In 1979 a precursor ensemble consisting of 55 musicians, the Orchestre Variations, was founded by four musicians, including Marc Bélanger, the ensemble's conductor. Two years later the ensemble was renamed the Orchestre Métropolitain du Grand Montréal (and later, Orchestre Métropolitain). It was also enlarged to over 60 players, but gave relatively few concerts, using such venues as Île Notre-Dame and Maurice-Richard Arena.
In 1985 the orchestra presented its first regular season of concerts from a new home, the Théâtre Maisonneuve in Place des Arts. In 1986 Bélanger was succeeded as music director by Agnès Grossmann, and the Orchestre Métropolitain choir also formed. The OM also began commissioning works: John Rea's Over Time was premiered in 1987 and led the way to further successful commissions.
Joseph Rescigno succeeded Grossman in 1995, serving as artistic director until 2000. Yannick Nézet-Séguin
became the fourth conductor to head the orchestra and still holds the post of artistic director. Under Nézet-Séguin
's leadership the orchestra's reputation has grown, not least because of its success on records. The Nézet-Séguin
/OM 2002 recording of Nino Rota
's La Strada and Weill
's Symphony No. 2 was highly acclaimed and the first of many on the Atma Classique
label. Conductor and ensemble have consistently accrued prestigious awards, too, including three Opus Awards in 2005, given by the Conseil québécois de la musique. Nézet-Séguin
was also then named performer of the year. The Orchestre Métropolitain's later recordings include the 2009 Bruckner
Symphony No. 9, with Nézet-Séguin
conducting, on Atma Classique