One of Australia’s premier cultural icons, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra celebrates 100 years on 11 December, 2006 with an invitation-only concert to subscribers, patrons, sponsors and dignitaries at the Arts Centre, Hamer Hall. Due to overwhelming demand by subscribers, a second concert will be held on Sunday 10 December as part of the centenary celebrations.

Hosted by Tony Charlton, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra will perform a specially-commissioned work, Clouds and Trumpets by Australian composer, Gordon Kerry. Young Australian singers Rachelle Durkin, Renae Martin, Henry Choo and Christopher Tonkin join the MSO’s Chief Conductor and Artistic Director Oleg Caetani and the Melbourne Chorale on stage for Beethoven’s epic Ninth symphony.

This historic occasion marks the MSO as the oldest professional orchestra in Australia; and Melbourne as the only city with a continuous history of orchestral performance. The city itself was only founded in 1835, yet the sophistication of its citizens demanded their own orchestra.

The first concert took place on 11 December, 1906 in the Melbourne Town Hall under the baton of Alberto Zelman, founder of the MSO, who later became the first Australian conductor invited to conduct the London and Berlin Philharmonic orchestras.

‘[The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra] ably directed may quite conceivably come to fill an important place in our local musical history…the new society and its conductor deserve warm congratulations on so promising a first appearance.’ The Age, 12 December 1906

Throughout 2007, the MSO will celebrate the year with special Centenary events including:
• its second European tour, visiting Spain, Paris, Berlin and Milan under the baton of Chief Conductor and Artistic Director Oleg Caetani. The Orchestra’s tour concludes in Milan during the City of Melbourne Melbourne a Milano week.
• A Centenary exhibition of MSO memorabilia at the Arts Centre, George Adams Gallery between February and May 2007.
• A book celebrating the Orchestra’s centenary written by acclaimed historian, Stella M. Barber will be published in May 2007.
• ABC Classics will release a 10 CD set in a retrospective of celebrated MSO recordings to be released in mid 2007.

Since the MSO’s inception it has developed a tradition of flexibility, innovation and excellence keeping the Orchestra at the forefront of orchestral music-making in Australia.

Highlights of MSO’s 100 years:
1906 the MSO was founded by Australian-born conductor Alberto Zelman and staged its first concert at the Melbourne Town Hall. The first president of the MSO was Professor GWL Marshall Hall, first Ormond Professor of Music and the first music professor of any state in Australia. The first Patron was Lady Northcote.
1909 the first performance of Handel’s Messiah, which has become an annual concert experience.
• From 1913 the MSO was the orchestra of choice for Dame Nellie Melba, performing with her some 30 times. Melba became the MSO’s Patroness from 1921.
1920s the first Australian orchestra to perform childrens’ concerts under the baton of Alberto Zelman. From the 1920s onwards, the Orchestra gave Australian premieres of orchestral works.
From 1923 the first professional Australian orchestra to have a female leader, violinist Bertha Jorgensen, who went on to play with the Orchestra for 50 years and became the longest-serving female leader of an orchestra on an international scale.
1927 Following Alberto Zelman’s death, Fritz Hart steps in as the MSO’s regular conductor.
1929 the first Australian orchestra to play open air concerts in Melbourne’s Alexandra Gardens under the baton of Fritz Hart. These ‘Popular Concerts’ were made possible through a donation by Sidney Myer.
1932 Sidney Myer succeeded Melba as the MSO’s President and served in that role until his death; MSO was the first orchestra to be broadcast by the newly-created Australian Broadcasting Commission.
1933 Fritz Hart and Bernard Heinze share the position of Artistic Directors of the MSO; Heinze was also musical advisor to the ABC.
1934/35 Bernard Heinze’s established his Celebrity Concerts and his Young Peoples Concerts.
1939-42 the MSO continued to perform during WWII with War Funds Concerts – with afternoon concerts also becoming the norm during wartime blackouts.
1949 the MSO was renamed the Victorian Symphony Orchestra with the ABC and the Government sharing the running costs of the Orchestra.
1959 the Orchestra performed at the opening of the Sidney Myer Music Bowl and since then has performed free concerts there each year.
1956 the SSO and the Victorian Symphony Orchestra (MSO) combined together for the first time to perform at Melbourne’s Olympic Games festival.
1965 the first Australian orchestra to tour internationally to New Zealand for the Pan Pacific Arts Festival under the batons of Sir Malcolm Sargent and John Hopkins; the VSO reverts back to its original name MSO.
1967 the MSO performed at the Montreal World Festival under the baton of Willem van Otterloo.
1970 the first Australian orchestra to tour North America and to perform in New York’s Carnegie Hall.
1973 MSO under the baton of Walter Susskind performed for the opening of the Sydney Opera House.
1974 Hiroyuki Iwaki takes up the role of MSO’s Chief Conductor, later becoming Conductor Laureate.
From 1986 the MSO starts to collaborate with pop stars such as Elton John (1986). It has also enjoyed hugely-successful performances with the Three Tenors, Frank Sinatra, John Farnham, Dionne Warwick, Andrea Bocelli, Harry Connick, Jr. kd lang, Stevie Nicks, Ben Folds, rock bands KISS and Meat Loaf.
1987 the MSO tours Japan and Korea under the baton of Chief Conductor Hiroyuki Iwaki.
1998 Markus Stenz takes up the role of MSO’s Chief Conductor and Artistic Director
2000 the MSO’s first tour to Europe under the baton of Markus Stenz performing in Switzerland, Austria and Germany. During this tour the MSO joined some of the world's greatest orchestras, including the Vienna Philharmonic and New York Philharmonic at the prestigious Festival de Música de Canarias in the Canary Islands, where the Orchestra represented Australasia.
2001 Celebrating the Centenary of Federation with a performance of Mahler ‘s Symphony of a Thousand under Markus Stenz at the Royal Exhibition building.
2002 the MSO tours China under the baton of Markus Stenz and performs at the Shanghai International Arts Festival.
2003 the MSO was invited to perform in St Petersburg for ‘The International Stars of the White Nights’ Festival; Wilma Smith appointed as the MSO’s Concertmaster; KISS Symphony (with the MSO).
2005 Oleg Caetani takes over as MSO’s Chief Conductor and Artistic Director for a four-year appointment. Markus Tomasi is appointed Concertmaster and shares the role with Wilma Smith.
2006 The Orchestra launches its new MSO Pops series; it also performs for the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2006 Commonwealth Games.
2007 MSO celebrates its centenary year with a prestigious European tour to Spain, Paris, Berlin and Milan.