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What Does Oregon Symphony Play What Does Oregon Symphony Play


What Does Oregon Symphony Play

Written by: Jamima Glisson

Discover the enchanting repertoire of the Oregon Symphony. From timeless classics to contemporary masterpieces, immerse yourself in the captivating symphonies played by this renowned orchestra.

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The Oregon Symphony, based in Portland, is a renowned and beloved institution that has been delighting audiences with its exceptional performances for over a century. With its rich history, diverse repertoire, and innovative programming, the symphony has firmly established itself as a cultural pillar in the Pacific Northwest.

Founded in 1896, the Oregon Symphony has undergone remarkable growth and transformation throughout the years. What began as a small ensemble has evolved into a world-class orchestra, attracting top-tier musicians from around the globe. Under the direction of esteemed conductors, the symphony has earned numerous accolades and garnered critical acclaim for its extraordinary performances.

As the largest arts organization in Oregon, the symphony plays a vital role in the local community. Its concerts draw in audiences of all ages and backgrounds, offering an opportunity for people to connect and engage with the power of music. Whether through classical masterpieces or contemporary compositions, the symphony’s performances captivate and inspire, leaving a lasting impact on all those who attend.

Throughout its history, the Oregon Symphony has demonstrated a commitment to musical excellence and a dedication to showcasing a diverse range of compositions. From classical symphonies and concertos to contemporary pieces and world premieres, the orchestra constantly pushes boundaries and strives to present a diverse and engaging program to its patrons.

Beyond its regular concert season, the symphony participates in community outreach programs and educational initiatives, fostering a love for music in the next generation. Through school visits, workshops, and collaborations with local organizations, the orchestra seeks to make classical music accessible and enjoyable for all.

In this article, we will explore the repertoire and programming of the Oregon Symphony, highlighting the classical compositions they perform, the contemporary music they embrace, as well as their collaborative performances and educational outreach efforts. Join us on this journey to discover the remarkable world of the Oregon Symphony.


Background of the Oregon Symphony

The Oregon Symphony has a rich and vibrant history that traces back to its humble beginnings in 1896. It was originally known as the Portland Symphony Orchestra and consisted of just 46 volunteer musicians. Over the years, it has grown in size and stature to become one of the most respected symphony orchestras in the United States.

Under the leadership of various renowned conductors, the symphony has experienced periods of both growth and challenge. In the early 20th century, conductor Carl Denton took the helm and elevated the orchestra’s stature by expanding its reach across the state of Oregon. However, the Great Depression posed significant financial difficulties, and the symphony struggled to survive.

Fortunately, in 1947, a turning point occurred when the orchestra hired Jacob Avshalomov as its conductor. Avshalomov’s visionary leadership and commitment to artistic excellence helped revitalize the symphony, attracting talented musicians and building a strong reputation.

In the following decades, the symphony continued to flourish, attracting distinguished conductors such as James DePreist, who played a pivotal role in raising the orchestra’s international profile. During this time, the symphony recorded several acclaimed albums and performed at prestigious venues around the world.

Today, the Oregon Symphony is under the artistic direction of Carlos Kalmar, who assumed the role in 2003. With his dynamic and innovative approach, Kalmar has led the symphony to even greater heights, receiving widespread praise for his engaging and exhilarating performances.

The orchestra is comprised of over 80 professional musicians, each possessing exceptional talent and expertise. Their dedication and skill shine through in every performance, creating an immersive and transcendent musical experience for audiences.

As an integral part of the Portland cultural scene, the Oregon Symphony performs at the renowned Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. This iconic venue provides an acoustically excellent space that enhances the symphony’s majestic sound, allowing every note to resonate with clarity and beauty.

Over the years, the Oregon Symphony has become synonymous with musical excellence and has received numerous accolades and awards. It has been recognized for its commitment to innovation, community engagement, and artistic integrity.

Through its unwavering dedication to the transformative power of music, the Oregon Symphony continues to captivate audiences and shape the cultural landscape of the Pacific Northwest. Its rich history and ongoing commitment to artistic excellence ensure that it will remain a beloved institution for generations to come.


