Ottawa Philharmonic Orchestra

Ottawa Philharmonic Orchestra. Formed in 1944 under Allard de Ridder, after lengthy preparations, begun in 1932, to provide Ottawa with a symphony orchestra. With about 75 players, including band members from the area, the orchestra made its debut 6 Sep 1944.

Ottawa Philharmonic Orchestra

Ottawa Philharmonic Orchestra. Formed in 1944 under Allard de Ridder, after lengthy preparations, begun in 1932, to provide Ottawa with a symphony orchestra. With about 75 players, including band members from the area, the orchestra made its debut 6 Sep 1944. Its official name (until 1952) was the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra, but it was commonly known as the Ottawa Philharmonic Orchestra even in the early years. (It should not be confused with the earlier Ottawa Symphony Orchestra of 1908-27, nor with the later Ottawa Symphony Orchestra formed in 1965.)

Concerts of the Ottawa Philharmonic were given at the Capitol Theatre (Ottawa). Conductors were de Ridder 1944-50, Eugene Kash 1950-7, and Thomas Mayer 1957-60. (Mayer, b Germany 2 Sep 1907, also conducted the Halifax Symphony Orchestra 1955-7 and at Stratford and for the CBC and later returned to Europe.) Concertmasters were Kash 1944-50, Armand Weisbord 1950-7, Willy Amtmann 1957-9, and Max Rabinovitsj 1959-60. Under Kash, who had introduced a highly successful children's concert series while he was concertmaster, the orchestra began a subscription series of five concerts. In 1957 the orchestra established a nucleus of 36 full-time musicians, increased to 50 by 1959. Under Mayer the schedule grew to 60 concerts annually and included weekly CBC broadcasts. Though the 1958-9 season probably was its most successful, capped by sell-out performances 16 and 17 Mar 1959 of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, the orchestra was suspended in 1960 when its board could not meet the salary demands of the American Federation of Musicians local 180. Plans for a revival were dropped when the National Arts Centre announced its intention to establish a resident full-time orchestra. When the Ottawa Philharmonic Orchestra's charter was relinquished in 1971, its papers were deposited at the National Library of Canada.

The repertoire of the Ottawa Philharmonic was conventional, though a smaller ensemble - the professional nucleus - played more modern works. Nevertheless, the Philharmonic included in its programs works by Violet Archer, Alexander Brott, Harry Freedman, Pierre Mercure, Oscar Morawetz, Eldon Rathburn, and Harry Somers. In 1955 it sponsored a national competition for Canadian composers. The winning composition, Festival Concertino by Neil McKay of London, Ont, was premiered 5 May 1955.

See also: Ottawa; Orchestras - Ontario


Further Reading

  • Kritzwiser, Kay. 'Ottawa's just wild about its band,' Toronto Globe Magazine, 8 Nov 1958

    Begg, Debra Anne. 'A history of orchestras in Ottawa from 1894 to 1960,' MA thesis, Carleton University 1981