the VSO announced the further extension of Tovey's contract through the 2017-2018 season, and the scheduled conclusion of his music directorship of the VSO at that time. Tovey is scheduled to take the title of VSO music director emeritus with the 2018-2019 season, the VSO's 100th season. The VSO and Tovey won the 2008 Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (with Orchestra), for their recording of the Korngold, Barber, and Walton violin concerti, featuring Canadian violinist James Ehnes. The recording won a 2008 Juno Award for Classical Album of the Year (large ensemble).

The VSO's Conductor Laureate is Kazuyoshi Akiyama, who was Music Director from 1972 to 1985. Affiliated with the orchestra, the VSO launched the VSO School of Music on September 6, 2011. Chamber music concerts by VSO musicians take place at Pyatt Hall on the VSO School of Music campus.

Recent Highlights: 2008 Grammy and Juno Awards – 2008 Tour of Asia (Korea, Macau, China) –2009 Tour of Central Canada, - 2011 opening of the VSO School of Music – 2013 USA West Coast Tour

Music Directors

Allard de Ridder (1930-1941)
Jacques Singer (1947-1950)
Irwin Hoffman (1952-1963)
Meredith Davies (1964-1970)
Kazuyoshi Akiyama (1972-1985)
Sergiu Comissiona (1991-2000)
Bramwell Tovey (2000-Present)
Andrey Boreyko (Principal Guest Conductor: 2000-2003)

Composers in residence

Rodney Sharman (1997-2000)
Jeffrey Ryan (2000-2007)
Scott Good (2008-2011)
Edward Top (2011-Present)


Open Heart Symphony, a live album recorded by the VSO in collaboration with the folk rock band Spirit of the West.
Jann Arden Live with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra a live album recorded in collaboration with pop singer Jann Arden.
Samuel Barber, Korngold, William Walton, Violin Concertos, Soloist James Ehnes, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Bramwell Tovey, Grammy Awards winner 2008, Juno Awards winner 2008.

More Photos

Source: Vancouver Symphony Orchestra Website; Wikipedia Website (December 2013)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (March 2014)

Recordings of Arrangements/Transcriptions of Bach’s Works




Bramwell Tovey


Bach-Busoni: Concerto for harpsichord, strings & continuo No. 1 in D minor, BWV 1052, transcription for piano & orchestra, KiV B28 [w/ pianist Sara Davis Buechner]


Links to other Sites

Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (Official Website)
Vancouver Symphony Orchestra on Google Plus

Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (Wikipedia)

Biographies of Performers: Main Page | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
Explanation | Acronyms | Missing Biographies | The Sad Corner


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Last update: Tuesday, May 30, 2017 05:34