Music Director Thomas Søndergård
Danish conductor Thomas Søndergård is current Music Director of Royal Scottish National Orchestra, following six seasons as Principal Guest Conductor. Between 2012 and 2018, he served as Principal Conductor of BBC National Orchestra of Wales (BBCNOW), after stepping down as Principal Conductor and Musical Advisor of the Norwegian Radio Orchestra.
He has appeared with many notable orchestras in leading European centres, such as Berlin (including Berliner Philharmoniker, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Mahler Chamber Orchestra), Leipzig (Gewandhausorchester), Paris (Orchestre National de France), London (London Philharmonic, BBC Symphony, London Symphony and Philharmonia Orchestra), Amsterdam and Rotterdam (Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Netherlands Philharmonic, Rotterdam Philharmonic) and is a familiar figure in Scandinavia, with such orchestras as Oslo Philharmonic, Gothenburg Symphony, Danish National Symphony, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Swedish Radio Symphony, Finnish Radio Symphony and Helsinki Philharmonic. North American appearances to date have included the symphony orchestras of Chicago, Toronto, Atlanta, Vancouver, Houston and Seattle. He has made highly successful tours to China, Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
The 2021/22 season sees the RSNO’s return to live performances, showcasing works by, amongst others; Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich and Berlioz. Also with the RSNO, in November 2021 Thomas will lead performances of Dvořák Symphony No. 9 ‘From the New World’ and (with Midori), the world premiere of Detlev Glanert’s Violin Concerto No. 2 To the Immortal Beloved, in tandem with the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, held in Glasgow. Recent highlights with RSNO have included tours to China and the United States, premieres of new commissions and Marsalis’ Violin Concerto with Nicola Benedetti and much-praised Edinburgh International Festival. This season, he also makes first visits to Montreal Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra and Bergen Philharmonic and returns to many orchestras, among them NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover, Royal Danish Opera (Die Walküre and New Year concerts), London Philharmonic Orchestra and Danish National Symphony Orchestra. Plans for 2022/2023 include touring with RSNO and returns to several North American orchestras.
As part of the 2015 anniversary celebrations of both Sibelius and Nielsen, he conducted a wide variety of their works with many leading orchestras. A passionate supporter of the music of Carl Nielsen, his performance with Swedish Radio Symphony of his Symphony No. 5 was praised as “equal of the great pioneers of Nielsen interpretation… It’s hard to imagine a finer performance of this remarkable symphony” (Dagens Nyheter); and in 2019 participated in a special concert to celebrate Nielsen’s work with the Royal Danish Academy of Music Copenhagen.
Following his acclaimed debut for Royal Danish Opera (Kafka’s Trial), he has since returned regularly to conduct a broad repertoire, ranging from contemporary to, Le nozze di Figaro, Il barbiere di Siviglia, la bohème, Cunning little vixen, Il viaggio a Reims; and has also made short concert tours with the Royal Danish Orchestra. Further returns are planned and he has also enjoyed successful collaborations with Norwegian Opera and Royal Swedish Opera. His Stockholm productions of Tosca and Turandot (both with Nina Stemme) led to his Bayerische Staatsoper debut, conducting main season and Opera Festival performances of Turandot with her and he most recently returned to for the Opera’s Akademiekonzert series. He made his Deutsche Oper Berlin debut with the World premiere of Scartazzini’s Edward II and has since returned for Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliet.
His discography covers a broad range of contemporary and mainstream repertoire, including Vilde Frang’s celebrated debut recording (WDR Köln for EMI); Poul Ruders (Århus Symphony, Norwegian Radio, Royal Danish Opera (Kafka’s Trial) for Da Capo and Bridge Records); Lutoslawski and Dutilleux concertos with ‘cellist Johannes Moser and Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Berlin (Pentatone); and for Linn Rexords, Sibelius symphonies and tone poems with BBC NOW and Prokofiev and Richard Strauss with RSNO.
Principal Guest Conductor Elim Chan
One of the most sought-after of the young conductors and already widely admired for her unique combination of ‘drama and tenderness, power and delicacy’ (Hereford Times), Elim Chan became the first female winner of Donatella Flick Conducting Competition and has now been appointed Chief Conductor of the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra from this season. In addition, she also holds the position as Principal Guest Conductor of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra since 2018:19.
