2019:20 Season Announced

RSNO’s upward trajectory set to continue with Søndergård and Chan

Season highlights include:

  • Beethoven symphonies, concertos, chamber and solo works to mark 250th anniversary
  • The Golden Age of Vienna explored, including pairing of Mahler and Richard Strauss greats
  • Scottish pianist Steven Osborne RSNO Artist in Residence for 2019:20
  • Scottish mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill in opening concert and chamber recital
  • World premiered reimagining of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker with Scottish actor Alan Cumming
  • Nicola Benedetti performs Bartók’s Second Violin Concerto for the first time in Scotland
  • Increased choral offerings at the RSNO Centre
  • Premieres of works by Vaughan Williams, Fazíl Say, Danny Elfman
  • Choral: Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols, Brahms’ German Requiem and Verdi’s Requiem

The Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) announces a Season designed to capitalise on the success of its first with Music Director Thomas Søndergård and Principal Guest Conductor Elim Chan.

This Season attendance has increased in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen by an average of 12%. In terms of audience figures for their first year in-post, Thomas Søndergård is the most popular RSNO Music Director for over twenty years.

RSNO audiences are comprised of more young people than since records began, with those under-26 who take advantage of the RSNO’s free and discounted ticket schemes accounting for 15% of the attendance, and over 20% when including film and festive programmes.

The ‘Pops’ programmes continue to provide the first access point to RSNO performances for many, with 65% of the audience for the recent Sci Fi Spectacular first-time attenders, but significantly many are choosing to attend further RSNO concerts following their first experience.

The 2019:20 Season marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven with performances of his symphonic, chamber and sonata works. The forthcoming Beethoven Revolution programme strand joins Beethoven’s standard-bearing and epoch-defining music with composers who followed and whose music created revolutions of their own.

The new Season also reflects on the Golden Age of Vienna, during the 1900s when the city was home to musicians, philosophers, poets, painters and scientists. Across three programmes, Søndergård pairs the tone poems of Richard Strauss with three of Gustav Mahler’s greatest works, simultaneously continuing Søndergård’s Mahler symphonic cycle.

Thomas Søndergård will conduct twenty-four concerts in Scotland for his second Season as Music Director of the RSNO, an orchestral year that brings the continuation of the Mahler symphonic cycle, pairing Mahler with the works of Richard Strauss, as well as exploring the Russian symphonic repertoire of Rachmaninov, Shostakovich and concludes with Verdi’s momentous Requiem.

Junping Qian, appointed Assistant Conductor in the summer of 2018, makes his first regular Season appearances on the podium, with the Viennese Gala programme, Classic FM Hall of Fame and two Children’s’ Classic Concerts presentations.

RSNO Music Director Thomas Søndergård: “Since my appointment to Music Director my colleagues and I have performed a lot of great music together; at home, abroad and in the recording studio. Personally – and I hope I speak on behalf of the musicians and chorus members - the bond between us has become noticeably stronger over the past year, something which will benefit our music-making in the future. I sense this connection extends to the relationship between the orchestra and you, our audience. From across Scotland we feel blessed by the generous spirit we are met with each time we visit.

“My sincere wish is that those who choose to join us in the concert halls of an evening see that we are fully committed to providing the very best performances we can. It is immensely gratifying to see us grow and learn together, and I am delighted that so many of you choose to join us and approve of what we do. On behalf of my colleagues I would like to thank you for your continued support. I believe we have much to look forward to!”

Director of Artistic Planning and Engagement Bill Chandler: “I’m very excited with the RSNO’s presentation of its epic 2019:20 Season, giving concert-goers the chance to catch a ride with the most exciting thing to happen in classical music in Scotland. We hope audiences will continue to enjoy the magical chemistry between Music Director, Thomas Søndergård and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra as they embark on their second Season together.

“Whether it’s big-boned symphonic works,  family concerts, film classics, our lunchtime series or the chamber music, there’s plenty to feast on for the whole year. With the RSNO's successes in audience growth this Season I would recommend taking out a subscription or buying early to avoid the chance of missing out.

