Austin | Dallas | Houston
Glorious History

Houston Symphony centennial book with magnificent photos celebrates a city with can-do spirit

Enlarge
Slideshow
The Houston Symphony Orchestra in the early 1930s with conductor Frank St. Leger
The Houston Symphony Orchestra in the early 1930s with conductor Frank St. Leger, a photo that appears in Houston Symphony: Celebrating a Century. Photo by Merchants Photo Service. Courtesy of Sandra G. Matthews.
First Houston Symphony add first concert book
The advertisement for the Houston Symphony's first concert was written by philanthropist Ima Hogg. Image courtesy of the Houston Symphony
Majestic Theater Houston Symphony Book
The New Majestic Theatre on Texas Avenue at Milam Street, 1913. Karl Hoblitzelle offered space for free as concerts were held between the afternoon and evening vaudeville shows. Photo courtesy of the Houston Symphony
Ima Hogg served her second term as President of the Houston Symphony Society
Ima Hogg served her second term as president of the Houston Symphony Society from 1948-1958. Photo by Gittings
Julien Paul Blitz, first conductor of the HS
Julien Paul Blitz, first conductor of the Houston Symphony. Photo courtesy of the Pat Gutierrez Collection, SC.1310, Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library
Goodwill tour of the Houston Symphony, 1943
Goodwill tour of the Houston Symphony, 1943. Image courtesy of Karin Jameson
Early Houston Symphony Houston symphony book photo
The orchestra in 1915 included four women players. Photo courtesy of the Houston Symphony Archives
Houston Symphony String quartet: seated, Ray Fliegel; standing, Irving Wadler, Hank Hlavaty and Alfred Urbach
A string quartet of Houston Symphony players included Ray Fliegel, seated, with Irving Wadler, Hank Hlavaty and Alfred Urbach. Photo by Edward A. Bourdon. Courtesy of Ida Wadler
Sir John Barbirolli and concertmaster Raphael Fliegel, 1960s.
Sir John Barbirolli and concertmaster Raphael Fliegel, 1960s. Photo by Peter E. Sherratt. Courtesy of Karin Jameson.
Ima Hogg & Larry Foster at a 1975 Annual Fund meeting
Ima Hogg and Larry Foster at a 1975 Annual Fund meeting. Photo by Jim Caldwell
Leopold Stokowski, circa 1957
Leopold Stokowski, circa 1957. Image courtesy of the Houston Symphony
The Houston Symphony Orchestra in the early 1930s with conductor Frank St. Leger
First Houston Symphony add first concert book
Majestic Theater Houston Symphony Book
Ima Hogg served her second term as President of the Houston Symphony Society
Julien Paul Blitz, first conductor of the HS
Goodwill tour of the Houston Symphony, 1943
Early Houston Symphony Houston symphony book photo
Houston Symphony String quartet: seated, Ray Fliegel; standing, Irving Wadler, Hank Hlavaty and Alfred Urbach
Sir John Barbirolli and concertmaster Raphael Fliegel, 1960s.
Ima Hogg & Larry Foster at a 1975 Annual Fund meeting
Leopold Stokowski, circa 1957

Here's is something of a gem for Houston history buffs. Famed philanthropist Ima Hogg, in an effort to rouse attendance for the Houston Symphony's inaugural 1913 performance on June 21, penned a bulletin that read, "Let us all go to that concert and so pack the Majestic Theatre that there can be no doubt in the promoters' minds that Houston wants such an orchestra."

Tickets sold for 25 cents to $1.

One hundred years later, is there any doubt of the ensemble's remarkable achievements?

It's tidbits such as this one that render Houston Symphony: Celebrating a Century a treasure that chronicles the blossoming of a city whose arts scene is the envy of other major national and international destinations. The 200-page hardcover book unravels an intertwined tale of a bevy of can-do personalities, many of them women, who thrived through periods of prosperity and persevered in times of crisis to nurture what's today a forte that defines Houston's ethos.

Written by former Houston Post critic Carl Cunningham, one of Houston performing arts' most influential critical voices, in collaboration with Houston Symphony archivists Terry Ann Brown and Ginny Garrett, Houston Symphony: Celebrating a Century has been a work in progress for three decades.

"We should consider ourselves lucky to be Houstonians, to call home a place whose generosity has formed an oasis unlike anywhere else in the country."

"Writing the book wasn't without setbacks," Cunningham tells CultureMap. "Similar to the journey of the Houston Symphony, writing the book has been its own adventure."

The idea for the tome was proposed nearly 30 years ago by former board member and longtime Houston Symphony patron Katherine Taylor Mize, but complications that saw Cunningham out of work when the Houston Post closed, in addition to health concerns, personal loss and the destruction caused by Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 derailed the completion of the project. Finally, in observance of the Houston Symphony's 100-year milestone, the Houston Symphony Society revived the venture.

For the symphony's early days, Cunningham says he's indebted to the work of his Houston Post predecessor, Hubert Roussel, whose publication Houston Symphony Orchestra, 1913-71 offers a detailed account about the ensemble's beginnings. Numerous interviews with a band of historians, conductors, musicians, staff, volunteers and city stakeholders sketch the continuation of the nonprofit's growth and development.

Historical photos and a well-thought-out timeline supplement the rich narrative that's not only about the classical group.

"What the story of the Houston Symphony says is that this city has an invincible spirit that can't be broken," Cunningham adds. "We should consider ourselves lucky to be Houstonians, to call home a place whose generosity has formed an oasis unlike anywhere else in the country."

___

Houston Symphony: Celebrating a Century, published by Herring Design, is available for $70 at the Symphony Store (located in the lobby of Jones Hall), the Patron Services Center (box office) and by calling 713-224-7575. The book is also available at the River Oaks Bookstore.

Newsletters for exploring your city

Daily Digest

Houston news, views + events

The Dining Report

News you can eat

Insider Offers

Curated experiences at exclusive prices

Promo Alerts

Special offers + exclusive deals

We will not share or sell your email address