Media Release: Scottish orchestra is 125 years young

Peter Oundjian AMS

Two RSNO conductors celebrating five years on the RSNO’s 125th anniversary

  • The third oldest continuously active professional orchestra in the UK embarks on part two of a two-season 125th anniversary celebration
  • The 2016:17 Season will be headed by RSNO music director, Peter Oundjian, with visits from members of the orchestra’s artistic team; Conductor Laureate, Neeme Järvi, who celebrates his 80th birthday, and principal guest conductor, Thomas Søndergård
  • Increased artist collaboration and programme investigation is developed for 2016:17, continuing with Artist in Residence weeks and performance strands, including Under The Skin of…and In Focus
  • Celebration of the music of Sergei Rachmaninov, Gustav Mahler, Jean Sibelius
  • The complete Beethoven Piano Concertos performed by five top-tier soloists: Ingrid Fliter, Paul Lewis, Lars Vogt, Jonathan Biss, Alica Sara Ott
  • Nikolai Lugansky concludes his complete cycle of Prokofiev’s Piano Concertos
  • Three programmes featuring RSNO Principals as soloists: Katherine Bryan (flute), Aleksei Kiseliov (cello) and Adrian Wilson (oboe)
  • Choral works for the 2016:17 season: Verdi’s Requiem on the 125th anniversary of its premiere; Brahms’ Nänie; a new commission by Gerald Barry; and concluding the season with Mahler Symphony No3
  • Two further new commissions to celebrate the orchestra’s 125th anniversary; Sally Beamish’s Piano Concerto No3 and Martin Suckling’s Flute Concerto
  • RSNO Chamber Series returns with further collaboration with visiting soloist artists in 2016:17
  • Film music programming continues for 2016:17, with John Williams and Friends, and the Scottish première of Oscar-winning Mozart biopic, Amadeus, with live symphony orchestra

THE 2016:17 Season presents the second of its two-season celebration of the 125th anniversary of the orchestra, and marks the fifth consecutive year of Peter Oundjian’s tenure as RSNO music director and Thomas Søndergård as RSNO principal guest conductor.

In the coming orchestral year we also welcome the return of RSNO Conductor Laureate, Neeme Järvi, who celebrates his 80th birthday in 2017.

In a season which will see the RSNO perform 100 times across four countries, the orchestra exploits the expertise of one of the UK’s largest professional symphonic ensembles.

Through its own-promoted Season, performances at high-profile events and performing partnerships, the RSNO will perform to audiences across 11 Scottish towns and cities.

As well as meeting the increasing and evolving appetite for live orchestral music in Scotland, the orchestra will perform its role of cultural ambassador by undertaking two significant international tours, of Spain and the USA, both with its music director, Peter Oundjian.

Large-scale symphonic works, the speciality of the RSNO, feature heavily in 2016:17.

With a focus on Rachmaninov (Second and Third Symphonies, Symphonic Dances and Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini), Mahler (First Symphony, Third Symphony, Rückert-Lieder, Blumine and Britten’s arrangement of What the Wild Flowers Tell Me), Sibelius (Violin Concerto; Canzonetta, Scene with Cranes, Valse triste from Kuolema; The Oceanides; Finlandia; Symphony No5) and Beethoven (Piano Concerto cycle, Symphonies 1, 3, 7 and 8; Leonore Overture No3), the anniversary celebrations reflect the orchestra’s historical connection with the repertoire.

For 2016:17, the RSNO will further consolidate its position as Classic FM’s Orchestra in Scotland by broadcasting a series of its live performances on the nation’s favourite classical radio station, which recently announced an increase in its listenership to nearly six million a year.

From October to December 2016, the RSNO’s live performances will be aired live or as-live weekly across the UK on the orchestra’s partner broadcaster.

RSNO music director, Peter Oundjian, said: “We approach the second of our two-season 125th anniversary celebration with a reason to be joyful. Over the past year, the orchestra has revelled in playing to packed venues, with supportive audiences keen to enjoy their national symphonic ensemble and share in the excitement of live orchestral music.

