The orchestra was established in 1891 as the Scottish Orchestra. In 1950 orchestra became the Scottish National Orchestra and was awarded Royal Patronage in 1977.
The orchestra has played in integral part in Scotland’s musical life throughout history, including performing at the opening ceremony of the Scottish Parliament building in 2004. The orchestra has had many notable conductors that have contributed to its successful career, such as George Szell, Sir John Barbirolli, Walter Susskind, Sir Alexander Gibson, Neeme Järvi, Walter Weller, Alexander Lazarev and Stéphane Denève.
The RSNO welcomed British-Canadian musician and conductor Peter Oundjian in 2012 as its latest Music Director and Danish conductor Thomas Søndergård as Principal Guest Conductor. 2012 also saw the appointments of two new leaders, James Clark and Maya Iwabuchi.
The RSNO nationally performs across Scotland, including concerts in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen, Perth and Inverness. The Orchestra appears regularly at the Edinburgh International Festival and at the BBC Proms at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Recent appearances in England include performances at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall, Leeds Town Hall, The Sage, Gateshead and at The Sands Centre, Carlisle. It undertook a week-long residency in Shetland in 2012 as part of the Cultural Olympiad, offering the most northerly UK cultural activity leading up to the 2012 Olympic Games. The RSNO regularly appears at the St Magnus Festival, Orkney. Their international career features tours to France, Germany, Spain, Austria, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Serbia. In December 2012 and January 2013 the Orchestra first visited Asia with a immensely successful tour of China with Peter Oundjian.
The RSNO Chorus joins the orchestra for choral performances, directed by Gregory Batsleer. The RSNO Chorus evolved from a choir formed in 1843 to perform the first full rendition ofHandel’s Messiah in Scotland. Today, the RSNO Chorus is one of the most highly acclaimed large symphonic choruses in the United Kingdom, with around 160 members. The Chorus has performed almost all the works in the standard choral repertoire along with contemporary works by renowned composers, such asJohn Adams, Magnus Lindberg, Howard Shore and James MacMillan.The RSNO Junior Chorus was established in 1978 by Jean Kidd. This chorus also accompanies the orchestra regularly. It has been directed by popular chorus director Christopher Bell since 1994, and consists of over 400 members, ranging in age from seven to eighteen. It has built up a noteworthy reputation singing under some of the world’s most distinguished conductors and appearing on radio and television.
The quality of the RSNO's recordings have elevated its international stature, leading to the orchestra receiving two Diapason d’Or de l’année awards for Symphonic Music, and eight GRAMMY Award nominations over the last decade. Over 200 recordings are available, including the complete symphonies ofSibelius, Prokofiev, Glazunov, Nielsen, Martinů, Roussel and the grand orchestral works ofDebussy.
The orchestras Learning and Engagement team offer progressive participatory music-making activities across Scotland, working with all ages and abilities. With a programme available for new-borns and onwards, the team is committed to delivering the finest quality workshops as well as nurturing and suporting new talent. From schools and nursery concerts, to community workshops and annual residencies during which the Orchestra embeds itself at the centre of Scottish communities, the team connects the Orchestra, its music and musicians with the people of Scotland.