The 2019:20 season featured many highlights, starting off with an appearance at the BBC Proms where Elim Chan conducts the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, followed by her debuts with the Konzerthausorchester Berlin, Gürzenich-Orchester Köln, Gothenburg Symphony and Netherlands Philharmonic orchestras, Swedish Radio and Toronto Symphony orchestras and the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. She returns to the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra for their season opening concerts at Amsterdam Concertgebouw and Dortmund Konzerthaus as well as to the Philharmonia Orchestra, Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra and the Australian Youth Orchestra amongst many others.
Celebrated by the press for her debuts with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin earlier in 2019, other highlights last season included engagements with Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen at Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and Sydney Symphony orchestras alongside returns to Los Angeles Philharmonic and Rotterdam Philharmonic orchestras.
Elim Chan became Assistant Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra in 2015:16 and was appointed to the Dudamel Fellowship programme with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2016:17. Previously she led the Orchestre de la Francophonie as part of the NAC Summer Music Institute in 2012 where she worked with Pinchas Zukerman, and participated in the Musical Olympus Festival in St. Petersburg as well as in workshops with the Cabrillo Festival and Baltimore Symphony orchestras (with Marin Alsop, Gerard Schwarz and Gustav Meier). She also took part in masterclasses with Bernard Haitink in Lucerne in spring 2015.
Elim Chan holds degrees from Smith College and the University of Michigan. Whilst there, she served as Music Director of the University of Michigan Campus Symphony Orchestra and the Michigan Pops Orchestra. She also received the Bruno Walter Conducting Scholarship in 2013.
Assistant Conductor Kellen Gray
Conductor Kellen Gray is Assistant Conductor of the RSNO; his two-year tenure commencing in 2021.
Versatility and innovation are the hallmarks of American conductor Kellen Gray. Newly named Assistant Conductor of the 125-year-old Royal Scottish National Orchestra, he begins his tenure April 2021. An enthusiastic communicator both on and off the podium, Maestro Gray is equally passionate about traditional concerts as he is experimental and integrative multimedia programming. Acknowledged as a skilled relationship builder in the communities in which he serves and a staunch champion of music education, Gray’s duties with RSNO will also include work with the Orchestra’s pioneering learning and engagement programme. Gray also currently serves as Assistant Conductor of South Carolina’s Charleston Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the Charleston Symphony Youth Orchestra, a position he has held since 2018.
Recent and upcoming engagements include the Boston Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Virginia Symphony, Charlotte Ballet, Chicago Sinfonietta, Chicago Philharmonic, Northwest Florida Symphony, and Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra.
Past performances of note include Kellen’s Chicago Symphony Center debut with Chicago Sinfonietta, with Picture This Post commenting on his “…laser-like focus that allowed the entire orchestra to seem to become one organism.” Of his debut at North Carolina’s Eastern Music Festival, Classical Voice of North Carolina praised him for “…gestures so smooth and polished they’re almost choreography…” At a 2017 festival celebrating the 100th birthday of Georgia-born author Carson McCullers, Gray was awarded the honor of guest-conducting a collaboration of the music of David Diamond and the premiere of award-winning NY actor/director Karen Allen’s directorial debut film, “A Tree, A Rock, A Cloud.”
Off-stage, Maestro Gray has served on several panels, including as a discussion panelist for the 2018 League of American Orchestras conference on the value of leadership pipelines in classical music based on diversity, inclusion, and equity.
A native of Rock Hill, South Carolina, Kellen Grey earned a Bachelor’s degree in Violin Performance and an Artists’ Diploma in Orchestral Conducting from the Schwob School of Music at Columbus State University, and a Master’s degree in Orchestral Conducting from Valdosta State University in Georgia. Prior to his Charleston Symphony Orchestra appointment, Mr. Gray was a Project Inclusion Freeman Conducting Fellow, and later, Assistant Conductor, at Chicago Sinfonietta under Music Director Mei-Ann Chen. Other prior posts include serving as Assistant Conductor at the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra under Music Director Howard Hsu and Music Director of the Valdosta Symphony Youth Orchestra from 2014-16, and as one of eight Conducting Fellows at North Carolina’s Eastern Music Festival under the tutelage of Gerard Schwarz, Grant Cooper, and Jose-Luis Novo.
The RSNO Assistant Conductorship is a two-year post and benefits from the support of the Solti Foundation.