Music Director Thomas Søndergård
The opening concert of the 2019:20 Season sees the first pairing of the works of Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler, Søndergård opting for the passionate but fateful Don Juan with Mahler’s hopeful Symphony No1. Berg’s intimate and lyrical Seven Early Songs features the first soloist of the Season, Scottish mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill, who returns for a chamber recital in February.

Later in October Søndergård conducts Shostakovich’s Symphony No9, one month shy of the tenth anniversary of his RSNO debut (conducting Shostakovich Symphony No11 in 2009). Bax’s In the Faery Hills and Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No3 complete the programme.

RSNO Music Director and RSNO Artist in Residence join forces, when Søndergård and Steven Osborne join the Orchestra in November for performances of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No27 K595, sharing the programme with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No6 Pathéthique and, to begin, Schreker’s Nachtstück from Der ferne Klang.

The union of the symphonic works of Richard Strauss and Mahler reaches an existential peak in February, when Søndergård presents the former’s Also sprach Zarathustra with the latter’s Das Lied von der Erde, with soloists Jane Irwin and Simon O’Neill.

Søndergård continues the Beethoven Revolution theme in March with performances of the composer’s most famous piano concerto, No5 Emperor, with soloist Fazíl Say, whose aromatic Grand Bizarre receives its UK premiere, preceding Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms.

Mahler’s reflective and spiritual Symphony No4 is considered relatively modest by his standards, both in terms of length and ensemble strength. In May Søndergård is accompanied by Norwegian soprano Mari Erksmoen for this and select arias from Mozart’s operas the Marriage of Figaro, Idomeneo and La finta giardiniera.

The penultimate concert of the Season is an all-RSNO affair, with Søndergård presenting Rachmaninov’s Symphony No2, the Passacaglia from Britten’s Peter Grimes, and, with Principal Cello Aleksei Kiseliov, Shostakovich’s virtuosic Cello Concerto No1.

Søndergård’s second RSNO Season as Music Director concludes in dramatic fashion when the Orchestra is joined by the RSNO Chorus for Verdi’s Requiem.

Conductor Emeritus Neeme Järvi
Neeme Järvi returns to Scotland at the beginning of November, almost fifty-three years since he first conducted the Orchestra as a guest conductor, and presents a typically diverse programme, Saint-Saëns’ Organ Symphony paired with two works by Bavarian composer Max Reger, Serenade and An die Hoffnung.

Järvi withdrew from his previous scheduled RSNO appearance in 2017, which provided RSNO Principal Guest Conductor Elim Chan with her second opportunity with the Orchestra in as many weeks, an appearance that sealed the decision to appoint her to the RSNO Artistic Team.

Principal Guest Conductor Elim Chan
Elim Chan embarks on her second RSNO Season as Principal Guest Conductor with four distinct programmes, the first of which, in October, promises to be an assault on the senses, Shostakovich’s Symphony No10 paired with Kalevi Aho’s explosive Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra Sieidi.

Chan returns in February for the exploratory [Inside]Out: Beethoven@250 at the RSNO Centre, Glasgow followed by two concerts featuring Beethoven’s Symphony No7, Bruch’s Violin Concerto and Jörg Widmann’s Con brio.

More Beethoven opens Chan’s final programme of the Season, with the composer’s Symphony No1, combined with Berlioz’ hallucinogenic Symphonie fantastique and Shostakovich’s Second Piano Concerto.

RSNO Principal Guest Conductor Elim Chan: I have started counting down the days until my first concerts with the RSNO in the 2019:20 season, like a child looking forward to unwrapping all the Christmas presents. All three programmes are high-octane and filled with pieces that have meant a great deal to me, and I am thrilled to share the stage with three virtuosos: Martin Grubinger, Noa Wildschut , and Simon Trpčeski"

Guest conductors
Martin Yates
, conductor for many an RSNO recording, makes a rare appearance with the Orchestra in the concert setting, for a special programme of Stravinsky, Ravel and Vaughan Williams, including a world premiere of Vaughan Williams’ work for orchestra and chorus, The Future.

