Columbia Symphony Orchestra

Essential Albums

About Columbia Symphony Orchestra

The Columbia Symphony Orchestra has one of the more unusual stories in 20th-century classical-music history. On one hand, they really weren’t a conventional orchestra at all, but an ad hoc assemblage of musicians recruited by Columbia Records at various points—mostly from the late ’40s through the early ’80s—for various recording sessions on an as-needed basis, with constantly shifting personnel. That said, the orchestra (whatever its iteration at each juncture) recorded with some of the greatest conductors on milestone albums. A few examples include recordings conducted by Bruno Walter from the late ’50s to early ’60s of Mozart, Mahler, Brahms, and others; 1958’s Leonard Bernstein-led recordings of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and An American in Paris; and some of Stravinsky’s greatest works, such as their 1962 recording of The Rite of Spring, conducted by the composer himself. However, due to the CSO’s malleable nature, their name is found in a wide range of contexts, including Barbra Streisand’s 1976 release Classical Barbra and 1981’s When You Wish Upon a Star: A Tribute to Walt Disney.

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