In the wake of the 1906 earthquake, establishment of a permanent orchestra was high on San Francisco's civic agenda, and in December 1911 the San Francisco Symphony gave its first concerts. Almost immediately, the Symphony revitalized the city's cultural life with programs that offered a kaleidoscope of classics and new music. The Orchestra grew in stature and acclaim under a succession of distinguished music directors: Henry Hadley, among the foremost American composers of his era, Alfred Hertz (who had led the American premieres of Parsifal, Salome, and Der Rosenkavalier at the Metropolitan Opera), Basil Cameron, Classay Dobrowen, the legendary Pierre Monteux (who introduced the world to Le Sacre du printemps and Petrushka), Enrique Jordá, Josef Krips, Seiji Ozawa, Herbert Blomstedt (who continues to serve as Conductor Laureate), and Michael Tilson Thomas, who assumed his post as Music Director in September 1995.
The Symphony has been honored seven times by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers for adventuresome programming of new music. And in 1979, the appointment of John Adams as New Music Adviser became a model for composer-in-residence programs since adopted by major orchestras across America (Adams served as Composer-in-Residence until 1985; Charles Wuorinen held the post from 1985 until 1989, George Perle from 1989 until 1991). In 1980, the Orchestra moved into the newly built Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall. 1980 also saw the founding of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, winner in 1985 of the world's highest honor for a young musicians' ensemble, the City of Vienna Prize. The San Francisco Symphony Chorus has been heard around the world on the soundtracks of three major films, Amadeus, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Godfather III.
In recent seasons the San Francisco Symphony has won some of the world's most prestigious recording awards, including Japan's Record Academy Award, France's Grand Prix du Disque, Britain's Gramophone Award, and the United States's Grammy for Carmina burana, Brahms's German Requiem, and scenes from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet. That collaboration has produced a series of recordings that includes Mahler's Das klagende Lied, Copland the Modernist, Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, George Gershwin - The 100th Birthday Celebration (featuring works MTT and the SFS performed in September 1998 at Carnegie Hall's opening gala, which was telecast nationally on PBS's Great Performances), and Stravinsky's Le Sacre du printemps, The Firebird, and Perséphone - these last three works part of an album that recently won three Grammy awards. The San Francisco Symphony tours Europe and Asia regularly and in 1990 made a stunning debut at the Salz Festival.