The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra is one of six orchestras performing under the auspices of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and with dozens of recordings in its catalogue, it is among the most heavily recorded of the ABC orchestras.
It is an internationally recognized orchestra, led largely by little-known conductors over the years. Though the TSO is a chamber-sized ensemble, it performs large orchestral works by Dvorák, Smetana, Ravel, Shostakovich, and others, and has recorded the complete symphonies of Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Schumann. What the orchestra may be best known for is its advocacy for contemporary Australian music: the TSO has championed works by Australian stalwarts Brett Dean, Carl Vine, Don Kay, Graeme Koehne, and a host of others. The TSO has recorded for Chandos, ABC Classics, Hyperion, and other major labels.
The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra was organized in 1948 and gave its first concert under conductor Joseph Post on May 25, 1948. While that inaugural event was performed in Hobart Town Hall, the ensemble would often concertize in a variety of venues in Tasmania. The TSO's first chief conductor was Kenneth Murison Bourn, who served until 1962. Under Bourn, the TSO established its own weekly radio broadcast in 1956, entitled Journey into Melody. It ran until 1969, by which time Bourn's successor, Thomas Matthews (1962-1968), had come and gone. In 1973, the TSO moved to a new home, the ABC Odeon Building in Hobart. From the late 1960s and into 1980s the TSO had a number of chief conductors, foremost among whom was virtuoso French horn player Barry Tuckwell. Chief conductor Dobbs Franks (1989-1991) was succeeded by David Procelijn. While under Procelijn, the TSO became the first Australian orchestra to record all the Beethoven symphonies, a highly praised effort issued on ABC Classics. In 1998, the TSO moved to yet another new home, the Federation Concert Hall, in Hobart. From 2001, the year Ola Rudner was appointed chief conductor, the TSO began recording for Hyperion, making 16 recordings in the label's Romantic Piano Concerto series. The pianist and conductor in that effort was Howard Shelley. In 2006, the TSO began recording for the Australian Composer Series on ABC Classics, producing more than 20 releases. Sebastian Lang-Lessing succeeded Rudner in 2004 and in 2012, Marko Letonja became chief conductor and remained until the end of 2018. In December 2016, the TSO toured the Chinese provinces of Jiangsu, Fujian and Shanghai, performing nine times in seven cities before returning to Tansmania in January 2017. Eivind Aadland was named chief conductor as of 2020.