Choruses, Orchestras
Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra
Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra
Rodrigo Rosenthal

Since its first concert in 1954, the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra (SPSO) has steadily established a tradition of performing excellence such that it is now recognized as the finest orchestra in South America. Internationally renowned for its high standards, the orchestra is a major social and cultural force in the life of both the state of São Paulo and Brazil as a whole.

The orchestra was founded by Brazilian conductor João de Souza Lima and was led by him and by the Italian Bruno Roccella in its early years. The baton was later passed to Brazilian conductor Eleazar de Carvalho (1912-96), who directed the orchestra for 24 years.

In 1997, maestro John Neschling took over SPSO’s artistic direction and, with conductor Roberto Minczuk as his assistant artistic director, redefined and built on de Carvalho's vision for the orchestra. They made major changes in recruitment, opening auditions throughout Brazil and beyond,  improved compensation, living conditions and benefits so that SPSO could join the ranks of the world's best orchestras.

In 1999 the orchestra moved to Sala São Paulo, a former train station with beautiful interiors and a gorgeous acoustic which had been newly renovated for their use. In the following years, Symphonic, Chamber, Youth and Children’s Choirs were created, along with the Center for Musical Documentation, extensive educational programs, the publishing office Criadores do Brasil (Creators from Brazil) and a music academy.

Over the years the orchestra has become known for its innovative approach and diversity of repertoire. It has recorded extensively for Swedish label BIS and Brazilian label Biscoito Fino in Brazilian concert repertoire, and has in recent times partnered with Naxos to release the complete symphonies of both Villa-Lobos and Prokofiev. 

In addition to its tours of Latin America (2000, 2005, 2007), the United States (2002, 2006, 2009), Europe (2003, 2007, 2010, 2012, 2013) and Brazil (2004, 2008, 2011), the group has since 2008 pursued a program to tour throughout the enormous state of São Paulo's countryside, performing concerts and running workshops and musical appreciation courses for more than 70 thousand people.

After a brief tenure by French conductor Yan Pascal Tortelier, in 2011 American conductor Marin Alsop was named the new principal conductor and remained in that post until 2019. During that time SPSO toured a great deal, and European audiences and critics were introduced to SPSO at such venues as the Salle Pleyel in Paris, the Royal Festival Hall in London and the Philharmonie in Berlin. In 2014, to commemorate its 60th anniversary, SPSO co-commissioned a saxophone concerto by John Adams and performed it in five Brazilian states. In 2016, SPSO and Marin Alsop made another tour of Europe, appearing in major summer festivals, and in 2018, the orchestra began recording a series of albums dedicated to the music of Brazilian composers for Naxos. In 2019, SPSO toured China and Hong Kong, being the first Latin American professional orchestra to appear in those countries.

In 2020, the Swiss conductor Thierry Fischer took over as Chief Conductor and Music Director, and Marin Alsop became Conductor of Honor.The orchestra plays over a hundred concerts every season, for nearly 10,000 subscribers at Sala São Paulo, which was chosen in 2015 by The Guardian as one of the 10 best music halls in the world.

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