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Houston Symphony Orchestra

Biography

Active: 1913 - ; Houston, TX
Houston, TX, is one of the major port cities of the United States (despite being several dozen miles away from the Gulf of Mexico and connected to it only by bayous and canals), a center of the U.S. petroleum industry, and the headquarters of the American space agency, NASA. The city's "can do" spirit shows itself in the interrupted history of what grew from a small, nearly amateur, orchestra to one of the best U.S. orchestras.

The person
Read more who is most responsible for the birth, rebirth, and development of the Houston Symphony Orchestra was a remarkable woman named Ima Hogg. She was the spark plug of a group of civic leaders in 1913 who formed a Symphony Society to establish a regular local orchestra. Until then, Houston had relied on touring orchestras to fill its taste for symphonic music.

In the beginning, it was an ill-paid group of part-time players. Accounts differ as to how large a group and how ill-paid: the authoritative New Grove Dictionary says there were 35 musicians paid from an annual budget of $1,500 while the orchestra's own publicity says there were 33 with a budget of $2,500. At any rate, the orchestra was not paid well enough to survive World War I. The first conductor was Julian Paul Blitz (1913-1916), who was succeeded by Paul Berge who led the ensemble until it disbanded in 1918.

However, Hogg's organization remained in existence, and it increased sponsorship and regular appearances of several American orchestras in the city.

The Depression era might have seemed a poor time to try again, but a new orchestra was formed in 1930. (The orchestra officially observes 1913 as its birth year.) It held on, despite the country's financial problems, under the musical leadership of Uriel Nespoli (1931-1932) and Frank St. Leger (1932-1935).

The orchestra was transformed into a fully professional orchestra by Music Director Ernst Hoffman (1936-1947) and attained high standards, which were still more improved by his successor Efrem Kurtz (1948-1954). Kurtz introduced Houston to some of the finest new music of the era, including works of Ives, Honegger, Bartók, and Shostakovich.

The orchestra has continued a policy of hiring well-known and established musicians as music director. Ferenc Fricsay served briefly in 1954, followed by Leopold Stokowski (1955-1961) and Sir John Barbirolli (1961-1967). The next director, André Previn (1967-1969) was only beginning his stellar conducting career, but already had been a major jazz and popular pianist for a decade. Then Lawrence Foster (1971-1978), Sergiu Comissiona (1979-1988) and Christoph Eschenbach (1988-1999) continued the Symphony's consistent artistic growth. Since the days of Kurtz and Stokowski, the HSO has continued its support for newer music. Hans Graf was appointed music director in 2000.

It obtained its current home, Jesse Jones Hall, in 1966. Ima Hogg continued to exercise her leadership until her death in 1975. By that time, the orchestra had become (in 1971) a full-time, 52-week orchestra and become acclaimed as one of America's finest. It plays over 200 concerts annually, records frequently, and has a radio program on Houston Public Radio.

