In 1979, ninety-six enthusiastic players, amateurs, students, and professionals and a dynamic and probing conductor named Benjamin Zander joined together to found the Boston Philharmonic. Today, the musicians represent the original spirited blend, and account for the passion, high level of participation, and technical accomplishment for which this ensemble is celebrated. The professionals maintain the highest standard, the students keep the focus on training and education, and the gifted amateurs-including doctors, lawyers, teachers, and computer programmers-remind everybody that music-making is an expression of enthusiasm and love.
The Boston Philharmonic message rings loud and clear- music making is a privilege and a joy, and above all, a collaborative adventure. The orchestra’s season includes performances at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall, Sanders Theatre at Harvard University and often Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Symphony Hall and Carnegie Hall. The Philharmonic performs with a wide range of soloists from highly gifted performers at the start of their international careers such as Stefan Jackiw, Gabriela Montero and Caitlin Tully, to world-famous artists like Yo-Yo Ma, Alexander Baillie, Russell Sherman, Jon Kimura Parker and Kim Kashkashian and legendary masters such as Ivry Gitlis, Denes Zsigmondy, Georgy Sandor, Leonard Shure and Oscar Shumsky.
The Philharmonic has released five critically acclaimed recordings, including works by Stravinsky, Beethoven, Mahler, Shostakovich and Ravel. Among many other reviews of extravagant praise, Classic CD magazine gave the Boston Philharmonic’s recording of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring the highest rank of all available recordings. Of Mahler’s Symphony No. 6, American Record Guide wrote: “This joins the Rattle and the two Bernstein recordings as the finest on record…All the glory to Zander and his semi-professional orchestra, for the sixth is probably Mahler’s most difficult and complex symphony…All things considered, when I reach for a recording of the sixth to play for my own pleasure, it will most likely be this one.”
Boston Philharmonic concerts have long been a two-part experience; each performance is preceded by one of Benjamin Zander’s pre-concert lectures, which prepare listeners to understand the ideas and the structure of the music they are about to hear. The Philharmonic’s commitment to reaching and educating a wide audience is maintained by their Music Without Boundaries program which raises money to provide subscriptions for school-age students and to distribute tickets through local charities. To further accommodate new and uninitiated listeners, the Boston Philharmonic hosts a long-running weeknight Discovery Series, which incorporates Benjamin Zander’s lecture into the concert.
In March 2002, the Boston Philharmonic performed Mahler’s Ninth Symphony in Carnegie Hall and two days later returned to give a free concert, offered as a gift from the people of Boston to the people of New York in recognition of the extraordinary courage, compassion and generosity they demonstrated in the wake of 9/11. The concert was attended by family members and victims of the attacks as well as dignitaries from the UN and members of the New York Fire and Police Departments. Statements from both the Mayors of New York and Boston were read from the stage.