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Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

With 104 full-time musicians, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO) is Melbourne's pre-eminent musical ensemble, and arguably the finest orchestra in Australia. Each year it can be heard in over 120 concerts at its home, the Arts Centre's Hamer Hall, as well as in other venues. Melbourne's tradition of regular orchestral concerts dates from the 1890s, but the name Melbourne Symphony Orchestra originates in a semi-professional group founded in 1906 by violinist Alberto Zelman Jr. After Zelman's death in 1927 his orchestra floundered on in increasing financial distress under British composer-conductor Fritz Hart, until rescued from its debts in 1932 by the generosity of retailer Sidney Myer, who saw it merged with the University of Melbourne Orchestra, conducted by the dynamic young music professor Bernard Heinze. From 1934, now with the backing of ABC radio, Heinze began building a strong audience for a series of celebrity concerts, and in the postwar years as ABC Music Adviser he developed a national network of ABC symphony orchestras which became the backbone of concert music in Australia. Known as the Victorian Symphony Orchestra 1949-65, its conductors at first had only brief tenures: Alceo Galliera (1950-51), Juan José Castro (1952-53), Walter Susskind (1953-55), Kurt Wöss (1956-59), Georges Tzipine (1961-65), Willem van Otterloo (1967-70), and Fritz Rieger (1971-72). A more enduring period of growing stature came under Hiroyuki Iwaki (1974-97), and Markus Stenz, chief conductor (1998-2004). The orchestra has made notable CD recordings (ABC Classics label) and occasionally tours internationally.

Warren Bebbington

Symons, Christopher, The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra: An introduction and appreciation, The Orchestra, Melbourne, 1987. Details