The Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall In San Francisco



The Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall is the official home of the San Francisco Symphony (makes sense), whose season runs from September to summer every year. Designed by Skidmore, Ownings & Merrill, the hall opened in 1980 after a decade of planning. The hall is named for arts patron Louise M. Davies, who contributed $5 million toward its construction.

$33 million is what it took to build the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall back in 1980, and all but $5 million of it was raised privately. Maybe they didn't spend enough, however, because in 1992 the hall underwent a $10 million acoustical and architectural facelift. The renovations included a new sound system and video system as well as a computer-assisted re-sculpturing of the walls to improve acoustics.

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10 Great Things About the Davies Symphony Hall

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The Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall In San Francisco

1. The Joy of Music

The 2,739-seat auditorium is dedicated to the joy of music. The ground level is home to the box office and entrance lobbies. There is also an orchestra level, loge, and a first tier and second tier for seating.

2. The Organ

In 1984, the San Francisco Symphony installed the largest concert hall organ in North America - a 22.5 ton electro-pneumatic organ. Made by Italian Fratelli Ruffatti, the organ is has 9,000+ pipes of varying size from the size of a ballpoint pen to 32 feet tall

3. Michael Tilson Thomas

Music director, Michael Tilson Thomas first performed with the San Francisco Symphony in 1974 when he was guest conductor, leading the Orchestra in Mahler's Symphony No. 9.

4. Henry Hadley

The first SF Symphony Music Director was an American, Henry Hadley (1911- 1915). He led the orchestra in its first performance with works by Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Haydn, and Liszt. The orchestra rehearsed just 16 times.

5. Women

In 1924, the San Francisco Symphony hired women as full-time musicians. It was the first orchestra in the USA to do so.

6. Radio

Another first — the SF symphony was the first US orchestra to have its own syndicated radio show. The Standard Symphony Hour broadcast from 1926 until 1955.

7. The First Concert

The first concert in the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall was led by Edo de Waart on September 13, 1980.

8. Grammys

The symphony won their first Grammy in 1993 for Orff's Carmina Burana, led by Herbert Blomstedt and featuring the San Francisco Symphony Chorus (led by Vance George). By 2015 the symphony had won a total of 15 Grammys.

9. Rehearsal Hall

In addition to the Louise M. Davies main hall, there is also the Harold L. Zellerbach Rehearsal Hall with three large rehearsal spaces.

10. Henry Moore

Henry Moore's 13-foot long bronze sculpture, Large Four Piece Reclining Figure (1973), is a landmark and sits just outside the hall at Grove Street and Van Ness Avenue.

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Performances at Davies Symphony Hall

Yuja Wang

As we mentioned, the symphony season runs from September, when everyone is back form summer holidays, right up to the next summer. A wide gamut of the classical repertoire is performed — pieces like Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet and works by Tchaikovsky, Beethoven & Brahms — but you'll also find special performances featuring the music of Star Wars, concerts with guests like Burt Bacharach, Sara Hicks, Yuja Wang, and Diana Krall. The hall is also used for presentations by the likes of Bill Maher and Neil deGrasse Tyson.

In our guide to the SF Symphony you can find out what's playing while you're in San Francisco, and we'll also tell you how to buy tickets.

Davies Symphony Hall Resources

Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall is located in the Civic Center area between Van Ness, Franklin, Hayes, and Grove Streets. It is accessible from Muni Metro (Van Ness or Civic Center stations) and BART (Civic Center station).

Parking Garages
  • Performing Arts Garage @ 360 Grove Street
  • Civic Center Plaza Garage @ 355 McAllister Street
  • California Parking Garage @ Hickory/Franklin
  • Place 2 Park @ Oak/Franklin & Polk/Hayes
  • Douglas Parking @ Polk/Fell
  • Central Parking System @ Polk/Hayes
  • Opera Plaza Valet @ 601 Van Ness Street

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