Dublin Orchestral Society

Dublin Orchestral Society in the Royal University Concert Hall (now the NCH)

Dublin Orchestral Society in the Royal University Concert Hall (now the NCH), c. 1900. Michele Esposito, conductor (seated on his Erard piano) with leader Adolf Wilhelmj (far right, front row)

In 1896 the Freeman’s Journal noted that Dublin “has had no orchestral concert of high class for many years”. The foundation of the Dublin Orchestral Society in 1898 by Michele Esposito was in part an attempt to fill this gap. The Society was modelled as a ‘professional co-operative orchestra’ along the lines of the Società Orchestrale della Scala di Milano, and was funded by a mixture of subscriptions, donations and ticket sales, and later by grants from Dublin Corporation.

Irish Suite - cover

The cover of a bound score of Esposito’s Irish suite, showing hand-painted celtic motifs – the intials S.H.C and crest motto “Virtute et labore” indicate that this belonged to Stanley Cochrane, one of Esposito’s benefactors

Over the next fifteen years it gave over 200 performances, held in the Royal University Concert hall (now the NCH) , the Gaiety Theatre, and the Antient Concerts Rooms. While it premièred new works such as Harty’s Irish Symphony and Esposito’s Poem for Orchestra, Irish Symphony and Irish suite for strings, the primary aim was to present the standard orchestral repertoire to Dublin audiences, who now had the opportunity to hear all the symphonic repertoire of Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky and others.

The orchestra’s activities were suspended in 1915 following the outset of the first world war. A brief revival of the Society in 1927 did not prove enduring. The orchestral library of the Society was donated to the Royal Irish Academy of Music in 1929.


A list of subscribers and performing members of the Dublin Orchestral Society, January 1899