THE SIMÓN BOLÍVAR SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA OF VENEZUELA (SBSOV, previously Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra) was founded by José Antonio Abreu and a group of fellow musicians, who were inspired by the ideals of Simón Bolívar. The orchestra is comprised of over 200 young musicians between the ages of 18 and 28, and is the flagship of the orchestral academic program of the Fundación Musical “Simón Bolívar” (Fundamusical Bolívar).
Fundamusical Bolívar currently involves 400,000 beneficiaries across Venezuela, in a system that includes more than 1550 music agrupations distributed in 286 academic centers. Seventy-five percent of these children live below the poverty line. “For the children that we work with, music is practically the only way to a dignified social destiny. Poverty means loneliness, sadness, anonymity. An orchestra means joy, motivation, teamwork, the aspiration to success.” (José Antonio Abreu). Transcending its cultural role, Fundamusical Bolívar employs over 15,000 individuals whose talents and skills include training in instrument making, arts administration, and news media.
The orchestral program allows the musicians of the SBSOV to explore a demanding repertory through master classes and concerts, involving soloists from leading orchestras and arts institutions, such as the members of the Berliner Philharmoniker, the Sibelius Academy of Finland, Stuttgart Bachakademie, and the New England Conservatory in Boston, to name a few. Their work and exchange with international conductors includes Sir Simon Rattle and Claudio Abbado, aside of working for months of the year with Gustavo Dudamel, their Music Director and also a product of Fundamusical Bolívar.
The SBSOV has toured several times in Germany, appearing in major venues including the Berlin Philharmonie and Essen Philharmonie. It has also performed at the Parco della Musica in Rome, the Teatro Massimo in Palermo, and at the Lucerne Easter Festival. In the summer of 2007, they appeared at the BBC Proms, the Edinburgh Festival, and venues around Germany, including the Schleswig-Holstein Festival and the Semperoper Dresden. In Autumn 2007 the orchestra undertook a major tour with sold-out concerts in Mexico, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, and Carnegie Hall in New York, where the orchestra was conducted by Gustavo Dudamel and Simon Rattle as part of the “Berlin in Lights” festival, followed by a highly acclaimed tour in Spain. In Summer 2008 the Orchestra played at the most important European festivals and cities, including Berlin, Frankfurt, Lucerne, Baden-Baden, Helsinki, and an extraordinarily successful residency at the Salzburg Festival. In December 2008, the SBSOV made its debut in Asia with concerts in Beijing, Seoul, Tokyo, and Hiroshima. In April 2009, their North American tour presented the orchestra in sold-out residencies in Houston, Washington, Chicago, and London. In October 2009, the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, led by Gustavo Dudamel, toured a selection of Europe’s most prestigious venues, including the Konzerthaus in Vienna, the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, and the Salle Pleyel in Paris. This European was followed by a trip to Toronto, where the SBYO had a week-long residency as its Canadian debut to celebrate the awarding of the Glenn Gould Prize to its founder and director, Maestro José Antonio Abreu.
In March 2010 their residency at the Lucerne Festival at Easter offered four extraordinary concerts with four extraordinary conductors: Claudio Abbado, Gustavo Dudamel, and two young talented Venezuelan conductors, Christian Vásquez and Diego Matheuz. In June 2010 their major European tour included concerts and activities in Gothenburg, Oslo, Stockholm, St. Petersburg, Moscow, Warsaw, Athens, and Granada, making their debut in all these venues.
To mark the bicentennial of the independence of Latin America, the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela undertook a major tour of the region under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel, with concerts in Salvador de Bahia, Paulinia, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Santiago de Chile, and Bogotá, performing works by Mahler, Ravel, Castellanos, and Stravinsky. In August, they returned to BBC Proms after their now legendary 2007 concert, and to the Salzburg Festival to perform works by Mahler and Tchaikovsky. This tour ended with the Orchestra’s first performances at the Istanbul Music Festival. In November, they returned to Europe for a short tour with stops in Zurich, La Scala and Rome, where they performed works by Ravel, Beethoven, and Stravinsky. The same month, the orchestra faced its first international tour under the baton of the talented Diego Matheuz, already a star in Italy, playing concerts in Torino, Napoli, Genova, Palermo, and Reggio Emilia, performing among other works Berlioz’ Symphonie fantastique.
The SBSOV and Gustavo Dudamel record for Deutsche Grammophon, and have released recordings of Beethoven’s Symphonies Nos. 5 and 7, Mahler’s Symphony No. 5, the superhit CD Fiesta, with works by Latin American composers, as well as a Tchaikovsky album featuring his Symphony No. 5 alongside Francesca da Rimini.