Based in Caracas, the Símon Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela is a youth orchestra of musicians aged 17 to 26. The orchestra is part of Venezuela's El Sistema, a publicly financed music education system that has achieved notable success, not only with the SBSOV, but with the 220 or so other youth ensembles in its network. Of these ensembles, the SBSOV is undoubtedly the most talented and widely celebrated. It has played under some of the world's most distinguished conductors, including Gustavo Dudamel, its music director, Claudio Abbado, Simon Rattle, and the late Eduardo Mata, who made a series of highly acclaimed recordings on the Dorian label with the SBSOV. The SBSOV is best known for its performances of the music of Spanish and Latin composers, but also regularly plays Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Rachmaninov, Ravel, Shostakovich, and many others. Besides Dorian, the SBSOV has made a number of recordings for DG.
The Símon Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela (also called the Símon Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela) was founded in 1975 by José Antonio Abreu, a noted pianist, educator, politician, and economist. Abreu served as the ensemble's principal conductor for its first two decades.
From 1976, the SBSOV performed in the Teresa Carreño Cultural Complex. In 1980-1981 the orchestra made its first recordings and by the 1990s, the SBSOV began recording for Dorian, eventually turning out nine CDs for the label, containing works by Villa-Lobos, Ginastera, Chávez, Revueltas, de Falla, Ginastera, and other Spanish and Latin composers. From the mid-'90s Alfredo Rugeles has served as artistic director of the orchestra. In 1999 Gustavo Dudamel was appointed the SBSOV's music director. He would go on to concurrently hold posts as music director of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra (from 2009).
In 2006 the SBSOV began recording for DG, with Dudamel, producing such efforts as the Mahler Fifth Symphony (2007), Tchaikovsky Fifth (2008), and Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring (2010). In 2007 the SBSOV moved its performance venue from the Teresa Carreño Cultural Complex to the Inter-American Center for Social Action Through Music. That same year the ensemble debuted at the BBC Proms and Edinburgh Festival, its concerts drawing broad critical and public acclaim.
Other successful tours followed: a 2008 European tour included stops in Berlin, Frankfurt, Lucerne, Baden-Baden, and Helsinki, and its 2009 U.S. tour drew positive notices in Houston, Chicago, and Washington.