“It’s a particular reason for both principal guest conductor, Thomas Søndergård, and myself to celebrate too, as we mark our fifth seasons with the RSNO. It is with great pride that – together with the musicians, chorus members and staff – we’ve contributed to the continuing success of this precious cultural gem; a gem we are confidently presenting to audiences both at home and abroad in this milestone year.”

Added RSNO chief executive, Dr Krishna Thiagarajan: “The RSNO has transitioned through a substantial period of change over the past 12 months; at the centre of this progression our move to the fabulous new rehearsal, performance and recording venue in the centre of Glasgow.

“We now have at our disposal an environment appropriate for the demands of a modern professional orchestra seeking every opportunity to develop and grow.

“From this moment forward, we will be proving to our supporters what this, a progressive performing arts organisation fit for the 21st century, can really do.

Whether you’re a frequent attender of our Season concerts, have recently enjoyed the film music presentations, included a visit to our Christmas concerts as part of your festive celebrating, or have participated in one of our many learning and engagement initiatives, at the core is an organisation who is determined to provide the best possible music experience for the people of Scotland.”

The RSNO continues to make connections with new artists and foster closer collaborations with existing relationships.

Eight conductors make their RSNO debut; Omer Meir Wellber, Rafael Payare, Eivind Gullberg Jensen, Cornelius Meister, Lahav Shani, Karina Canellakis, Leo McFall, Jamie Phillips and Nikolaj Znaider, who returns as conductor rather than solo violinist.

Soloists joining the orchestra for the first-time include Giovanni Sollima, Sergei Krylov, Jennifer Johnston, Angel Blue, Alexander Vinogradov, Edgaras Montvidas, Elizaberth De Shong, Robin Blaze, Joshua Ellicott and Jennifer Johnston.

Guest artists returning include conductors, Cristian Macelaru, John Storgards, Carlos Miguel Prieto, Andrew Litton and James Feddeck. Returning soloists familiar to RSNO audiences include Nicola Benedetti, Paul Lewis, Lars Vogt, Simon Trpčeski, Ingrid Fliter, Jonathan Biss, Nikolai Lugansky, Alice Sara Ott, Roderick Williams, Evelina Dobračeva, Karen Cargill, Elizabeth Atherton and Peter Harvey.

Artists in residence

Of the myriad artists visiting Scotland next season, three have been selected as this year’s artists in residence: Nikolai Lugansky, Giovanni Sollima and Jonathan Biss.

Nikolai Lugansky concludes his survey of the piano concertos of Sergei Prokofiev in the 125th anniversary of the composer’s birth.

“He makes me look like a pussycat.” So said arguably the world’s greatest living cellist, YoYo Ma of Giovanni Sollima, who makes his debut with performances of Dvořák’s Cello Concerto, as well as sharing the solo spotlight with RSNO principal cello Aleksei Kiseliov for the Scottish première of Sollima’s Violoncelli, vibrez. While he is in Scotland, Giovanni will also direct the RSNO Chamber Ensemble.

Jonathan Biss performs Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No1 and also a new piano concerto by Scottish-based composer Sally Beamish, which takes joint inspiration from Beethoven and Glasgow’s industrial landscapes and heritage. Jonathan also joins the RSNO Chamber Series and performs as part of the RSNO’s recently developed investigative programme Under The Skin Of…

New commissions

As part of the 125th anniversary celebrations the RSNO has commissioned three new works. Scottish composer, Martin Suckling, will receive the first performances of his new Flute Concerto, by RSNO principal flute, Katherine Bryan.

Glasgow-based composer, Sally Beamish’s Piano Concerto No3 The Makers is played for the first time in Scotland by Jonathan Biss, and a major new choral work by Irish composer, Gerald Barry, co-commissioned by the RSNO and RTE Symphony Orchestra, entitled Humiliated and Insulted, will receive its Scottish première by the RSNO and RSNO Chorus.

RSNO Conductor Laureate Neeme Järvi’s 80th birthday

Neeme Järvi, who served as the orchestra’s principal conductor from 1984 to 1988 and in that time firmly re-instated the prchestra as an internationally-recognised recording ensemble, returns in 2017 to celebrate his 80th birthday with plans to both perform and record with the RSNO. In February, he and the RSNO will perform Tchaikovsky’s comparatively rarely-performed Manfred Symphony.