A sub-ensemble, the Houston Symphony Chamber Players began appearing in 1993, using the principals of the orchestra, with Eschenbach appearing as conductor and pianist. It specializes in the Classical and contemporary eras, and carries on its own tours, in addition to the HSO's long tradition of touring. Read less
Zemlinsky: Lyric Symphony; Berg: Lyric Suite Pieces / Trekel, Robinson, Graf, Houston Symphony
Release Date: 05/26/2009   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8572048   Number of Discs: 1
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Mahler: Das Lied Von Der Erde /  Hans Graf, Houston Symphony
Release Date: 11/15/2011   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8572498   Number of Discs: 1
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Browse 1-25 of 28 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Mahler: Das Lied Von Der Erde /  Hans Graf, Houston Symphony
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8572498 Release Date: 11/15/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Gustav Mahler
    Performer:  Gregory Kunde,  Jane Henschel
    Conductor:  Hans Graf
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Houston Symphony Orchestra
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  • 2.
    Picker: Symphony No 2, Etc / Comissiona, Houston Symphony
    Label: Nonesuch   Catalog: 79246 Release Date: 06/23/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Tobias Picker
    Performer:  Leona Mitchell
    Conductor:  Sergiu Comissiona
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Houston Symphony Orchestra,  Mendelssohn String Quartet
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  • 3.
    Label: Classic Records   Catalog: 2029 Release Date: 07/13/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Richard Wagner,  Frédéric Chopin,  Thomas Canning
    Conductor:  Leopold Stokowski
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Houston Symphony Orchestra
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  • 4.
    Scriabin: Poem Of Ecstasy; Amirov: Azerbaijan Mugam / Stokowski, Houston Symphony
    Label: Classic Records   Catalog: 2026 Release Date: 07/13/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Alexander Scriabin,  Fikret Amirov
    Conductor:  Leopold Stokowski
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Houston Symphony Orchestra
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  • 5.
    Hovhaness, Milhaud, Copland, Serebrier - Live Recordings 1942-57 / Stokowski
    Label: Guild   Catalog: 2347 Release Date: 01/12/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Aaron Copland,  Darius Milhaud,  Alan Hovhaness,  José Serebrier
    Conductor:  Leopold Stokowski
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  NBC Symphony Orchestra,  Houston Symphony Orchestra
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  • 6.
    Zemlinsky: Lyric Symphony; Berg: Lyric Suite Pieces / Trekel, Robinson, Graf, Houston Symphony
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8572048 Release Date: 05/26/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Alexander von Zemlinsky,  Alban Berg
    Performer:  Twyla Robinson,  Roman Trekel
    Conductor:  Hans Graf
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Houston Symphony Orchestra
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  • 7.
    Brahms: Symphony No 1 & 2, Haydn Variations, Etc / Christoph Eschenbach, Houston Symphony Orchestra
    Label: Virgin Classics   Catalog: 93223 Release Date: 05/19/2009   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Johannes Brahms
    Conductor:  Christoph Eschenbach
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Houston Symphony Orchestra
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  • 8.
    Brahms: Symphony No 3 & 4, Alto Rhapsody, Tragic Overture / Eschenbach, Houston
    Label: Virgin Classics   Catalog: 93228 Release Date: 05/19/2009   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Johannes Brahms
    Performer:  Dunja Vejzovic
    Conductor:  Christoph Eschenbach
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Houston Symphony Orchestra
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  • 9.
    Orff: Carmina Burana;  Stravinsky: Firebird / Stokowski
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 65207 Release Date: 10/09/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Carl Orff,  Igor Stravinsky
    Performer:  Virginia Babikian,  Clyde Hager,  Guy Gardner
    Conductor:  Leopold Stokowski
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Houston Symphony Orchestra,  Houston Symphony Chorale,  Houston Youth Symphony Boys' Choir  ... 
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  • 10.
    American Music Of The Twentieth Century - Barber, Copland
    Label: Virgin Classics   Catalog: 91339 Release Date: 07/17/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Samuel Barber,  Aaron Copland,  Leonard Bernstein,  Tobias Picker
    Performer:  Helen McQueen,  Crispian Steele-Perkins
    Conductor:  Jukka-Pekka Saraste,  Carl Davis,  Richard Hickox,  Andrew Litton  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Scottish Chamber Orchestra,  London Philharmonic Orchestra,  City of London Sinfonia  ... 
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  • 11.
    Matrix 4 - Gliere/Stokowski: Symphony No. 3;  Loeffler
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 65074 Release Date: 04/24/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Reinhold Gliere,  Charles Martin Loeffler
    Performer:  William Kosinski,  Robert Hunter
    Conductor:  Leopold Stokowski
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Houston Symphony Orchestra,  Leopold Stokowski Orchestra
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  • 12.
    The Divine Feminine
    Label: Telarc   Catalog: 80689 Release Date: 10/24/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Hildegard of Bingen,  John Tavener,  Arvo Pärt,  Tomás Luis de Victoria  ... 
    Performer:  Carlo Willems,  Elly Ameling,  Sylvia McNair,  Richard Leech  ... 
    Conductor:  Rudolf Werthen,  Robert Shaw,  Jesús Lopez-Cobos,  Yoel Levi  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tapestry,  I Fiamminghi,  Robert Shaw Festival Singers  ... 
