For the first time in its history, the Utah Symphony has canceled its opening concerts of the season.

The decision, announced Tuesday, came in response to musicians' rejection of a compromise proposal by management made in hopes of ending the two-week-old players strike. A week earlier, the dispute forced the cancellation of a benefit concert for both the orchestra and the Sundance Institute.The compromise would have eliminated proposed cuts in the season and size of the orchestra at the same time it imposed salary reductions of 3.7 percent the first year of a three-year contract. Salaries would then have been increased 5.7 percent the second year and another 5 percent the third.

In a counteroffer approved by the musicians Tuesday, union negotiators proposed instead a wage freeze for 1988-89, followed by a 6 percent raise in 1989-90 and another 10 percent in 1990-91.

Although management officials said they still needed to study the offer, they said the addition of an electronic-music-guarantee provision would in fact raise musicians' salaries by 4.5 percent the first year. The cost of that, together with seniority pay requests, was put at $1 million more than the amount budgeted in their last proposal.

In past years Utah Symphony recording sessions were compensated as regular work services, a conversion agreement that in its day was unique in the industry. "I think this would be the end of broadcasts and recordings," said orchestra manager Stephen Boyd of the musicians' proposals.

Symphony board chairman Deedee Corradini was unable to say how soon the board would be able to respond to the counteroffer, but she did not sound optimistic. "We all want the same thing for the orchestra," she said at a press conference Tuesday. "Our one disagreement with the musicians is that they want us to commit to money we do not have and then go out and raise it."

Canceled are concerts Thursday at Brigham Young University and Friday and Saturday at Symphony Hall, as well as the orchestra's participation in Ballet West's season opener Sept. 21-26. Executive director Paul R. Chummers estimated the lost revenue to the orchestra, including the Sundance concert, at around $150,000.