RSNO music director, Peter Oundjian, will open the second season of the 125th birthday celebrations with the first of four Rachmaninov symphonic works, Symphony No2.

Peter returns in 2017 with Suites 1&2 from Ravel’s ballet music, Daphnis et Chloé, a special pre-USA Tour performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No4 and, post-tour, of Brahms’ Symphony No4.

Peter, the Ladies of the RSNO Chorus, the RSNO Junior Chorus and Scottish mezzo-soprano, Karen Cargill, conclude the season with Mahler’s Symphony No3.

The RSNO and Maestro Oundjian perform five dates in Spain in January 2017, their first tour together since the critically-successful tour of China in 2012:13. They will be joined by pianist, Ingrid Fliter, performing Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No1.

And again in March 2017, Peter and the Orchestra are accompanied by Nicola Benedetti (performing Brahms’ Violin Concerto/Bruch’s Violin Concerto No1) on their first visit to the USA in 35 years. Supported by the Scottish Government’s International Touring Fund, they will undertake a six-date tour of Florida, performing in such illustrious venues as the Broward Centre, Fort Lauderdale; twice at the Kravis Performing Arts Centre, West Palm Beach, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Sarasota; Phillips Performing Arts Center, Gainsville; Mann Performing Arts Hall, Fort Myers; and the Peabody Auditorium, Daytona Beach.

RSNO principal guest conductor, Thomas Søndergård, has chosen to curate works of Mahler, Sibelius and Beethoven for his three 2016:17 programmes.

Mahler’s discarded First Symphony movement Blumine and Britten’s arrangement of What the Wild Flowers Tell Me sit complimentarily alongside Sibelius’ Violin Concerto (with Janine Jansen) and Beethoven’s Symphony No7. Sibelius’ Finlandia and The Oceanides partner Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn (with baritone Roderick Williams) and Beethoven’s First Symphony.

And Sibelius’ Symphony No5 and Valse triste compliment Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No3 and Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder (with mezzo Jennifer Johnston) for the penultimate concert of the Season.

We say farewell to RSNO associate conductor, Jean-Claude Picard, who served as assistant conductor for two years prior to receiving a year’s extension and the honorary title of associate conductor. By the time the forthcoming season is underway, the RSNO will have appointed a new assistant conductor, who will benefit from the mentorship programme for two years under the guidance of the RSNO artistic team, musicians and staff.

The RSNO has received over 300 applications from around the world for the post. Auditions commence in May.

Under The Skin of… returns for 2016:17 with two investigations onto the lives and inspirations of prominent composers. Under the orchestral microscope are Rachmaninov and Beethoven. These exploratory presentations are for all and aim to enhance the concert-going experience.

Symphony, Soup and a Sandwich also returns, with three lunchtime concerts featuring core symphonic repertoire at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall’s New Auditorium over the coming season.

In Focus, formerly Discover Days, return for the coming year. Each In Focus Day will be led by RSNO musician, Katherine Wren, where the group will take an in-depth look at the works and related contexts of a featured composer. Tickets cost £25 and include lunch and refreshments.

Film, Folk and Festive The orchestra’s film music programmes, re-launched in 2013, have proved a valuable way of introducing live orchestral music to new audiences. In 2015:16 the RSNO saw full houses to its John Williams concerts in Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow, with nearly three-quarters of the audience new to the orchestra.

Conductor, Richard Kaufman, who is firmly woven into Hollywood’s musical fabric, returns to present John Williams and Friends in 2017, which will take a bow to the composer’s collaboration with director, Steven Spielberg. The orchestra will also be performing the soundtrack to the Oscar-winning biopic of Mozart, Amadeus, in Edinburgh (in partnership with the Usher Hall) and Glasgow.

Scottish folk heroes, Phil Cunningham and Aly Bain, join the orchestra for a special 125th anniversary celebration of the RSNO’s connections with alternative music genres, for their St Andrew’s Day Party in Glasgow. Joining them will be vocalists, Eddi Reader and Julie Fowlis, for an evening of Scottish music and storytelling.

