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After the creation of several orchestras between 1825 and 1872 became the Cincinnati Orchestra Association in 1893 ' ' founded by the wife of the later president of the United States William Howard Taft. The CSO gave its first concerts in 1895 at Pike's Opera House and moved a year later to the Music Hall. The first conductor was Frank Van der Stucken, born in Texas of Belgian descent, which would continue until 1907. In the first years the Orchestra welcomed renowned international musicians such as Richard Strauss and Edward McDowell. The Orchestra performed the American premiere of the Symphony No. 5 by Gustav Mahler.Leopold Stokowski
For three years the Orchestra was disbanded due to labor disputes and financial problems was. After the reorganization in 1909, a young organist from England, Leopold Stokowski, appointed to take the lead. In the three years with Stokowski made the Orchestra the Orchestra a development by those national fame under conductors such asErnst Kunwald until 1918, the virtuoso Belgian violinist Eugène Ysaÿe (1918–1922), Fritz Reiner (1922–1933), and Eugene Goossens (1933–1947). In this period the Orchestra moved from the Music Hall to Emery Auditorium in 1909, and back to the Music Hall in 1936. The orchestra played the u.s. premiere of Mahler's Symphony No. 3(1912), made his first recordings (1917), held the first national tours and played the world premieres of Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man and Lincoln Portrait. 
After Goossens came Thor Johnson in 1947, who led the Orchestra in one of the first stereo recordings for Remington Records, followed by Max Rudolf in 1958, whose musical legacy still can be heard in the Orchestra. After him came Thomas SCHIPPERS who died suddenly in 1977. In 1977 founded the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra with Erich Kunzel as conductor. After SCHIPPERS ' death, Walter Susskind served as artistic advisor of the Orchestra for three years until his death in 1980.
In that year, the Austrian conductor Michael Gielen in the new Chief conductor for a period of six years, succeeded by Spanish conductor Jesús López-Cobos. López-Cobos led the Orchestra during a successful European tour in 1995, their first since 1969, and their first national television appearance on PBS. He retired in 2001 after the longest tenure of a Music Director of the CSO so far, and was named conductor emeritus professor appointed in september of that year.
In addition to their many private concerts is the CSO the resident orchestra at the Cincinnati May Festival, the oldest choral festival in the Western hemisphere that still exists.Philip Glass
From 2001 to 2011 was the Estonia-born Paavo Järvi from the Chief conductor. Järvi led his last concert as Chief conductor on 14 May 2011, when he was appointed Music Director Laureate . With Jarvi's departure and the death of the conductor of the Pops Erich Kunzel was the artistic leadership an issue. In december 2010, John Morris Russellhas been appointed as new conductor of the Cincinnati Pops from 1 september 2011. In January 2011 the Orchestra appointed three internationally prominent musicians, pianist Lang Lang, composer Philip Glass and conductor Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos as the artistic directors for its three different subscription series for the period during which no principal conductor was.
In January 2007 the Orchestra reported financial difficulties, with a deficit of about $ 2 million for that fiscal year. In 2009 these problems (plus the purchase of Telarc by Concord Music Group) to the termination of the contract by the Orchestra with Telarc, which for 20 years was the record company of the CSO and Pops. 
In 2010 the orchestra founded his own record label, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Media. The first release was the album American Portraits in January 2011.
At the end of 2009, the benefactor of the arts and philanthropist Louise Nippert (who also minority shareholder of the Cincinnati Reds) a donation to of 85 million dollars for the CSO. Was announced that the Orchestra would receive about $ 3 million a year, about 75% of the annual budget. 12% and 5% will go to the Cincinnati Opera and Ballet companies or with the intention that it would continue the House Orchestra of this CSO groups. The remaining 8% (about $ 300,000) should be passed to other organisations such as the Cincinnati May Festival and the Linton Chamber Music Series.