The São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra (OSESP) gave its first concert in 1954 and since has had a long history of achievements which culminated in an institution that is now recognized internationally for the excellence of its production. The Orchestra is an important part of the state's cultural scene as well as an agent of evolution and creation of a new model for concert music and a reference for the management of culture in our country.
During its first years the São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra was directed by Maestro Souza Lima and then by the Italian conductor Bruno Roccella. Later, the Brazilian conductor Eleazar de Carvalho accepted the position of music director and stayed at the Orchestra's helm for 24 years, giving many live performances each year, with regular performances at the Cultura Artística Theatre, broadcasts on TV Cultura, tours around the country and concerts for youth. It also organized competitions for young soloists. In more recent years under Carvalho's leadership, the Orchestra went through a period of difficulties, but before his death the maestro drew up a project for redesigning the Orchestra. With backing from the State Department of Culture and efforts by Governor Mario Covas, a process was conducted to choose a successor who would begin a new phase in the organization's history.
In 1997 Maestro John Neschling was taken on as the Orchestra’s artistic director, with conductor Roberto Minczuk as his assistant. The Orchestra was soon redefining and broadening the objectives set down by Mr. Carvalho. Auditions were held with musicians from around the world, and higher wages and better working conditions were offered.
The Sala São Paulo (São Paulo Concert Hall) opened its doors in 1999 and in following years, a number of other projects were put into operation, including four different choirs (the Symphony, Chamber, Youth and Children's choirs). The Maestro Eleazar de Carvalho Musical Documentation Center began operating, and other related activities were set up, including a subscription service, a volunteer program, various educational programs, a music publishing division for creative Brazilian musical scores (Criadores do Brasil), and the OSESP Academy for young musicians.
In recent years, the concert seasons have presented a highly diversified repertoire, and the organization has established an ongoing partnership with the Swedish BIS, which guarantees international diffusion of Brazilian concert music.
The São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra Foundation was set up in 2005, representing a positive milestone in the Orchestra's history. With former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso as President of the Board of Directors, the foundation has put new standards of management in place, which have since become references for the Brazilian cultural environment in general.
The Orchestra went on tour in Latin America (2000, 2005 and 2007), in the USA (2002 and 2006), in Europe (2003 and 2007), and throughout Brazil (2004 and 2008). It has also gone on tour to many different cities in the State of São Paulo, presenting concerts, workshops and music appreciation courses that have reached over 70,000 people. The Orchestra’s next U.S. tour takes place in 2009.
On December 31, 2008, a New Year's program was conducted by Mr. Neschling and broadcast live by the French and German Arte Television Channel, to viewers in France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, Austria, Poland, Finland, Portugal, Denmark, Hungary, Sweden, Italy, The Netherlands and Brazil.
Recently acknowledged by Gramophone Magazine as one of three up-and-coming ensembles among the world’s greatest orchestras, the São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra represents a continuation of its original project of constant expansion of Brazilian musical culture, and is opening its 2009 season under the new head conductor, Yan Pascal Tortelier.