For its first full Season of the new decade, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra has created a programme that is based on artistic excellence, bold repertoire and the importance of culture to a modern Scotland.

Concert Highlights

  • Eight Season concerts with Thomas Søndergård including Beethoven Symphony No9 with RSNO Chorus
  • Elim Chan conducts a trio of concerts, including The Rite of Spring
  • Midori is RSNO Artist in Residence 2020:21
  • Nicola Benedetti joins us for two concerts in April
  • Oscars conductor Eímear Noone conducts Video Games concert
  • Comedian Hugh Dennis to present RSNO Christmas Concert

Themes and Strands

  • Polska Scotland – a celebration of Scotland’s connections with Poland
  • Scotch Snaps – six short compositions by living Scottish composers
  • New ‘Insights’ and ‘Exchange’ series linking music and social issues
  • The conclusion of our Beethoven Revolution Series
  • RSNO at the Movies: Star Wars, Harry Potter, James Bond

Focus on Young People

  • National Youth Orchestra of Scotland Showcase with Nicola Benedetti and the RSNO side by side
  • Showcase concerts from the Music School of Douglas Academy, St Mary’s Music School and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
  • Free tickets for under 18s

Chief Executive of the RSNO, Alistair Mackie, said: “I’m delighted to share our plans for the 2020:21 Season. Under the musical leadership of Thomas Søndergård the RSNO has been delivering exceptional performances and we look forward to this outstanding partnership continuing to develop. Supported by a roster of visiting international conductors and soloists, I’m sure that this Season will both entertain and inspire.

“We hope to reach ever wider audiences through live performances and digital media and use the platforms we have to support emerging talent in Scotland. Collaborations with the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland, Music School of Douglas Academy, St Mary’s Music School and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland will expand the RSNO’s engagement with young performers, while the Scotch Snaps series will introduce a range of Scottish composers to the RSNO audience. Our expanded offering of free tickets for under 18s for all Season concerts and a continued determination to reach all sectors of our society through our Music for Life scheme will ensure that excellence is not exclusive.

“During my first year as Chief Executive of the RSNO I have been delighted to see the support that exists for this great Orchestra and inspired by the ambition that I have found within the RSNO team. I am certain that through this Season and beyond the RSNO will continue to grow as a cultural resource for all of Scotland.”

Season Programmes

Director of Concerts and Engagement Bill Chandler said: “We are so excited to include plans to extend our pre-concert activity this 2020:21 Season and give voice to our musicians, guest artists and inspiring individuals to discuss the important issues that our society faces, through the lens of music and culture. From Jay Capperauld’s new work exploring the fragility of the human experience to Beethoven’s triumphant Ode to Joy, our Season Opener will be prefaced by an InFocus discussion about the role of music in mental health and wellbeing, chaired by the Southbank’s Director of Music, Gillian Moore CBE.

“Our Exchange Series will explore topics such as the climate emergency, activism and inclusion. Set against an abundance of great music, the RSNO will set the table for high impact concerts that strike at the heart of all our lives.

“We are equally excited about performing some of the most popular soundtracks from the big screen with concert music from Star Wars, Harry Potter and James Bond. Recent Oscars 2020 Conductor, Eímear Noone will lead a brilliant evening of music from the world of video games including music from Zelda, Final Fantasy, Super Mario and much more. Get your tickets early as these will go fast!”

Thomas Søndergård

Thomas Søndergård will conduct nineteen concerts across Scotland for his third Season as Music Director of the RSNO. As the 250th anniversary of Beethoven is celebrated, 2020:21 opens with the majestic Beethoven Symphony No9 conducted by Søndergård with the Orchestra joined by the RSNO Chorus, and four soloists. The full Orchestra and Chorus will unite again for the Season Finale – Mahler Symphony No2 Resurrection, continuing Søndergård’s Mahler cycle with the RSNO.

RSNO Music Director Thomas Søndergård said: “The 2020:21 Season with the RSNO is a true celebration of how music is for everyone and has a very special way of connecting us to each other, helping us to explore our own lives and shared experiences. Over the past year the Orchestra and I have continued to travel across Scotland, Europe, and even through North America. The welcome we receive everywhere we go is always so kind, but nothing compares to the support and affection we feel from our audiences at home. We truly are celebrating that this Season.

“We are a modern symphony orchestra, and in the 2020:21 Season we continue to attract some of the greatest soloists to play with us and share our stage. In the coming year, not only will we perform with beloved icons of classical music, we will bring our audiences brand new music from contemporary composers in a celebration of music from Scotland and across Europe. This past year has been one of the most memorable for me; opening our last Season on my 50th birthday allowed me the opportunity to reflect not only on how I want to start this new decade of my life, but what I want it to mean for the music we play and share with our audiences. Our programmes for 2020:21 are fearless, bold, and exciting and I cannot wait to share them with you.”

