The Toronto Philharmonic has a long history of presence in Canadian classical music. The earliest record of a philharmonic ensemble is found in 1897, with a concert at Massey Hall celebrating the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria. Then a part of the Philharmonic society, the TPO has held many concerts under a variety of different venues throughout the twentieth century.
Appearing as the Promenade Symphony Orchestra in 1934, the philharmonic began to take a more established shape during the 1930’s. Reginald Stewart is credited as founder of the orchestra in ‘34, before officially changing name to the Toronto Philharmonic Orchestra in the 1941-1942 season. Popular at the time were a series of concerts at The Promenade, where the orchestra frequently played and derived its previous name from. The ensemble continued to give concerts until 1956.
An ensemble of up to 65 players was conducted by Paul Robinson, formed in 1989 with players from the CJRT Orchestra, which after 1989 became essentially a broadcasting ensemble. The orchestra has sought to present repertoire that complements that of the TS and has given from five to six concerts each season. Guest artists have included Moshe Hammer, Ofra Harnoy, Anton Kuerti, and Igor and Valery Oistrakh. Adele Armin was concertmaster in 1990. The orchestra performed regularly in Massey Hall until 1991, when it moved its main series to the Danforth Music Hall. The Toronto Philharmonic Chorus was formed in 1990 under Giles Bryant to perform Verdi’s Requiem with the orchestra. An associate ensemble, the Toronto Chamber Orchestra, is operated by the Toronto Philharmonic Society and had by 1991 recorded three albums with Ofra Harnoy.
The orchestra was reincorporated in 2005-2012 with a brief active season, remaining dormant until it’s revival in 2017. Jasper Moss will be the first conductor to lead the orchestra in the 2023 orchestra’s return season.
A program poster from the TPO’s ‘Promenade Symphony’ concerts in 1945.
A detail of a sketch of Founding conductor Reginald Stewart, by artist Arthur Lismer. May 1921.
A concert for Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee by the Toronto Philharmonic. 1879.
The New York Times obituary of Reginald Stewart, with details of the TPO. 1984.
Current Music Director
Past Guest Conductors
- Paul Scherman
- Kerry Stratton
- Stanley Chapple
- Eugene ‘Jack’ Kash
- Sir Ernest MacMillan
- Sir Phillip F. Morley
- Joseph Leopold ‘Leo’ Smith
- J. Humfrey Anger
- Saulius Sondeckis