Conductor Laureate Neeme Järvi
The head of a musical dynasty, Neeme Järvi is one of today’s most respected maestros. He conducts many of the world’s most prominent orchestras and works alongside soloists of the highest calibre. A prolific recording artist, he has amassed a discography of over 450 recordings.
Over his long and highly successful career he has held positions with orchestras across the world. He is currently Chief Conductor of the Residentie Orkest, Artistic Director of the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, and Conductor Laureate and Artistic Advisor of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. He became Artistic Director of the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande in January 2011. He also holds the titles of Music Director Emeritus of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Principal Conductor Emeritus of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and Conductor Laureate of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.
Recent and future seasons include engagements with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and Wiener Symphoniker, as well as the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Washington’s National Symphony Orchestra among others in the USA. This season he continues his regular relationships with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra (for the start of a Tchaikovsky ballet cycle project) and the RSNO (for a number of continued recording and concert projects). He looks forward a return to the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra for an exciting project culminating in a concert to celebrate his 75th birthday. He will also make appearances with the Orquesta Nacional de España and the London Philharmonic and BBC Symphony Orchestras. Soloist collaborations include Janine Jansen, Martha Argerich, Mischa Maisky, Vadim Repin, Evgeny Kissin, Lang Lang, Yefim Bronfman, Truls Mørk and Frank-Peter Zimmermann.
Highlights of an impressive discography include critically acclaimed complete symphony cycles of Prokofiev, Sibelius, Nielsen and Brahms. Neeme Järvi has also championed less widely known composers such as Wilhelm Stenhammar, Hugo Alfvén and Niels Gade, and composers from his native Estonia including Rudolf Tobias, Eduard Tubin and Arvo Pärt. He has recorded with Chandos, Deutsche Grammophon, BIS and EMI amongst others.
Järvi’s most recent discs with Chandos are a Wagner/de Vlieger series with the RSNO, a recording of Mahler Symphony No7 with the Residentie Orkest (which was awarded the International Record Prize ‘Toblacher Komponierhäuschen’), and a series of Johan Halvorsen’s orchestral works with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra.
Throughout his career, Neeme Järvi has been honoured with many international awards and accolades. In Estonia these include an honorary doctorate from the Music Academy of Estonia in Tallinn, and the Order of the National Coat of Arms from the President of the Republic of Estonia, Mr Lennart Meri. The Mayor of Tallinn presented Maestro Järvi with the city’s first-ever ceremonial sash and coat of arms insignia, and he has been named one of the ‘Estonians of the Century’. Neeme Järvi holds an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters from Detroit’s Wayne State University and the University of Michigan, as well as honorary doctorates from the University of Aberdeen and the Royal Swedish Academy of Music. He has also received the Commander of the North Star Order from King Karl Gustav XVI of Sweden.
Conductor Emeritus Alexander Lazarev
Alexander Lazarev is one of Russia’s foremost conductors. He studied with Leo Ginsbourg at the Moscow Conservatory graduating with first class honours. In 1971 he won first prize in the Soviet Union’s national competition for conductors, and the following year went on to win first prize and gold medal at the Karajan Competition in Berlin.
From 1987 to 1995 Lazarev was Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Bolshoi Theatre, the first person for over thirty years to hold both positions concurrently. His leadership marked a period of intensive activity with the Bolshoi Opera undertaking an unprecedented programme of prestigious foreign tours including Tokyo (1989), La Scala, Milan (1989), the Edinburgh Festival (1990 and 1991) and the Metropolitan Opera in New York (1991). Several of the Theatre’s most successful productions including Glinka’s A Life for the Tsar, Tchaikovsky’s The Maid of Orleans and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mlada were filmed for video, and the Bolshoi Symphony Orchestra made a number of highly acclaimed recordings for Erato including such milestones of the Russian symphonic repertoire as Rachmaninov Symphony No.2 and Shostakovich Symphony No.8.
From 1992 to 1995 he was Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and from 1997 to 2005 Principal Conductor of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra where his conducting of the complete cycle of Shostakovich symphonies was a high point of his tenure. In recent years he has worked as a regular guest with the Philharmonia Orchestra and the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, appearing with them in London, Paris and Vienna. Other orchestras he has conducted include the Berlin Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio Symphony, Royal Concertgebouw, Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Orchestre National de France, Oslo Philharmonic, Swedish Radio Symphony, NHK Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Montreal Symphony and London Philharmonic, and he has appeared with opera companies such as the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, Arena di Verona, Opéra Bastille, Grand Théâtre de Genève, Bavarian State Opera and Netherlands Opera.
