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 artistic team is led by Danish conductor Thomas Søndergård, who was appointed RSNO Music Director in 2018, having previously held the position of Principal Guest Conductor. Hong Kong-born conductor Elim Chan succeeds Søndergård as Principal Guest Conductor.
The RSNO performs across Scotland, including concerts in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen, Perth and Inverness. The Orchestra appears regularly at the Edinburgh International Festival and the BBC Proms, and has made recent tours to the USA, China and Europe.
The Orchestra is joined for choral performances by the RSNO Chorus, directed by Gregory Batsleer. The RSNO Chorus began as a choir formed in 1843 to perform Handel’s Messiah in full for the first time in Scotland. Today, the RSNO Chorus is one of the most distinguished large symphonic choruses in Britain. The Chorus has performed nearly every work in the standard choral repertoire as well as contemporary works by renowned composers, including John Adams, Howard Shore and James MacMillan.
Formed in 1978 by Jean Kidd, the acclaimed RSNO Junior Chorus, under its director Patrick Barrett, also performs regularly alongside the Orchestra. Boasting a membership of over 400 members aged 7 to 18, 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 a 2020 Gramophone Classical Music Award for Chopin’s Piano Concertos (soloist: Benjamin Grosvenor), conducted by Elim Chan, two Diapason d’Or 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). Thomas Søndergård’s debut recording with the RSNO, of Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben, was released in 2019.
The RSNO’s pioneering learning and engagement programme, Music for Life, aims to engage the people of Scotland with music across key stages of life: Early Years, Nurseries and Schools, Teenagers and Students, Families, Accessing Lives, Working Lives and Retired and Later Life. The team is committed to placing the Orchestra at the centre of Scottish communities via workshops and annual residencies across the length and breadth of the country.