Under the watchful gaze and attentive ear of the honorable conductor
and music director Andrew Litton
, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra
is over one hundred years young and still going strong, performing regularly at the Meyerson Symphony Center
in downtown Dallas, Texas
. The symphony has travelled the world with five appearances at Carnegie Hall
, an American television
debut in 1995, and steady exposure both in the U.S. and Europe. More affectionately known as "the DSO" among its many fans, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra continues to thrill and inspire audiences today as it has for over a century with an impressive repertoire
spanning the rich history of the Human Condition
This rich century-old tradition of celebrating the sound and triumph of the human spirit began modestly in 1890, when Maestro Hans Kreissig formed the Dallas Symphony Club. He found accompanists from the Frohsinn Singing Society and asked them to meet with him to practice a Classical Music repertoire including Wagner, Haydn and Rossini. They performed in private at first, but after a decade of intense effort, Kreissig felt they were ready for an audience, and on May 22nd, 1900, they were met with applause and positive critical reviews. The Dallas Morning News reported their first performance was "well received and applause was frequent."
In 1905, Walter J. Fried was appointed music director, and they performed under the name of the Beethoven Symphony Orchestra. It was not until 1911, under the direction of Carl Venth, that the musicians performed under the name of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. This was also the first time the musicians were actually paid for their efforts. Things were looking up for the fledging symphony but unfortunately in 1914 the symphony was forced to suspend operations as the war to end all wars broke out. The DSO was on hiatus for four years, and resumed operations in 1918. Walter Fried returned to take the role of conductor, until his untimely death in 1925 at the age of forty-eight of a heart attack.
The DSO then came upon the responsibility of Dr. Paul van Katwijk, dean of the Southern Methodist University School of Music, who took the reins with unbridled enthusiasm. Under his tenure, the DSO became a regularly paid, professional ensemble, and further developed their reputation as a critically acclaimed and well-talented orchestra with thousands of seats filled every night of their performances. During this time their first performances at Dallas' Fair Park Music Hall were considered some of the most memorable. Their efforts fluorished despite the stock market crash, as the DSO lifted the spirits of Dallas hearts, giving them a temporary respite from the troubles of the times. However, by 1938 financial matters affected even the Dallas Symphony. The city of Dallas was undergoing plans to celebrate the city's centennial and the DSO found themselves competing with their own city in manners of fundraising. Both contributions and tickets sales fell, and the DSO almost went out of business.
A reorganization plan was developed by longtime patron Miss Sudie Williams, which combined the ideals of financial stability with artistic excellence. She appointed 25 year-old, Polish-born Jaques Singer as music director: a well-trained, demanding young man who accepted nothing less than professional etiquette both from his musicians and his audience. He insisted no one enter the concert hall after the performance had begun, and was quite the stickler about a number of lax behavior patterns which he felt diminished the sanctity of the music. Though Singer and Williams successfully struggled to keep the DSO afloat through the Dallas centennial, financial woes continued to plague the symphony well into 1939. So Williams turned an ear to the Dallas community, catering to the tastes and interests of the business leaders as well as asking the Symphony to be more responsive and versatile in giving their community what it wanted. Thus began an ongoing relationship between the symphony and the community where the DSO adapts and grows with its community, while still holding true to the tradition of music which it keeps alive.
Despite this success, the DSO could not withstand the financial pressures of yet another world war, and during World War II the Symphony once again suspended operations from 1941 to 1945. It was at this time that the Dallas Symphony Association was forged, vowing to have the DSO return to its community with a bang and not a whimper. They charged Antal Dorati as their music director, and this heralded a golden era of success and artistry unlike any other efforts the DSO had before undertaken. Dorati's flamboyant and energetic style filled the concert halls, and for the first time their reputation sent the DSO outside the confines of the Dallas area. They performed in national radio broadcasts, toured the country, and for the first time captured their sound on nationally released vinyl records to great success. Under Dorati's baton, the DSO became more than a symphony for the local community. It began to serve its country and its world.
Flamboyance has its cost however, and by 1949 Dorati moved on to Minneapolis. He was replaced by the more conservative Walter Hendl. Where Hendl lacked Dorati's dramatic razzle-dazzle, he exceeded in restraint and dignity. Focusing on expanding the sound of the symphony, Handl took greater care in selecting the venues for performances, and improved the artistic integrity of the ensemble. After his tenure was over in 1958, the Dallas Symphony Association's board of directors could only improve upon Handl by seeking out a world-class reputation, and they found it in appointing Paul Kletzki.
Over the years the DSO has served under the batons of some of the greatest music geniuses of the twentieth century: Georg Solti, Donald Johanos, Anshel Brusilow, Eduardo Mata and now the vibrant Andrew Litton. In 1989 the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center opened, giving the DSO a permanent base of operations which it shares with visiting talent throughout the world. Other talented conductors regularly rotating the conducting duties with Mr. Litton include David R. Davidson, Richard Kauffman and Claus Peter Flor.
F.M.I. = http://www.dallassymphony.com