Repertoire and Programming of the Oregon Symphony

The Oregon Symphony prides itself on its diverse and eclectic repertoire, encompassing a wide range of musical styles and genres. The orchestra’s programming balances timeless classics with contemporary works, creating a dynamic and captivating experience for audiences.

When it comes to classical repertoire, the Oregon Symphony showcases the masterworks of renowned composers such as Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, and Tchaikovsky. These iconic symphonies, concertos, and chamber works are performed with meticulous attention to detail, capturing the essence of the composer’s intentions and allowing the audience to immerse themselves in the beauty of classical music.

At the same time, the symphony is committed to exploring new horizons and pushing boundaries in the world of contemporary music. It actively commissions new works from both established and emerging composers, ensuring that fresh and innovative compositions are brought to the forefront. This dedication to promoting contemporary composers and embracing new expressions of artistic vision has earned the symphony recognition and praise from critics and audiences alike.

In addition to its regular season concerts, the Oregon Symphony offers a variety of special programming and themed performances. These include pops concerts, film scores accompanied live by the orchestra, holiday-themed shows, and world music collaborations. These special events showcase the symphony’s versatility and ability to engage with audiences beyond the traditional concert hall setting.

One notable aspect of the symphony’s programming is its commitment to diversity and inclusion. The orchestra actively seeks out works from composers of diverse backgrounds, broadening the representation of voices in classical music. By embracing music from diverse cultures and perspectives, the symphony strives to connect with an ever-widening audience and reflect the multicultural community it serves.

Furthermore, the Oregon Symphony regularly collaborates with internationally renowned guest artists, including instrumental virtuosos, vocal soloists, and conductors. These collaborations bring a fresh perspective to the symphony’s performances and provide a platform for artists to showcase their extraordinary talents.

From intimate chamber performances to grand symphonic spectacles, the programming of the Oregon Symphony appeals to both seasoned concert-goers and newcomers to the classical music world. The carefully curated repertoire and innovative programming ensure that there is something for everyone to enjoy, fostering a deep appreciation for the power and beauty of orchestral music.

By consistently delivering exceptional performances and embracing diverse programming, the Oregon Symphony continues to captivate audiences and solidify its reputation as a world-class orchestra.


Classical Compositions Performed by the Oregon Symphony

The Oregon Symphony takes great pride in its interpretation and performance of classical compositions. With its world-class musicians and talented conductor, the orchestra brings these timeless masterpieces to life, captivating audiences with their sheer beauty and emotive power.

One of the cornerstones of the symphony’s classical repertoire is the music of Ludwig van Beethoven. The symphony has showcased Beethoven’s symphonies, including the iconic Symphony No. 5 and Symphony No. 9, which features the renowned “Ode to Joy.” These emotionally charged works, known for their distinctive melodies and dramatic dynamics, are thrilling experiences for both the musicians and the audience.

The symphony also embraces the works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, known for his exquisite compositions and prodigious talent. From his symphonies to his piano concertos, Mozart’s music is brought to life with precision and elegance by the Oregon Symphony. The performances imbue his works with the delicate balance of grace and grandeur that are at the heart of Mozart’s genius.

Additionally, the symphony has performed the symphonies and concertos of other esteemed composers, including Johannes Brahms and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Brahms’ lush and romantic symphonies, such as Symphony No. 1 and Symphony No. 4, evoke deep emotions and showcase the symphony’s ability to convey the complexity of his music. Tchaikovsky’s compositions, with their sweeping melodies and passionate energy, are brought to life with meticulous attention to detail and fervor.

The Oregon Symphony also explores works from the Baroque period, featuring the compositions of Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel. Bach’s intricate and technically demanding works, such as his Brandenburg Concertos and his magnificent Mass in B minor, showcase the symphony’s virtuosity and precision. Handel’s majestic oratorios, including Messiah and Water Music, are performed with grandeur and reverence for the composer’s dramatic flair.

In addition to these renowned composers, the symphony also presents lesser-known gems from the classical repertoire. This includes works by Joseph Haydn, Antonín Dvořák, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and many others. These performances provide audiences with the opportunity to discover new works and composers, broadening their appreciation for the depth and breadth of classical music.