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  • 13.
    America The Beautiful - The Ultimate Collection
    Label: Intersound   Catalog: 3787 Release Date: 05/27/2005   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Aaron Copland,  Samuel Augustus Ward,  John Philip Sousa,  Irving Berlin  ... 
    Performer:  Melissa Ambrose
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Summit Brass,  Houston Symphony Orchestra,  San Diego Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 14.
    World Premiere Collection - Corigliano, Cowell, Et Al
    Label: First Edition   Catalog: 32 Release Date: 03/01/2005   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Roy Harris,  John Harbison,  Tobias Picker,  Joan Tower  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Baltimore Symphony Orchestra,  The Louisville Orchestra,  Houston Symphony Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $6.99
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  • 15.
    Tobias Picker: Symphony No 2, String Quartet No 1
    Label: First Edition   Catalog: 29 Release Date: 09/14/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Tobias Picker
    Performer:  Leona Mitchell
    Conductor:  Sergiu Comissiona
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Houston Symphony Orchestra,  Mendelssohn String Quartet
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  • 16.
    Classic Library - Strauss: Four Last Songs / Fleming, Et Al
    Label: Rca Victor Red Seal   Catalog: 59408 Release Date: 04/20/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Richard Strauss
    Performer:  Renée Fleming
    Conductor:  Christoph Eschenbach
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Houston Symphony Orchestra
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  • 17.
    Dvorak: Symphony No 9; Tchaikovsky: Francesca Da Rimini / Eschenbach, Houston So
    Label: Virgin Classics   Catalog: 61837 Release Date: 03/27/2001   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky,  Antonín Dvorák
    Performer:  Thomas LeGrand
    Conductor:  Christoph Eschenbach
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Houston Symphony Orchestra
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  • 18.
    Orff: Carmina Burana;  Loeffler / Stokowski, Houston So
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 67569 Release Date: 02/13/2001   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Charles Martin Loeffler,  Carl Orff
    Performer:  Virginia Babikian,  Clyde Hager,  Guy Gardner
    Conductor:  Leopold Stokowski
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leopold Stokowski Orchestra,  Houston Symphony Orchestra,  Houston Symphony Chorale  ... 
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  • 19.
    Bruckner: Symphony No 6 / Eschenbach, Houston Symphony
    Label: Koch International Classics   Catalog: 7484 Release Date: 01/23/2001   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Anton Bruckner
    Conductor:  Christoph Eschenbach
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Houston Symphony Orchestra
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  • 20.
    Adams, Glass: Violin Concertos / Mcduffie, Eschenbach, Et Al
    Label: Telarc   Catalog: 80494 Release Date: 08/24/1999   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Philip Glass,  John Adams
    Performer:  Robert McDuffie
    Conductor:  Christoph Eschenbach
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Houston Symphony Orchestra
    CD: $16.99
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  • 21.
    American Adagios
    Label: Telarc   Catalog: 80503 Release Date: 08/05/1998   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Samuel Barber,  George Gershwin,  Aaron Copland,  Christopher Rouse  ... 
    Performer:  Arietha Lockhart,  Robert McDuffie,  Carol Wincenc,  Paul Edmund-Davies
    Conductor:  Robert Shaw,  Erich Kunzel,  Yoel Levi,  Christoph Eschenbach  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Robert Shaw Festival Singers,  Cincinnati Pops,  Atlanta Symphony Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $11.99
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  • 22.
    Explore The Classics - Love
    Label: Allegro   Catalog: 1 Release Date: 03/31/1998   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Frank Martin,  Alexander Scriabin,  Gustav Mahler,  Ralph Vaughan Williams  ... 
    Performer:  Julianne Baird,  Ronn McFarlane,  Martin Jones,  Simon Keenlyside  ... 
    Conductor:  Harry Christophers,  Leopold Stokowski,  Maurice Abravanel,  Sir Charles Groves  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Sixteen,  Houston Symphony Orchestra,  Utah Symphony Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $8.99
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  • 23.
    Rouse: Symphony No 2, Flute Concerto, Phaethon / Eschenbach
    Label: Telarc   Catalog: 80452 Release Date: 05/27/1997   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Christopher Rouse
    Performer:  Carol Wincenc
    Conductor:  Christoph Eschenbach
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Houston Symphony Orchestra
    CD: $11.99
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  • 24.
    Cooper: Violin Concerto, Etc;  Jones: Elegy, Etc / Foster
    Label: Composers Recordings, Inc. (Cri)   Catalog: 579 Release Date: 06/10/1994   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Paul Cooper,  Samuel Jones
    Performer:  Ronald Patterson
    Conductor:  Lawrence Foster,  Samuel Jones
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  L'Orchestre Philharmonique,  Houston Symphony Orchestra
    CD: $17.99
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  • 25.
    Classical Music For People Who Hate Classical Music
    Label: Classical Heritage   Catalog: 1212 Release Date: 06/09/1994   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Antonio Vivaldi,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Johann Strauss Jr.,  Johann Strauss Sr.  ... 
    Performer:  Hans-Christoph Becker-Foss,  Anna Lelkes,  Philippe Entremont,  Joseph Brezina  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Salzburg Camerata Academica,  London Festival Orchestra,  Vienna Volksoper Orchestra  ... 
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