The Manila Symphony Orchestra is one of the oldest orchestras in Asia. Founded by Dr. Alexander Lippay in 1926, the orchestra has played a major role in Philippine history. Through the years it has hosted artists Montserrat Caballé, Yehudi Menuhin, Igor Oistrakh, Eugene Istomin, Fou Ts'ong, Barry Tuckwell, Paul Badura-Skoda and Rony Rogoff, as well as conductors Andre Kostelanetz, Arthur Fiedler, Mendi Rodan, Robert Feist, Gareth Nair and Helen Quach.
MSO has instituted two main programs intended to develop Filipino musical artistry and showcase Filipino musical talent, the "Young Artists’ Competitions" and the Luneta Concerts (known as “Concert in the Park”). The Manila Symphony Orchestra today has young musicians who are trained by the Philippine Research for Developing International Soloists (PREDIS), which was founded by Basilio Manalo and Sister Mary Placid Abejo at St. Scholastica’s College. Filipino conductors have taken the helm of the MSO, including Francisco Santiago, Basilio Manalo, and (currently) Arturo Molina.
In 1931 the Manila Symphony Society (MSS) with Mrs. Filomena Legarda as its president was formed to support the MSO’s regular season concerts. During the 1940s until the 1960s the orchestra was led by the Dr. Herbert Zipper who led the orchestra to perform major symphonic works, ballets and opera productions, giving Manila a significant place in Asia’s cultural landscape. Aside from performing in major concert venues in the country, the MSO was also visible to a great number of Filipinos through its televised performances in Concert at the Park series, an initiative of MSS president Mrs. Carlyn Manning.
The MSO was originally housed at the Metropolitan Theater in the 1930s, then in the FEU theater in the 1950s, Philamlife Auditorium in the 1960s and then in the 1970s and 1980s at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and back to the refurbished Metropolitan Theater. Unfortunately, severe financial difficulties caused the original orchestra to be disbanded in 1989.
In 2001, the Manila Symphony Orchestra was resurrected by its long time concertmaster, Prof. Basilio Manalo by elevating into professional status the Manila Youth Symphony Orchestra (MYSO) which he founded in 1995. The members of this new group of musicians were mostly trained under the Philippine Research for Developing Instrumental Soloists (PREDIS), a special music development program founded by Prof. Manalo and Sr. Mary Placid Abejo of the St. Scholastica’s College.
At present the MSO is composed of around 60 musicians under the music direction of Prof. Arturo Molina. Many of the members of the MSO are professional musicians who, in addition to their leadership roles in the orchestra, are also active participants in the cultural life of the country as soloists, music educators, music arrangers, chamber music performers, entrepreneurs, bandmasters, and choir conductors. A significant part of the orchestra also composed of young music students who represent the best crop of young musicians enrolled in the different colleges and conservatories of music in Metro Manila. Many of these have been winners in the National Music Competitions for Young Artists (NAMCYA) and have represented the country in various international music festivals and workshops.
The stamp above was issued on January 27,1976, the 50th Anniversary of the Manila Symphony Orchestra.