Scottish audiences may recall John Mauceri for his time with Scottish Opera, and more recently conductor for the Varèse Sarabande Gala Concerts. He returns to present the world premiere of his all-new interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, presented by multi-award winning Scottish actor Alan Cumming.

Resident Conductor of the San Francisco Symphony, Christian Reif makes his first appearances with the RSNO, with Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

Teddy Abrams is Music Director of the Louisville Orchestra and Britt Festival Orchestra. He makes his RSNO debut in February with a double Tchaikovsky programme plus the world premiere of the RSNO Composers’ Hub winner’s new work.

Associate Conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Michael Seal brings a Valentine’s programme in February with works by Mahler, Ravel, Tchaikovsky, Bizet, Khachaturian and Grieg.

Sir Roger Norrington is very selective in the choice of orchestras he works with and the RSNO is honoured to be among his favourite. Our long-standing relationship with the master of pure tone returns in February for Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony and double Debussy.

Guest Soloists
Three of Scotland’s finest soloists join the Orchestra for 2019:20, the first of which is mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill, who appears in the opening programme of the new Season with Berg’s Seven Early Songs and who returns in February for the RSNO Chamber Series.

Multiple prize-winning pianist Ukranian pianist Vadym Kholodenko makes his RSNO debut in October, performing Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No3.

Kalevi Aho’s Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra Sieidi places huge demands on orchestra and soloist, which is why Martin Grubinger, dubbed “…a wizard of percussion…” joins the RSNO for performances of the work in October.

Mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly helped close the 2014:15 Season in the RSNO’s critically-acclaimed performances of Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius. She returns in November to perform Max Reger’s An die Hoffnung.

Soprano Ilona Domnich makes her RSNO debut in November and is joined by the RSNO and RSNO Chorus for the world premiere of Vaughan Williams’ The Future, a work that was never finished or previously performed due to the composer’s focus on his Sea Symphony.

The Artist in Residence for 2019:20, Scottish pianist Steven Osborne, makes his first appearance of the Season in November, performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No27 K595. He returns in March for an all-Beethoven sonata recital as part of the RSNO Chamber Series and concludes his residency in April with performances of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No4.

Pianist Steven Osborne: “I think the first orchestral concerts I ever attended were by the RSNO, so it’s a thrill to be their Artist in Residence next Season, especially as I’ve long been an admirer of Thomas Søndergård’s deep musicianship; I can’t wait to work with him for the first time."

Scottish actor and Hollywood star Alan Cumming appears onstage with the RSNO for the first time in December, for the world premiere of a new concert version of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, titled The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.

The third Scottish soloist of the Season, violinist Nicola Benedetti returns to the RSNO to perform Bartók’s Violin Concerto No2 in December.

Rachel Barton Pine last performed with the Orchestra in 2008, so it is long overdue that the American violinist return to Scotland, this time to perform Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto.

Florian Mitrea’s previous performance in Scotland was as a finalist in the 2017 Scottish International Piano Competition. The British/Romanian pianist returns in February with Grieg’s Piano Concerto.

Jane Irwin and Simon O’Neill have performed with the RSNO before, though not together, but their joint appearance for Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde in March will correct that.

Bruch’s Violin Concerto No1 is one of the RSNO audiences’ favourite works and in the hands of rising star Noa Wildschut is destined to keep the concerto’s popularity high.

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet made his RSNO debut in 2013 and has returned to perform with the Orchestra twice since. For his fourth appearance with Scotland’s national orchestra he performs Debussy’s Fantaisie for Piano and Orchestra in February.

Turkish pianist and composer Fazíl Say performs with the RSNO for the first time in March, and the Orchestra also performs one of his works for the first time. The concert begins with the UK premiere of Say’s Grand Bazaar, before he performs Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No5 Emperor.

Critics have described Norwegian soprano Mari Eriksmoen’s voice as having a crystalline yet supple quality, and RSNO audiences will have the opportunity to enjoy this for themselves in May when she sings a selection of Mozart arias, from The Marriage of Figaro, Idomeneo and La finta giardiniera.

