The Barcelona Symphony Orchestra (OBC) was founded by Barcelona City Council in 1944, building on the Pau Casals Orchestra project (1920-1937) that had come to an end as a result of the Spanish Civil War. Today, remaining true to Pau Casals’ original spirit – open to the world and committed to society – it performs great works from the symphonic repertoire, with a particular focus on Catalan artists and heritage.
Since 1999 it has had its own headquarters in L'Auditori, the work of the architect Rafael Moneo, where it performs more than twenty seasonal programs as well as other concerts that bring orchestral music to the public. To this activity must be added the concerts in emblematic places, such as the OBC Concert on the beach, the Mercè Concert in the Plaça de la Catedral and in Nou Barris or in the Sagrada Família.
The OBC’s first ever principal conductor was Eduard Toldrà, and this position has been held since September 2015 by Kazushi Ono, who is also music director of the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra. Jan Willem de Vriend is the current principal guest conductor. Other music directors have included Rafael Ferrer, Antoni Ros Marbà, Salvador Mas, Franz-Paul Decker, Luis Antonio García Navarro, Lawrence Foster, Ernest Martínez Izquierdo, Eiji Oue and Pablo González. It has been conducted by Ataúlfo Argenta, Herbert Blomstedt, Sergiu Celibidache, Sergiu Comissiona, Christoph von Dohnányi, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Valery Gergiev, Christopher Hogwood, Eliahu Inbal, Mariss Jansons, Clemens Krauss, Emmanuel Krivine, Jesús López Cobos, Witold Lutosławski, Peter Maag, Bruno Maderna, Yehudi Menuhin, Marc Minkowski, Michel Plasson, Georges Prêtre, Mstislav Rostropovich, Leonard Slatkin, Simone Young and Heitor Villa-Lobos.
Notable guest soloists include Lang Lang, Janine Jansen, Daniel Barenboim, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Isaac Stern, Radu Lupu, Frank Peter Zimmermann, Arcadi Volodos, Plácido Domingo, Montserrat Caballé, Teresa Berganza, Alícia de Larrocha, Pinchas Zukerman, Martha Argerich, Joshua Bell, Gidon Kremer, Truls Mørk, Viktoria Mullova, Piotr Anderszewski, Gil Shaham, Rudolf Buchbinder, Joaquín Achúcarro, Claudio Arrau and Arthur Rubinstein.
During its trajectory of more than 70 years, the Orchestra has hosted numerous premieres and made several recordings with Decca, EMI, Auvidis, Koch, Claves, Naxos, Telarc and BIS, among others, performing works by Montsalvatge, Gerhard, Falla, d’Albert, Albéniz, Donhány, Bartók, Bizet and Rodrigo. Among these recordings are the Concierto de Aranjuez, featuring the outstanding guitarist Xuefei Yang, for the EMI record label, and Albéniz and Garreta monographs for the Tritó label. It also collaborates with Naxos, with whom it has recorded Bizet’s Carmen, as well as other works by Meyerbeer, Montsalvatge, Massenet and Granados, recording his complete symphonic work. In addition, the OBC has won the Latin Grammy for "Best Classical Music Album" on three occasions: in 2000 with La Dolores, in 2004 with Carmen Symphony and in 2006 with Rhapsody in Blue.
The Orchestra continues its artistic activity on the international scene, with tours in various countries in Europe, Asia and the United States. This has allowed it to perform in renowned concert halls such as the Musikverein, Wiener Konzerthaus, the Concertgebouw, Royal Albert Hall, Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall, and to participate in international festivals like the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in London. In Barcelona, and as part of its collaboration with the Gran Teatre del Liceu, it has performed at the Liceu the operas The Gambler, Daphne, The Magic Flute, Rienzi, Il Tabarro, Una Voce in off and La voix humaine in concert version. The OBC’s most recent international activity was in July 2019 when it conducted a five-week tour of the top concert halls in Japan, performing Puccini’s opera Turandot, in a stage version directed by Àlex Ollé (La Fura dels Baus), as well as several symphonic programmes.
The OBC is part of the Auditorium and Orchestra Consortium, formed by the Generalitat de Catalunya and Barcelona City Council.