Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms: A messy premiere situation

Symphony of Psalms dedication

This symphony composed to the glory of GOD is dedicated to the “Boston Symphony Orhcestra” on the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary

– thus was Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms dedicated.

The Symphony was commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra for their 50th anniversary project, for a sweet US$6,000 (in 1930 dollars. Adjusting for inflation that would be roughly $90,500 in current US dollars, or just north of $710,000 HK dollars). Naturally, if you have paid such a large sum to have a piece written, you must be premiering it, right?

Not quite. Stravinsky has stipulated into the contract that if the BSO didn’t premiere the piece by late November 1930, it would be premiered by a European orchestra instead – and that’s exactly what happened.  Rather unfortunately for the BSO, Koussevitzky, music director of the orchestra who suggested the commission and who was scheduled to premiere the piece, fell ill and was unable to conduct the originally scheduled premiere.

The Symphony of Psalms, now one of Stravinsky’s best known works, was therefore premiered in Brussels by the Société Philharmonique de Bruxelles under the baton of conductor Ernest Ansermet, followed by the BSO and Koussevitzky just a few days afterwards.

Come hear us!

Of course, there is way more to the Symphony of Psalms than this messy premiere situation.  Come hear us perform this very interesting symphony along with Gounod’s St Cecilia Mass and Praulins’ Missa Rigensis in our upcoming concert on September 30 at HK City Hall Concert Hall!

Tickets now available at URBTIX outlets or online at

Proceeds, after deducting necessary expenses, will be donated to Hong Kong Christian Council’s School Building Project in Myanmar to build the Kyawt Ogh Village School.


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