RSNO Principal Cello Aleksei Kiseliov is a familiar face at the front of the section and has taken the soloist spot centre-stage on several occasions. For the penultimate programme of the Season he takes on Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No1.

The 2019:20 Season finale is Verdi’s Requiem, with Orchestra and Chorus joined by the vocal talents of soprano Catherine Naglestad, mezzo-soprano Zanda Švēde, tenor David Junghoon Kim and bass George Andguladze.


The exploratory programmes by the RSNO, introduced in 2015, have been developed further for 2019:20. Titled [INSIDE]OUT since last year and presented by broadcaster and musician Tom Redmond, [INSIDE]OUT will explore the musical world of Beethoven with Principal Guest Conductor Elim Chan at the RSNO Centre, Glasgow on Wednesday 19 February.

In Focus
For those who wish to discover more about the programmes and the reason behind the programming, join Music Director Thomas Søndergård, Director of Concerts and Engagement Bill Chandler and Glasgow School of Art Professor Johnny Rodger on Wednesday 2 March at 7.30pm at the French Institute in Edinburgh and on Saturday 5 March at 3pm at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall for a roundtable discussion with recordings and live music illustrating and exploring the Golden Age of Vienna and the influence of the Romantic movement. 

Artist-in-Residence Steven Osborne asks What Does Music Mean? for the second In Focus, on Sunday 24 November at the RSNO Centre, where he reflects on the nature of performance and considers how best to listen, with performances from Steven as well as recordings from Beethoven to Joni Mitchell.

Symphony, Soup and a Sandwich
The now established lunchtime concert series in Glasgow continues for 2019:20 with three programmes spread across the Season. Increasingly acknowledged as a proving-ground for emerging conductors, the forthcoming Season welcomes Jirí Rožen, Elena Schwarz and our very own Assistant Conductor Junping Qian to the RSNO Centre, with programmes ranging from Dvořák’s Symphony No5 and Martinů’s La Bagarre, to Schoenberg’s orchestration of Brahms’ Piano Quartet No1 and Nicolai’s Overture to The Merry Wives of Windsor, and Brahms’ Tragic Overture paired with Franck’s Symphony in D minor.

RSNO at the Movies
The RSNO’s film music programmes have introduced thousands of new people to live orchestral music, and their popularity has continued, as illustrated by the large audiences experienced at The Music of Star Wars concerts in Perth, Edinburgh and Glasgow last February.

The RSNO recently released Danny Elfman’s Violin Concerto Eleven Eleven on the Sony label. Soloist Sandy Cameron returns in November for the UK premiere of the work, which forms part of a Danny Elfman Gala Concert, also featuring the composer’s Batman Suite, Alice in Wonderland Suite and Edward Scissorhands Suite.

The Orchestra’s chief film music conductor Richard Kaufman returns to conduct John Williams at the Oscars in March. In December RSNO Chorus Director Gregory Batsleer makes his first appearance onstage at the RSNO Christmas Concerts, conducting the programme that includes the now traditional screening of Raymond Briggs’ classic animation The Snowman, narrated by BBC presenter and tenor Jamie MacDougall.

Music from blockbusters such as Superman, James Bond, The Incredibles, Indiana Jones, Gladiator, Independence Day, Apollo 13 and more will be performed in May for Heroes and Superheroes, conducted by Stephen Bell.

RSNO Chamber Series
The RSNO’s Chamber Series has become a significant part of the Orchestra’s programming at its Glasgow base, the RSNO Centre, six concerts for 2019:20. RSNO Principals and pianist Scott Mitchell open the new series on Sunday 20 October with Poulenc’s Sextet, Zemlinsky’s Humoreske and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Quintet in Bb major.

On Sunday 3 November pianist Edward Cohen is joined by RSNO musicians Lorna Rough, Sophie Lang and Betsy Taylor for three piano quartets, Brahms’ Quartet No3 in C minor, Mahler’s Piano Quartet in A minor and Schumann’s Piano Quartet in E flat major.

