The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra is one of six orchestras performing under the auspices of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Consisting of 47 members, it is the smallest of these ensembles, but among the most heavily recorded. With well over 50 recordings in the last couple of decades alone, 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. But 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 consisted then of just 24 members, though provision was made for augmentation with as many as seven others for certain concerts. The TSO gave its first concert under conductor Joseph Post on May 25, 1948, and while that inaugural event was performed in Hobart Town Hall, the ensemble would often concertize in a variety of venues in Tasmania throughout its history.
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 '60s 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 a 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 nine recordings through 2010 in that label's Romantic Piano Concerto series. The pianist and conductor in that on-going effort has been Howard Shelley. Sebastian Lang-Lessing succeeded Rudner in 2004 and in 2012, Marko Letonja became chief conductor.