Elim Chan

Principal Guest Conductor Elim Chan begins her RSNO 2020:21 Season conducting Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring in October. A rising star with a growing international following, Chan takes on a UK Premiere and a World Premiere alongside the epic Rite of Spring in her first 2020:21 Season concert. Pre-conceptions of orchestral musical are set to be dismantled in the UK premiere of Jörg Widmann’s Echo-Fragmente on October 23, before the world premiere of David Fennessy’s highly anticipated The Riot Act.

It is the first in a trio of concerts with Chan returning in April for performances featuring Nicola Benedetti playing a world premiere violin concerto, and then in May for Benjamin Grosvenor playing Chopin’s Piano Concerto No1. Grosvenor recently released a critically acclaimed album of Chopin Piano Concertos with the RSNO as his orchestra, and Chan conducting.

Elim Chan, Principal Guest Conductor at the RSNO, said: “Working with the RSNO on different projects now for a few seasons convinces me that everything is possible with this band—everyone rises up to the challenges and takes the music-making to a thrillingly high level in concerts, inspiring me to be a better musician every time I am on stage with them!”

Midori Artist in Residence

World-renowned violinist Midori joins the RSNO as Artist in Residence for Season 2020:21. She joins Thomas Søndergård to perform Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in October, before returning with the UK premiere and RSNO co-commission of German composer Detlev Glanert’s Second Violin Concerto.

The RSNO’s November concert with Midori lands in the middle of the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP 26, taking place in Glasgow. Those concerts will include an Exchange event with the violinist, who is also a UN Messenger of Peace, discussing Climate Change with a panel of young people and Jasper Parrott, Chief Executive of HarrisonParrott.

Guest soloists/conductors

Boris Giltburg returns to perform with the RSNO for the first time since 2016, playing Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No4, having dazzled audiences with the Third Concerto on his last visit, with Carlos Miguel Prieto returning to conduct the RSNO.

Sir Roger Norrington returns to the RSNO once again in October for a programme featuring the storms of Haydn, Pastorals of Beethoven, and Mozart’s Violin Concerto No5 Turkish K219 with Francesca Dego.

Opera fans are in for a spellbinding evening with Karen Cargill singing Wagner’s ‘Prelude’ and ‘Good Friday Spell’ from Parsifal and Wesendonck-Lieder, with Thomas Søndergård conducting.

Paul Lewis, dubbed ‘the finest British pianist for generations,’ joins the RSNO for Grieg’s Piano Concerto in Season Concerts conducted by Cornelius Meister ahead of his Chamber Series performance Paul Lewis Plays Mozart.

Violinist Stefan Jackiw joins conductor Gemma New for a programme full of legends, stories, and fairy tales to leave a lasting impression on audiences.

Tenor Edgaras Montvidas joins the RSNO for the first time since Verdi’s Requiem in 2016, returning this Season to bring alive the magic of Szymanowski’s Symphony No3 The Song of the Night with the RSNO Chorus.

In 2021 the RSNO continues to play with renowned soloists including Louis Schwizgebel swinging into February to play Gershwin’s Concerto in F with John Wilson conducting an evening of big music.

Kyoko Takezawa makes her long-awaited return to the RSNO to play Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, a Scots music classic written by the great German composer.

Japanese pianist Makoto Ozone makes his debut with the RSNO for Mozart’s Piano Concerto No9 Jeunehomme K271 as the first of two solo pianists in March ahead of Roman Rabinovich joining the Orchestra for Prokofiev Piano Concerto No3.

We welcome back a good friend of the Orchestra, Nicola Benedetti for two successive Season concerts in April. The first with the RSNO, Benedetti and the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland sharing the stage with a concert included in the Polska Scotland series as Benedetti plays Szymanowski’s Violin Concerto No1 – the same piece she famously won BBC Young Musician of the Year with back in 2004, at the Usher Hall.

Nicola Benedetti returns the following week with a brand-new Violin Concerto from fellow BBC Young Musician of the Year winner, composer Mark Simpson. In this second Season concert with Nicola Benedetti audiences will also enjoy the final Scotch Snap of the series in Christopher Duncan’s Stac Dona from The Lost Songs of St Kilda.

In Spring 2021 the RSNO Junior Chorus sings Fauré’s Requiem under the baton of Kevin John Edusei with guest soloists soprano Susanna Hurrell and baritone Marcus Farnsworth.

Benjamin Grosvenor plays Chopin Piano Concerto No1 in May 2021 as part of the RSNO Polska Scotland series, conducted by Principal Guest Conductor Elim Chan.