Scottish mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill returns to perform a selection of French songs by Hahn, Duparc and Chausson on Sunday 23 February, a programme that also includes Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Cello, Wagner’s Five Wesendonck Lieder and Jongen’s Calmes, aux quais déserts.

The RSNO’s Artist in Residence Steven Osborne makes his chamber appearance of the Season on Sunday 8 March with an all-Beethoven sonata programme, performing the anniversary composer’s Piano Sonatas Nos. 30, 31 and 32.

Continuing the Beethoven Revolution theme for the RSNO Chamber Series, Principal Cello Aleksei Kiseliov and pianist Alasdair Beatson performs Beethoven’s Excerpts from 12 Variations in F major as well as Richard Strauss’ Cello Sonata.

To conclude the Beethoven Revolution and Chamber Series for 2019:20 on Sunday 24 May seven RSNO musicians will perform Beethoven’s Septet in Eb major and Hasenöhrl’s arrangement of Richard Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel einmal anders!

RSNO Partnerships
The RSNO is supported by the Scottish Government and local authorities in Scotland.

Partnerships are crucial to the work of the RSNO and we aim to facilitate local, national and international partnerships with cultural, commercial, public, charitable and community organisations in order to increase and sustain the impact, reach, reputation and contribution of the Orchestra’s work.

The RSNO continues to strengthen its reputation for delivering rewarding programmes for its corporate partners and sponsors, helping to build profile, serve local communities, engage staff and customers and generate inspiring stories.

ScotRail will continue to be the RSNO’s Official Transport Provider, a partnership which reduces the environmental impact of the RSNO’s busy touring schedule and encourages concert-goers to take the train to concerts, supporting ScotRail’s commercial activities across Scotland. The partnership also supports ScotRail’s developing network of community rail partnerships (CRPs), providing music-making and engagement in communities across Scotland.

Capital Document Solutions continues its generous support of the RSNO’s photocopying and document management services in the RSNO’s new home. As part of this partnership Capital Document Solutions sponsors a series of concerts across the season, with opportunities to build the company’s brand and gain access to hospitality at concerts, helping to develop relationships with staff and clients. This partnership is now in its twelfth year.

The RSNO is proud to be Classic FM’s Orchestra in Scotland.

The RSNO’s partnership with Glasgow Airport enters its ninth year, following the success of a series of annual performances in Glasgow Airport’s main terminal.

The RSNO continues in partnership with the Institut Français Écosse, an association which supports Franco-Scottish cross-cultural collaboration.

The RSNO is also delighted to continue its sponsorship with La Bonne Auberge, a partnership which supports Children's Classic Concerts, now in its tenth year. For 2019:20 Investec are supporting The Nutcracker and the Mouse King programmes in Edinburgh and Glasgow. This is the third year of the partnership.

The RSNO would like to thank all its sponsors, corporate partners, media and broadcast partners and project partners who make a crucial contribution to the work of the Orchestra.

Corporate supporters: Anta, Capital Document Solutions, Victor & Carina Contini, Dine, Gallagher, Glasgow Airport, Hampden & Co. Bankers, Institut Français Écosse, Investec Wealth & Investment, Jones Lang LaSalle, La Bonne Auberge, Old Course Hotel St Andrews, Prestonfield, Turcan Connell, Valvona & Crolla.

Principal Media Partner: Classic FM
Broadcast Partner: BBC Radio 3
Principal Transport Provider: ScotRail
Corporate Partners: Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, Scots Magazine, The Scottish Council for Development & Industry, Smart Graphics.
Chair Sponsors: Cadenhead’s, Mitchell’s Glengyle, Springbank Distillers Ltd, J&A Mitchell and Co. Ltd.
Project Partners: Abertay University, Children's Classic Concerts, Children's Hospice Association Scotland, Dundee University, Glasgow Life, Horsecross Arts, Kibble, National Youth Orchestras of Scotland, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities, Sistema Scotland, Skills Development Scotland, Tayside Healthcare Arts Trust, Usher Hall, Young Scot.