‘The day of wrath – the day when the whole world will be reduced to ashes!’ When Hector Berlioz faced up to the Day of Judgement, he did nothing by halves: and in his stupendous Requiem he created some of the most awe-inspiring sounds ever imagined for a gigantic orchestra and an even mightier chorus. Four brass bands, a team of opera singers and a triple-shot of raw genius complete the package, as Thomas Søndergård conducts Scotland’s musical event of the year.
Repertoire includesBerlioz - Grande messe des morts
SoloistsMagnus Walker - Tenor RSNO Chorus Stephen Doughty - Director, RSNO Chorus Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Voices Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Musicians
Music Director Thomas Søndergård
Danish conductor Thomas Søndergård is the Music Director of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, following six seasons as Principal Guest Conductor. The 2023:24 season also sees Thomas start his tenure as Music Director of the Minnesota Orchestra. Between 2012 and 2018, he served as Principal Conductor of BBC National Orchestra of Wales (BBC NOW), 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, Konzerthausorchester Berlin), Munich (Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunk), 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, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Baltimore, St Louis, Toronto, Atlanta, Montreal, Vancouver, Houston and Seattle. He has made highly successful tours to China, Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
The 2023:24 season marks the beginning of Thomas’ tenure as Music Director of the Minnesota Orchestra. With the RSNO this season, in addition to their subscription series, Thomas will lead the orchestra’s residency at the Grosses Festspielhaus in Salzburg, joined by Lise de la Salle, as well as an extensive European tour with Ray Chen. This season sees Thomas make his return to the London Symphony Orchestra, as well as his debut with the New York Philharmonic, where he will perform the US premiere of Olga Neuwirth’s Keyframes for a Hippogriff. Thomas also makes regular guest appearances throughout Scandinavia this season, debuting with Iceland Symphony and the Bergen International Festival, where he leads a full staging of Ibsen’s Peer Gynt to Grieg’s complete incidental music. Return visits include Bergen Philharmonic, a joint collaboration with Aalborg and Aarhus Symfoniorkesters, and the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, celebrating his receipt of the Carl Nielsen and Anne-Marie Carl Nielsen’s Foundation award for his outstanding contribution to Danish musical life.
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 performances with the 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 works 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, including Die Walküre, which won the 2022 Reumert Award for Best Opera Production, Elektra, 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. 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 Poul Ruders (Arhus Symphony, Norwegian Radio, Royal Danish Opera (Kafka’s Trial) for Da Capo and Bridge Records); Sibelius symphonies and tone poems with BBC NOW and Prokofiev and Richard Strauss with RSNO for Linn Records; Lutoslawski and Dutilleux concertos with ‘cellist Johannes Moser and Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Berlin (Pentatone); and Vilde Frang’s celebrated debut recording (WDR Koln for EMI).
In January 2022, Thomas was decorated with a prestigious Royal Order of Chivalry – the Order of Dannebrog (Ridder af Dannebrogordenen) by Her Majesty Margrethe II, Queen of Denmark.
Tenor Magnus Walker
Magnus Walker is a Glasgow born tenor who studied at the Royal Academy of Music from 2016 – 2023. Magnus made his Three Choirs Festival soloist debut in Elgar’s The Kingdom, and his international solo debut performing the tenor solo in Britten’s War Requiem with the Bulgarian National Radio Symphony Orchestra. In summer 2018, Magnus returned to the Three Choirs Festival to sing Lili Boulanger’s setting of Psalm 130: Du Fond de L’Abime.
Magnus also has a keen love of Art song, he is currently on the Oxford Lieder Young artist program where he has performed alongside artists such as Kate Royal, Christine Rice and Julius Drake. As part of the program Magnus has also performed in the International Lied Festival Zeist. He also recently made his Wigmore Hall debut in a recital of Schubert Lieder celebrating the Royal Academy of Music’s Bicentenary. Magnus recently performed the role of Tom Rakewell in Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, conducted by Trevor Pinnock and directed by Freddy Wake-Walker. Other operatic highlights include performing the roles of Lysander in the Royal Academy Opera’s production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Ferrando in Mozart’s Così fan Tutte, and Gonzalve in Ravel’s L’heure Espagnole.
The RSNO Chorus performs in around six different programmes in up to twenty concerts across Scotland with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra each year. The RSNO Chorus has also had great success in recording with the Orchestra. Its recordings, amongst others, of Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky, conducted by Neeme Jӓrvi, and Holst’s The Planets, conducted by David Lloyd-Jones, have both attracted high critical acclaim.
In addition to its commitment to the Orchestra, the RSNO Chorus performs independently and has been invited to perform with orchestras in many parts of the world, establishing an international status and touring to Copenhagen, Hong Kong, Israel, Germany, Belfast, Australia, Trondheim and most recently, Amsterdam and Prague. In 2018 it performed Britten’s War Requiem with the RSNO at the BBC Proms.
The RSNO Chorus evolved from a choir formed in 1843 to sing the first full performance of Handel’s Messiah in Scotland. Today, it is one of the most successful choruses in the UK. In recent years, it has performed practically every work in the standard choral repertoire along with contemporary works by renowned composers, including John Adams, Magnus Lindberg, Howard Shore and James MacMillan.
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.