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5 Things You Didn’t Know About The Boston Symphony Orchestra

April 11, 2013 6:01 AM

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(Photo Credit: BSO/Facebook)

(Photo Credit: BSO/Facebook)

The Boston Symphony Orchestra has been a staple in this city since 1881. Yet, there’s plenty you probably don’t know about it. Fortunately for you, a one-time BSO Public Relations department employee now happens to be a current WBZ-TV news producer. She was happy to provide CBS Boston with a list of five things you didn’t know about the BSO:

(credit: Boston Symphony Hall's Twitter page)

(credit: Boston Symphony Hall’s Twitter page)


1. Ode To The Titanic

Tucked inside Symphony Hall is a marble plaque that honors eight musicians who died on board the Titanic. The plaque was commissioned by Isabella Stewart Gardner, who was a close friend of the man who founded the BSO, Henry Higginson. Gardner was supposedly moved by the fact that the band continued playing even as the ship was sinking. Some survivors said the band was playing “Nearer, my God, to Thee,” an account disputed by others.

2. Ode To No One

Speaking of plaques, there are plaques encompassing the Symphony Hall stage and balcony that were all supposed to be engraved with the names of the world’s greatest composers. Only one of them has actually has a name on it: Beethoven. The official story is that Beethoven was the only composer whose music could be considered “timeless” – but the story that was passed down around internally at the BSO is that the board couldn’t agree on any others.

The Boston Pops

The Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra

3. BSO VS The Pops

The Boston Pops is made up of all the members of the Boston Symphony EXCEPT for the first chairs. The first chairs tour as the Boston Symphony Chamber Players. And, while everyone associates the Pops with the July 4 spectacular, the musicians who play that event are actually called the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, and are made up of mostly freelancers (although there may be some overlap) under Keith Lockhart. The BPEO is the branch of the Pops that tours; while the BSO’s Boston Pops orchestra plays all the Pops concerts at Symphony Hall and Tanglewood in the summer.

James Levine (Photo credit: MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)

James Levine (Photo credit: MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)

4. Made In America

The BSO has only had one American-born Music Director, who signed on in 2004. Ohio-born James Levine led the BSO from 2004 until he stepped down in 2011 because of health issues. A Boston Globe report from last year indicates Levine’s replacement will be named in the very near future.

(Photo Credit: BSO/Facebook)

(Photo Credit: BSO/Facebook)

5. Snubbed and Saluted

Legendary composer Gustav Mahler was actually turned down for a job as Music Director in 1905. The decision clearly wasn’t an editorial on his music: Mahler’s 8th, dubbed the “Symphony of a Thousand” because of all the extra musicians, singers and instruments needed to perform it, was performed at James Levine’s Inaugural Concert.

And here’s your bonus fact:

6. Cheap Rental

You can rent out Symphony Hall for as little as $5400, plus the $1400 fee for the required Boston police security detail. Given that the hall’s seating capacity is 2,625 people, you and 2,624 of your closest friends would only have to ante up $2.59 per person to take over this national historic landmark.

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