San Francisco Symphony

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In the wake of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, establishment of a permanent orchestra was high on the civic agenda, and in December 1911, the San Francisco Symphony gave its first concert. Almost immediately, the symphony revitalized San Francisco’s cultural life with programs that offered a kaleidoscope of classics and new music. In the Great Depression, when economic disaster imperiled the symphony’s existence, the people of San Francisco confirmed the spirit that had given birth to the orchestra, by endorsing a bond measure to ensure that the music would go on.

The orchestra grew in stature and acclaim under such distinguished music directors as Henry Hadley, Alfred Hertz, Pierre Monteux, Enrique Jordá, Josef Krips, Seiji Ozawa, Edo de Waart, and Herbert Blomstedt. In September 1995, Michael Tilson Thomas assumed the helm as the San Francisco Symphony’s 11th music director. Together, he and the San Francisco Symphony have formed a musical partnership hailed as one of the most inspiring and adventurous in the country.

Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony signed an exclusive contract with BMG Classics/RCA Red Seal. Their first recording together, a live concert recording of scenes from Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet won the 1997 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance.

In 2001, the San Francisco Symphony launched its own recording label, San Francisco Symphony Media. The label's first offering, Mahler’s Symphony No. 6, was released in February 2002 to international acclaim, and won the 2003 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance.

In September 2002, San Francisco Symphony Media released its second disc; Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, followed by the release in March 2003 of a double-disc set featuring Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 and the “Kindertotenlieder,” with mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung. All three San Francisco Symphony Media releases have been top ten hits on the Billboard classical chart.

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