With each performance, the Oregon Symphony showcases not only the technical prowess of its musicians but also their deep understanding and love for the classical repertoire. These remarkable interpretations resonate with audiences, transporting them to a world of beauty, emotion, and musical brilliance.


Contemporary Music Played by the Oregon Symphony

The Oregon Symphony is committed to embracing contemporary music and showcasing the works of living composers. By programming and performing contemporary compositions, the orchestra ensures that it remains relevant and reflective of the ever-evolving landscape of classical music.

One of the ways in which the symphony promotes contemporary music is through the commissioning of new works. It collaborates with composers from around the world to create original compositions that push the boundaries of traditional orchestral music. These commissions not only provide a platform for emerging composers to showcase their talents but also bring fresh and innovative perspectives to the symphony’s performances.

The symphony also embraces contemporary repertoire by performing works from established composers of the 20th and 21st centuries. The orchestra has presented compositions by renowned artists such as John Adams, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and Arvo Pärt. These composers have made significant contributions to modern classical music with their unique styles and groundbreaking approaches to composition.

In addition to established composers, the symphony also collaborates with contemporary soloists and conductors who are known for their affinity for new music. These collaborations bring a heightened level of interpretation and understanding to the performances, allowing the audience to experience the full breadth and depth of contemporary works.

Beyond traditional orchestral performances, the symphony explores other genres and musical collaborations. It has engaged in performances with popular artists and bands, blurring the lines between classical and contemporary music. These collaborations introduce the symphony to new audiences and bridge the gap between different musical worlds.

The Oregon Symphony also embraces the use of technology in its contemporary performances. It incorporates multimedia elements, such as visual projections and electronic instruments, to enhance the audience’s sensory experience and create immersive performances. This innovative approach ensures that the symphony remains at the forefront of artistic exploration.

By including contemporary music in its repertoire, the Oregon Symphony brings a sense of vitality and relevance to its performances. It acknowledges that the classical music tradition is not static but rather a living and evolving art form. Through its commitment to contemporary music, the symphony opens doors to new sonic landscapes, celebrates the work of visionary composers, and engages with the ever-changing musical landscape of the 21st century.


Collaborative Performances with Renowned Artists and Groups

The Oregon Symphony has a long-standing tradition of collaborating with renowned artists and groups, creating memorable and captivating performances that transcend boundaries. These collaborations not only showcase the symphony’s versatility but also provide audiences with unique and unforgettable musical experiences.

One of the ways in which the symphony collaborates with esteemed artists is through solo performances. It has welcomed world-renowned instrumentalists, vocalists, and conductors to join forces with the orchestra. These soloists bring their exceptional talents and interpretations to the stage, elevating the symphony’s performances to astonishing heights. From virtuosic piano concertos to breathtaking operatic arias, these collaborations captivate audiences with their technical brilliance and emotional depth.

In addition to individual solo performances, the symphony has partnered with well-known orchestras and ensembles from around the world. These collaborations result in breathtaking concerts that combine the talents of multiple musical groups. Whether it’s a joint performance of a symphony, an orchestral suite, or a choral work, these collaborations bring together the best of both worlds, creating a harmonious fusion of sound and artistry.

Furthermore, the Oregon Symphony collaborates with renowned guest conductors, allowing audiences to experience the unique interpretations and conducting styles of these maestros. By working with guest conductors who bring their distinctive approach to the podium, the symphony opens new dimensions in its performances and expands the artistic vision of the orchestra.

The symphony also embraces collaborations with artists and groups from outside the classical music sphere. Through cross-genre performances, the symphony breaks down barriers and explores new musical territories. Collaborations with popular artists, jazz musicians, world music ensembles, and even rock bands breathe new life into classical repertoire, providing refreshing and unexpected musical experiences.

These collaborative performances not only enrich the symphony’s artistic output but also foster a sense of connection and unity among diverse audience members. By combining different artistic voices and styles, these collaborations create a collective experience that celebrates the power of music to transcend boundaries and touch hearts.