The RSNO Christmas Concerts are now embedded as a traditional marking of the Scottish festive season. Christopher Bell conducts the orchestra for the occasion, with seasonal fayre and the screening of Raymond Briggs’ classic animation, The Snowman, with guest star narrator.

Children’s Classic Concerts

The RSNO continues to be Children’s Classic Concerts’ orchestra of choice for performances in the central belt, and for the 2016:17 Season they will partner to present two programmes; Owen and Olly’s Beastly Bash at the end of October/beginning of November, and in December a festive musical feast, Christmas Countdown in Glasgow and Christmas Swingalong with the RSNO Big Band in Edinburgh. For more information on CCC events, please visit

RSNO Chamber Series

The RSNO Chamber Series has been running for five years. Last year was the first season where the initiative to invite a selection of visiting soloists for the main concert series to contribute to the chamber performances. The trend continues for 2016:17, with pianist, Jonathan Biss, and cellist, Giovanni Sollima, joining the chamber musicians at the RSNO’s new centre.

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 national and local 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.

In August 2015, the RSNO was delighted to re-launch its partnership with ScotRail, the RSNO’s Official Transport Provider. This partnership reduces the environmental impact of the RSNO’s busy touring schedule and encourages concert-goers to take the train to concerts, supporting ScotRail’s business development across Scotland.

As the RSNO moved into its new purpose-built centre next to Glasgow Royal Concert Hall in 2015, it was delighted to renew a long-standing partnership with Capital Document Solutions. Capital Document Solutions generously supports all photocopying and document services in the RSNO’s new home. Across the Season Capital Document Solutions sponsors concerts from our Folk, Film and Festive series, with opportunities to build the company’s brand and gain access to hospitality at great concerts, helping to develop relationships with staff and clients. This partnership is now in its ninth year.

The RSNO is proud to be Classic FM’s Orchestra in Scotland and as part of the 125th anniversary seasons the RSNO is building on its successful collaboration with Classic FM, with a series of special concerts and broadcasts.

The RSNO’s partnership with TOTAL E&P UK Limited is now in its 13th year, testimony to the mutual benefits derived from the association. Since the departure of former RSNO Music Director Stéphane Denève and the conclusion of the TOTAL Denève series, the partnership has evolved to support community projects in the North-East of Scotland. Most recently, TOTAL has supported the RSNO’s involvement in the launch of Sistema Scotland in Torry, Aberdeen.

The RSNO’s partnership with Glasgow Airport enters its seventh year following the successful 2014 project which saw the RSNO stage two performances in Glasgow Airport’s main terminal to celebrate the conclusion of the XX Commonwealth Games and the 2015 event in which passengers at Glasgow Airport had the opportunity to conduct the RSNO, coached by RSNO Music Director, Peter Oundjian.

The RSNO is also delighted to have renewed its sponsorship with La Bonne Auberge, a partnership which supports Children’s Classic Concerts, now in its seventh year.

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

Principal sponsors: TOTAL E&P UK Limited, Brewin Dolphin, Capital Document Solutions, The Weir Group, La Bonne Auberge, Glasgow Airport, Arthur J. Gallagher & Co, Valvona & Crolla, Prestonfield.

Principal media partner: Classic FM

Broadcast partner: BBC Radio 3

Media partners: The Courier, The Press and Journal.

Official transport provider: ScotRail

Transport partners: Douglas Park BMW, Park’s Motor Group

Corporate Partners: First Rule Investment Consultancy Ltd, Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, Institute of Directors, Scots Magazine, The Scottish Council for Development & Industry, Smart Graphics.

Chair sponsors: Cadenhead’s, Mitchell’s Glengyle, Springbank Distillery Ltd.

Project partners: Children’s Classic Concerts, Children’s Hospice Association Scotland, Culture Republic, Drake Music Scotland, Glasgow Life, Horsecross Arts, National Trust for Scotland, National Youth Choir of Scotland, Renfrewshire Council, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care, Sistema Scotland, Skills Development Scotland, Starcatchers, Usher Hall, Young Scot.

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