San Francisco Symphony

Photo by: Emerson7, CC

The San Francisco Symphony is an orchestra which is based in San Francisco, California. It has been around since 1911. The orchestra used to share the neighboring War Memorial Opera House with the San Francisco Ballet and the San Francisco Opera. Now, the orchestra calls Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall their permanent home. There are two other groups which are part of this organization; these are the San Francisco Youth Orchestra and the San Francisco Chorus. The current music director of this orchestra is Mr. Michael Tilson Thomas. He has held this position since 1995.

Early History

The orchestra has been part of San Francisco’s city life and culture. The first concerts were led by the conductor composer who also led the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, his name was Henry Hadley. At the beginning of the first season, there were a total of sixty musicians. The very first concert that the orchestra performed included music by Liszt, Haydn, Wagner and Tchaikovsky. During the orchestra’s first year, they played thirteen concerts. Five of these concerts included popular music.


Throughout the years, the San Francisco Symphony has had many great conductors, musicians and singers as guests. There were also a lot of composers who have led the orchestra. In the early years of the orchestra, Saint-Saens was able to lead them during an event in San Francisco’s Marina District. After that, George Gershwin chose the orchestra so that he could conduct a site for his opera entitled “Porgy and Bess.” Not only did the orchestra have famous guest composers, some legendary composers have also led them. Many soloists, singers and other great musicians have also appeared alongside the orchestra.

Louse M. Davies Symphony Hall

The hall was designed by Skidmore, Owings and Meril, a designer named Pietro Belluschi has also contributed along with acoustical consultants. These were Bolt, Beraneck and Newman. The modern design of the hall can be seen in the interior and exterior. The design of the building allows for acoustic isolation. This was made possible by constructing a building that is within a building. The outer building has one-inch thick structural glass. The next structural wall is found at the back where the lobby spaces are. Although the hall is large, the seating capacity resulted in less than ideal results. Fortunately, renovations were done in order to accommodate more guests. These were completed in 1992.

Hall Amenities

The Davies hall contains offices for the symphony staff. There is a music library, dressing rooms, lockers for the musicians and recreation rooms. There is also a private dining room for the donors who helped build and maintain the hall. Apart from being a concert hall, the Louse M. Davies Symphony Hall has an adjoining building which has the Harold L. Zellerback Rehearsal Hall. This hall has three different rehearsal spaces. The largest rehearsal hall was designed to be as big as the Opera Hall across the street. This is to accommodate opera and ballet rehearsals.

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