His repertoire is particularly enterprising in its scope, ranging from the eighteenth century to the avant-garde. In 1978 he founded the Ensemble of Soloists of the Bolshoi Theatre whose most important aim was the programming and wide dissemination of contemporary music by both Soviet and foreign composers.
Alexander Lazarev is a prolific recording artist, appearing on such labels as Erato, Melodiya, Virgin Classics, Sony Classical, Hyperion, BMG, BIS and Linn Records.
From 2008 to 2016 he was Principal Conductor of the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra and he now holds the position of Conductor Laureate. His work with the orchestra is extensively represented on Octavia Records; following the success of their complete cycles of the symphonies by Prokofiev, Rachmaninov and Shostakovich, they are now embarking on a Glazunov cycle.
RSNO Chorus Director Stephen Doughty
Stephen Doughty is Chorus Director of the RSNO Chorus and enjoys a varied career as a freelance musician. Commencing his appointment of the RSNO Chorus in September 2022, he previously spent 13 years as the Chorus Master of Belfast Philharmonic Choir who, in addition to their regular performances with the Ulster Orchestra, have given a number of world premieres. He particularly enjoys working with amateur singers and is Musical Director of Edinburgh Bach Choir (since 2017) and has been Musical Director of the Garleton Singers since 1994. Over the years he has also run several, highly-successful ‘come & sing’ events raising funds for a number of charities.
Stephen held the position of Director of Music of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Edinburgh for 18 years, directing the 30-voice choir through the full range of sung services which also included large-scale, orchestrally-accompanied services during the Edinburgh Festival.
As a keyboard player, he plays harpsichord/organ continuo and orchestral piano with all the Scottish orchestras as well as the Ulster Orchestra and has given frequent organ recitals including several four-star recitals on the grand Mulholland Organ in the Ulster Hall, Belfast.
He has compiled a large portfolio of arrangements and orchestrations, particularly for young voices and has received commissions from Children’s Classic Concerts, Ulster Orchestra and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Recent orchestrations include the premiere of Jonathan Dove’s Seek him that maketh the seven stars and a classical/folk crossover with award-winning band Dallahan marking the anniversary of the Battle of Loos. In addition, the BBC have commissioned a number of arrangements which have been performed at Proms in the Park and BBC Alba and his pieces feature on several recordings.
Finally, he is an Examiner for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music.
RSNO Youth Choruses Director Patrick Barrett
Patrick Barrett is an Irish conductor based in London specialising in choral music and opera. He is currently Chorus Director of the RSNO’s Youth Choruses (formerly known as the RSNO Junior Choruses), Conductor of the University of Reading Chamber Choir, Orchestra and Chorus, and Conductor of Farnham Youth Choir’s Junior Choir. He also regularly works as an Assistant Conductor for the National Children’s Choir, a Musicianship Tutor with the National Youth Choir of Great Britain and conducts a number of other ensembles in London and the South East. Previous roles include Conductor of both the University of Brimingham’s Women’s Choir and Brockham Choral Society, Guest Chorus Master for the CBSO Children’s Chorus under Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla and preparing the Royal Opera House Youth Opera Company for mainstage performances of Humperdink’s Hansel and Gretel.
Patrick studied Music Education at Trinity College Dublin and the National Conservatory of Ireland (DIT) including additional study at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music, Kodaly Institute in Hungary as part of the Erasmus programme. In 2013, he moved to Cardiff for an MMus in Choral Conducting at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama under Neil Ferris where he took part in masterclasses with Simon Halsey, Paul Brough, Peter Hanke, Karen Grylls, Alice Farnham and Voces8, and was Chorus Master on The Magic Flute for the RWCMD and Assistant Conductor of the Welsh National Opera Youth Opera Company, 2015.
An experienced music educator, Patrick was a Trainee Music Leader with Spitalfields Music from 2016-2017, working on a variety of projects with both the Spitalfields and Wigmore Hall Learning and Participation teams. He continues to work with Spitalfields – most recently on their Big Sing 2019 – and also delivers concerts and workshops for the BBC Proms, Garsington Opera, the National Youth Choir of Scotland, Sonoro Choir and the BBC Singers.