Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO) is an Australian orchestra based in Melbourne. The oldest professional orchestra in Australia, the MSO is resident at Hamer Hall. The MSO has its own choir, the MSO Chorus, following integration with the Melbourne Chorale in 2008.

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO)

The Orchestra relies on funding by the Victorian State Government and the Federal government and support from private corporations and donors. It is supported by Symphony Services International. Sophie Galaise joined the MSO as its first female Managing Director in 2016. Its current Chairman is Michael Ullmer.


The MSO's first concert took place on 11 December 1906 under the baton of Alberto Zelman, founder of the MSO, who later became the first Australian conductor to conduct the London and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras. In 1934, the MSO became one of the Australian Broadcasting Commission's radio orchestras. In 1949, the orchestra took on the new name of the Victorian Symphony Orchestra. In 1965, the orchestra's name reverted to the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

The MSO's longest serving chief conductor was Hiroyuki Iwaki (1974–1997), who was named Conductor Laureate of the orchestra in 1989 and held the title until his death in 2006. The orchestra's most recent Chief Conductor, Sir Andrew Davis (conductor), was appointed in June 2012. Sir Andrew Davis gave his inaugural concerts as the MSO's Chief Conductor in 2013, having made his debut with the orchestra in 2009.[1] The MSO also works with Associate Conductor Benjamin Northey and guest conductors like Thomas Adès, John Adams, Tan Dun, Markus Stenz and Simone Young.

Dale Barltrop and Eoin Andersen have shared the position of concertmaster since the start of 2015 since Wilma Smith stepped down at the end of the 2014 season.[2] In 1923, Bertha Jorgensen became the first female leader of a professional orchestra in Australia, and she went on to play with the orchestra for 50 years and became the longest-serving female leader of an orchestra on an international scale.

The MSO was the first Australian orchestra to perform overseas (New Zealand, 1965), and the first to play in Carnegie Hall, New York, in 1970.[3] Its overseas tours – the USA, Canada, Japan, Korea, Europe (2000, 2007, 2014), China (2002), St Petersburg, Russia (2003) and Japan (2005) – have gained it widespread international recognition. In January 2000, under the baton of the then Chief Conductor and Artistic Director Markus Stenz, the MSO represented Australasia at the Festival of the Five Continents in the Canary Islands alongside other orchestras such as the Berlin Philharmonic and New York Philharmonic. In January 2007 the Orchestra embarked on its second European tour, visiting five cities in Spain (Castellon, Barcelona, Zaragoza, Pamplona, Madrid), Paris, Berlin and Milan.

Sir Andrew Davis became chief conductor in 2013. During his tenure, the MSO made its debut at five of the classical music festivals, including The Proms and the Edinburgh International Festival.[4] In July 2015, the MSO extended Davis' contract through 2019.[5] In April 2018, the MSO announced that Davis is to conclude his MSO chief conductorship at the end of December 2019.[6]

The MSO has collaborated with a number of contemporary artists from pop and rock, to techno and electronic. Notable performances include collaborations with Elton John, resulting in Live in Australia with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Kiss (band), Ben Folds, Burt Bacharach, Hans Zimmer, Nick Cave, Sting, Tim Minchin, DJ Jeff Mills and Flight Facilities.

The MSO's recent discs include Strauss' Four Last Songs, Don Juan and Also Sprach Zarathustra [7] on ABC Classics. On the Chandos label the MSO has recently released Berlioz' Harold en Italie with James Ehnes and Ives' Symphonies No.1 & 2, both led by Sir Andrew Davis.[8]

Chief conductors

Awards and nominations

ARIA Awards

  • 2014 Nominated for Best Classical Album (ABC Classics) [9]
  • 2013 Nominated for twice for Best Classical Album (ABC Classics) [10]
  • 1999 Nominated for Best Classical Album (ABC Classics)

Helpmann Awards

  • 2015 Nominated twice for Best Symphony Orchestra Concert
  • 2011 Nominated twice for Best Symphony Orchestra Concert
  • 2008 Winner of Best Performances in a Classical Concert
  • 2007 Winner of Best Performance in a Classical Concert Presentation
  • 2004 Nominated for Best Performance in a Classical Concert - MSO Chief Conductor Marcus Stenz
  • 2003 Nominated twice for Best Classical Concert Presentation

APRA Awards

  • 2014 Winner of Performance of the Year and nominated for Orchestral Work of the Year
  • 2009 Nominated for Orchestral Work of the Year
  • 2008 Orchestral Work of the Year APRA Award win for 90 Minutes Circling the Earth, composed by Stuart Greenbaum and performed by Melbourne Symphony Orchestra with Brett Kelly (conductor), was presented by Australasian Performing Right Association and Australian Music Centre (AMC).[11] Nominated for same award for performances of Glass Soldier Suite, Musaic and Oboe Concertante.[12]
  • 2008 Outstanding Contribution to Australian Music in Education win for Melbourne Symphony Orchestra's ArtPlay ensemble touring program and music theatre project Hunger.[11]


  1. Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
  2. MSO, Wilma Smith to step down as Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster at the end of 2014, 7 June 2013; Retrieved 30 August 2013
  3. Raymond Ericson (12 November 1970). "Australians Give First Concert Here: The Melbourne Symphony Led by van Otterloo". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 October 2009.
  4. "MSO to perform at BBC Proms and Edinburgh Festival in European Tour - Melbourne Symphony Orchestra". Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  5. "Chief Conductor Sir Andrew Davis to lead the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra until 2019" (Press release). Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. 27 July 2015. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  6. Angus McPherson (10 April 2018). "Sir Andrew Davis to step down from Melbourne Symphony Orchestra". Limelight Magazine. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  7. "Presto Classical - Buy classical CDs, opera CDs, & DVDs online". Archived from the original on 27 September 2015. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  8. Ives: Symphonies, Nos. 1 and 2, 2 March 2015, retrieved 12 November 2015
  9. "Aria Awards - 2014 ARIA Awards Connected By Telstra | Nominated artists revealed". Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  10. "ARIA Awards 2013 Nominees Revealed, Fine Arts Award Winners Announced - Music Feeds". Music Feeds. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  11. "2008 Winners – Classical Music Awards". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 29 April 2010.
  12. "2008 Finalists – Classical Music Awards". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 29 April 2010.
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