The 2020:21 Season comes to a powerful close with a performance of the epic Mahler Symphony No2 Resurrection with Thomas Søndergård, the RSNO, and the RSNO Chorus joined by soprano Ruby Hughes and mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill.

Themes and Strands

Polska Scotland

Inspired by the RSNO Chief Executive Alistair Mackie’s own conversations with his mother about her vivid memories of the Clydebank Blitz in March 1941, in which a Polish warship provided vital defence for the shipbuilding yards, the RSNO pays homage to and celebrates Scotland’s long-standing friendship with Poland through a series of concerts and events in Polska Scotland.

Alongside concerts by the RSNO, we welcome to Season 2020:21 the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra and their Music Director Lawrence Foster, in March to play Elgar’s Polonia, Chopin Piano Concerto No2 played by Szymon Nehring, and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No4. On April 25 our Polska Scotland series features in its own Polish Reflections chamber concert with RSNO musicians playing Szymanowski, Lutosławski, and Bacewicz in an emotive programme exploring Polish music that created a buzz across Europe in the 20th Century, with a nod to Britain’s own offerings in Britten’s Phantasy Quartet.

The Polska Scotland connection is discussed in depth at a special In Focus event on Tuesday 23 and Wednesday 24 March 2021, where RSNO Chief Executive Alistair Mackie will be in conversation with Historian Robert Ostrycharz, RSNO Head of Orchestra Management Ewen McKay, and Lady Camilla Panufnik – the widow of dissident Polish composer Sir Andrzej Panufnik. The Polska Scotland series is supported by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute.


The RSNO has programmed six works by five living Scots composers as part of a new series of “Scotch Snaps.” The selected pieces will appear in programmes throughout the Season and will introduce audiences to new compositions with three world premieres, two of which are RSNO commissions, alongside three established pieces.

The opening Season concerts will feature the first Scotch Snap commission and world premiere of Jay Capperauld’s Flute Concerto Our Gilded Veins, played by Orchestra Principal Katherine Bryan. Capperauld’s work appears again in November with Fèin-Aithne. Glasgow’s own David Fennessy is the second Scotch Snap feature in October with his RSNO commissioned work and world premiere of The Riot Act. The RSNO’s Chamber Series in the New Auditorium in Glasgow will also include a Scotch Snap in the form of Michael Murray’s Psycho-Scherzo written for oboe, on 25 October. The series also features established works from Craig Armstrong and Christopher Duncan. From The Lost Songs of St Kilda, Craig Armstrong’s compositions Stac Lee ‘Dawn’ and ‘Dusk’ will be heard in November in Edinburgh and Glasgow and in April Christopher Duncan’s composition Stac Dona is included in the ‘Nicola Benedetti Plays Simpson’ concerts in Perth, Edinburgh, and Glasgow. The Scotch Snaps series is supported by the Fidelio Charitable Trust.

Video Games and Music from the Movies

The 2020:21 Season ‘Pops’ programme brings the glamour of Hollywood to Scotland with Eímear Noone, conductor of the 2020 Academy Awards, conducting Video Games Music in Concert in November. Gamers can hear soundtrack scores from icons such as World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy, Halo, Resident Evil, and even Super Mario amongst other blockbuster favourites. Some of the most dramatic orchestral music of our time, on stage live with a full symphony orchestra and chorus. This will be a night like no other in the RSNO 2020:21 Season.

Fans of Mock The Week, Outnumbered, and The Zoo are in for a Christmas treat as TV’s Hugh Dennis joins the RSNO this December to host our Christmas Concerts across Scotland and narrate the magical screening of The Snowman, accompanied by the Orchestra. Hugh Dennis said: “I am so excited to be working with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and can’t wait to get back up to Scotland for this brilliant run of concerts. We all know Raymond Briggs’ beautiful story of The Snowman and it wouldn’t be Christmas without watching it, so to experience it with a full symphony orchestra will be absolutely amazing.”

Then in 2021 the RSNO will be taking the music of cinema classics to the concert halls across Scotland with The Music of Star Wars, The Magical Music of Harry Potter, and The Music of Bond, James Bond.

With George Lucas’ saga coming to an end this year, fans of Star Wars can revisit the stunning themes that many grew up with, alongside newer works from this legendary series playing at concerts in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Dundee in The Music of Star Wars. For those wishing to escape to the muggle world, allow the RSNO to cast a spell over budding wizards and witches with The Magical Music of Harry Potter flying through Perth, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Dundee in May 2021. Later in the Season the RSNO will be dusting off their tuxedos, and leaving audiences shaken - not stirred, with The Music of Bond, James Bond, featuring dazzling vocals from top West End star Anna-Jane Casey and Strictly Come Dancing vocalist Lance Ellington.

