Formed in 1891 as the Scottish Orchestra, the company became the Scottish National Orchestra in 1950, and was awarded Royal Patronage in 1977.
Throughout its history, the Orchestra has played an integral part in Scotland’s musical life, including performing at the opening ceremony of the Scottish Parliament building in 2004. Many renowned conductors have contributed to its success, including George Szell, Sir John Barbirolli, Walter Susskind, Sir Alexander Gibson, Neeme Järvi, Walter Weller, Alexander Lazarev and Stéphane Denève.
The Orchestra’s current artistic team is led by British Canadian conductor Peter Oundjian, who joined as Music Director in 2012. Dane Thomas Søndergård was appointed as Principal Guest Conductor in the same year, and Holly Mathieson joins as Assistant Conductor from 2016. In May 2017, it was announced that Thomas Søndergård would succeed Peter Oundjian as Music Director, taking up his new post from September 2018.
The RSNO performs across Scotland, including concerts in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen, Perth and Inverness. The Orchestra appears regularly at the Edinburgh International Festival, the BBC Proms at London’s Royal Albert Hall and the St Magnus Festival, Orkney, and has made recent tours to France, Germany, Spain, Austria, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Serbia. In December 2012 and January 2013 the Orchestra undertook its first mainland Asia visit with a hugely successful tour of China with Peter Oundjian. The RSNO was an active participant in the cultural programme of the 2014 Commonwealth Games, held in Glasgow and in the same year hosted the Ryder Cup Gala Concert at the SSE Hydro. In January 2017 the musicians and Peter Oundjian will undertake a tour of Spain and in March make their first visit to the USA in over 30 years.
The Orchestra is joined for choral performances by the RSNO Chorus, directed by Gregory Batsleer. The RSNO Chorus evolved from a choir formed in 1843 to sing the first full performance of Handel’s Messiah in Scotland. Today, the RSNO Chorus is one of the most distinguished large symphonic choruses in Britain, with a membership of around 160. The Chorus has performed nearly every work in the standard choral repertoire along with contemporary works by renowned composers, including John Adams, Magnus Lindberg, Howard Shore and James MacMillan.
The acclaimed RSNO Junior Chorus, formed in 1978 by Jean Kidd, also performs regularly alongside the Orchestra. Since 1994 it has been directed by popular Chorus Director, Christopher Bell, and has expanded its membership to over 400, with members aged from seven to eighteen. It has built up a considerable reputation singing under some of the world’s most distinguished conductors and appearing on radio and television.
The RSNO has a worldwide reputation for the quality of its recordings, receiving two Diapason d’Or de l’année awards for Symphonic Music (Denève/Roussel 2007; Denève/Debussy 2012) and eight GRAMMY Awards nominations. Over 200 releases are available, including the complete symphonies of Sibelius (Gibson), Prokofiev (Järvi), Glazunov (Serebrier), Nielsen and Martinů (Thomson), Roussel (Denève) and the major orchestral works of Debussy (Denève).
The RSNO’s Learning and Engagement team deliver progressive participatory music-making activities across Scotland, from Selkirk to Shetland, working with all ages and abilities. With a programme of activity available for new-borns and onwards, the team are committed to delivering the highest quality workshops as well as nurturing and developing new talent. From schools and nursery concerts, to community workshops and annual residencies during which the Orchestra places itself at the centre of Scottish communities, the team connects the Orchestra, its music and musicians with the people of Scotland.