Through its collaborations with renowned artists and groups, the Oregon Symphony continues to push artistic boundaries, embrace new perspectives, and captivate audiences with awe-inspiring performances. These collaborations demonstrate the orchestra’s commitment to artistic excellence and its belief in the transformative power of music.


Educational and Outreach Initiatives of the Oregon Symphony

The Oregon Symphony is not only dedicated to delivering exceptional performances but also to engaging with the community and nurturing the next generation of musicians and music lovers. Through its extensive educational and outreach initiatives, the symphony actively promotes music education, accessibility, and inclusivity, ensuring that classical music remains vibrant and relevant in the lives of people of all ages and backgrounds.

One of the symphony’s core educational programs is its engagement with schools. The orchestra understands the importance of exposing young students to the beauty and power of music at an early age. Through interactive performances, workshops, and demonstrations, the symphony introduces students to various instruments, musical concepts, and classical compositions. These educational experiences not only enhance students’ appreciation for music but also inspire creativity and foster a lifelong connection with the art form.

In addition to school engagements, the symphony offers a range of youth programs designed to nurture young talent. The symphony’s youth orchestras provide advanced young musicians with the opportunity to perform challenging repertoire under the guidance of professional conductors and coaches. These programs cultivate musical excellence, teamwork, and leadership skills while fostering a sense of community and passion for orchestral music.

Furthermore, the symphony is committed to making classical music accessible to audiences of all backgrounds and abilities. It actively engages with the broader community through initiatives such as free outdoor concerts, neighborhood performances, and collaborations with community organizations. These events bring the symphony’s music beyond the concert hall and into the heart of the community, allowing people to experience the joy of live orchestral music in a relaxed and inviting environment.

Understanding the transformative power of music therapy, the symphony also collaborates with healthcare institutions, presenting live performances for patients, caregivers, and hospital staff. These therapeutic performances provide comfort, inspiration, and healing to individuals in need, reminding them of the profound impact that music can have on emotional well-being.

Moreover, the Oregon Symphony actively supports emerging composers through its commitment to new music. It often collaborates with local composers to showcase their works, providing them with a platform to share their artistic vision with a wider audience. This support for new voices in the world of classical music encourages innovation and ensures the continued evolution of the art form.

By investing in education, accessibility, and community engagement, the Oregon Symphony demonstrates its commitment to the cultural growth and well-being of the Pacific Northwest. Through its educational and outreach initiatives, the symphony not only enriches the lives of individuals but also strengthens the fabric of the community, fostering a love of music that will resonate for generations to come.



The Oregon Symphony stands as a beacon of musical excellence, enriching the cultural landscape of Portland and the Pacific Northwest. With a rich history, a diverse repertoire, and a commitment to innovation and community engagement, the symphony captivates audiences with its exceptional performances and transformative power of music.

From classical compositions by the likes of Beethoven, Mozart, and Brahms to contemporary works by living composers, the symphony’s programming showcases the breadth and depth of orchestral music. Its collaborations with renowned artists and groups bring new dimensions to the performances, blurring the boundaries between musical genres and creating transcendent experiences.

But the Oregon Symphony’s impact extends beyond the concert hall. Through its educational and outreach initiatives, the symphony ensures that music remains accessible and relevant to people of all ages and backgrounds. By engaging with schools, nurturing young talent, and reaching out to the community, the symphony inspires a love for music, fosters creativity, and supports emerging artists.

As an institution deeply rooted in the Pacific Northwest, the Oregon Symphony has become an integral part of the region’s cultural fabric. Its performances at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall and its collaborations with local organizations showcase its commitment to the community, making classical music more accessible and inviting to all.

In conclusion, the Oregon Symphony represents the epitome of artistic achievement and community engagement. Through its exceptional performances, diverse programming, commitment to contemporary music, and dedication to education and outreach, the symphony enriches the lives of individuals while fostering a love for music throughout the region. The Oregon Symphony’s unwavering dedication to musical excellence ensures its prominent place among the leading symphony orchestras in the United States and continues to inspire and uplift audiences for generations to come.

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