By Stephanie Foden, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Classical music in Brazil is often overlooked internationally, with all the focus on samba and bossa nova. However, the Orquestra Sinfônica Brasileira (Brazil Symphony Orchestra), or OSB, is an important part of national culture and the most renowned orchestra in the country.

The OSB performing at Theatro Municipal, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News.
The OSB performing at Theatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro, photo by Rogério Resende.

Since its origin in 1940, the OSB has spread classical music around Brazil and strives to be one of the greatest symphonies in the world. Paving the way for other ensembles in Brazil, the OSB was the first in the country to tour abroad and perform open-air concerts.

The Rio de Janeiro-based orchestra has produced notable national talent, including violinist Antônio Menese and pianists Nelson Freire and Arnaldo Cohen. Additionally, the OSB has played alongside some musical greats such as Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Rubinstein, Mstislav Rostropovich, Jean-Pierre Rampal and José Carreras.

Boasting such an impressive repertoire, the OSB welcomed British bassoonist Matthew Taylor this past April. The seasoned musician has played for several orchestras the world over, and his résumé is as extensive as it is eclectic, having recorded as a session musician on Paul McCartney’s upcoming album and recently playing in a Bollywood concert in Mumbai with composer Aadesh Shrivastava and actor Amitabh Bachchan.

“It’s a very exciting time to be working in the OSB, the orchestra has a really fantastic future. And for my section, the woodwinds, it’s on the level with the best that I’ve worked with. The people are very supportive and dedicated,” Taylor told The Rio Times.

Matthew Taylor and his bassoon at a performance, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Matthew Taylor and his bassoon at a performance, photo by Hiroyuki Ito.

While the current orchestra is comprised of mainly Brazilian musicians, it does have a international representation, with players from Scotland, Chile, Poland and Spain, among others.

The OSB has regular performances at Sala São Paulo, in Rio’s famous Theatro Municipal, as well as concerts in other state capitals. On Sunday mornings, they do a show for kids at the Municipal for just R$1.

The orchestra also occasionally performs free of charge at parks and theaters, and will be taking to the stage at Brazil’s massive recently returned music festival, the 2013 Rock in Rio.

The Sinfônica’s principal conductor is Grammy and Emmy award winner Roberto Minczuk, who also serves as the music director for the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. Pablo Castellar, whose compositions have been presented at the Juilliard School, Frederick Loewe Theatre, Hubard Hall and Lincoln Center, is the Artistic Director.

“[Minczuk] really challenges us to play better. He expects the same from us as he would from the best European ensembles,” said Taylor. “He doesn’t accept anything less than our very best.”

The OSB also has a youth project with the goal to train young musicians throughout Brazil by playing in an orchestra and serving as a launch pad to their early musical career.

Tickets in Rio at the Theatro Municipal in Centro, Espaço Tom Jobim in Jardim Botânico, and Teatro Bradesco in Barra da Tijuca range from R$20 to R$140. They can be purchased at theater box offices or online. For more information about the Brazil Symphony Orchestra or to see their full schedule, visit their website.

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