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.
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.
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.
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.
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.