Daytime Concerts

Continuing its strong presence in Orchestra programming, the RSNO Chamber Series returns with seven concerts for 2020:21, featuring several guest artists.

The RSNO’s Symphony, Soup and a Sandwich series is stirring the musical pot with three concerts specifically designed for a lunchtime audience including Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No1, Brahms’ Symphony No4 and Dvořák’s Symphony No7.

Focus on Young People

The Royal Scottish National Orchestra is looking ahead in Season 2020:21 to showcase up-and-coming orchestral talent in Scotland.

St Mary’s Music School in Edinburgh will take to the stage at the Usher Hall on Friday 30 October for a special pre-concert performance ahead of Scotland’s National Orchestra, in a free ticketed concert available to book through Season subscriptions or online at

On 12 March 2021, the Music School of Douglas Academy will take to the stage of the New Auditorium of the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. This special evening will showcase some of the brightest young musicians in Scotland.

The musicians of the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland will perform alongside violinist Nicola Benedetti and the RSNO on 15, 16 and 17 April 2021.

Students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland will perform a varied concerto programme accompanied by the RSNO in the New Auditorium, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Thursday 20 May 2021.

Free tickets for under-18s

For Season 2020:21 the Royal Scottish National Orchestra is proud to extend free ticket offers for under-16s to include under 18s. From September 2020 two under-18s can attend all RSNO Season concerts for free when accompanied by a paying adult. In addition to free tickets, under 18s can receive a free programme on the night of a concert by showing their under 18 ticket. Tickets can be booked online or through a venue box office.

Insights and Exchange

New for the 2020:21 Season, the RSNO has programmed extended panel talks as part of a new ‘Exchange’ series which will begin at 6:30pm on concert evenings and remain free to all performance ticketholders. The popular existing pre-concert talks will continue throughout the Season billed as ‘Insight’ events – offering audiences the chance to hear from RSNO conductors, musicians, and visiting artists to discuss their thoughts on the performance repertoire each week before a show.

The longer ‘Exchange’ talks will take the form of in-depth panel-led discussions on the music to be performed, but also wider issues which have affected composers, musicians, and audience members alike. The conversations begin in October with composer David Fennessy joined by guest speakers to discuss Activism and the infamous Battle of George Square which inspired his work The Riot Act. In November the RSNO’s Bill Chandler will join composer and Music Director of the Paraorchestra, Lloyd Coleman, to discuss Inclusion ahead of the Beethoven Five Season Concert. In a timely event of the Season, RSNO Artist in Residence Midori leads the Exchange event on Climate Change. And in the Spring, audiences will hear from Luminate Director Anne Gallacher joined by Playlist for Life Chief Executive Sarah Metcalfe to discuss Creative Ageing.


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 Principal Transport Provider, a partnership which reduces the environmental impact of the RSNO’s busy touring schedule, encourages concertgoers to take the train to concerts and supports ScotRail’s commercial activities across Scotland.

Capital Document Solutions continues its generous support of the RSNO’s photocopying and document management services. 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 thirteenth year. This Season Capitol Solutions sponsors Sibelius Five, Nicola Benedetti Plays Simpson, and The Music of Star Wars.

This year the RSNO is delighted to announce a new partnership with the Adam Mickiewicz Institute. The RSNO’s Polska Scotland series is generously supported by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute as part of the international cultural programme marking the centenary of Poland’s regained independence. This programme is financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland as part of the multi-annual NIEPODLEGŁA programme 2017–2022.

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

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.

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.

Funders: The Scottish Government, Aberdeen City Council, Dundee City Council, Glasgow City Council, Glasgow City of Music, Deep Carbon Observatory, Adam Mickiewicz Institute.

Corporate supporters: Anta, Capital Document Solutions, Victor & Carina Contini, Dine, Gallagher, Hampden & Co. Bankers, Institut Français Écosse, Investec Wealth & Investment, La Bonne Auberge, Prestonfield, Valvona & Crolla.

Principal Media Partner: Classic FM

Broadcast Partner: BBC Radio 3

Principal Transport Provider: ScotRail

Chair Sponsors: Cadenhead’s, Mitchell’s Glengyle, Springbank Distillers Ltd, J&A Mitchell and Co. Ltd.

The RSNO is also deeply grateful for the generosity of its individual supporters. Our Conductors’ Circle and Patrons are a vital part of our annual fundraising. As a charity, we also rely upon a wide range of generous support from Trusts and Foundations.

For more information on RSNO concerts and events, visit