Media Release: The RSNO’s 2017:18 Season announced


New music, more concerts and greater diversity as the RSNO celebrates the 175th anniversary of its founding organisation, the RSNO Chorus

  • American focus with Stateside guest artists, programmes, including two-week Leonard Bernstein tribute
  • New RSNO Commission from Pulitzer-winning US composer, Jennifer Higdon
  • Peter Oundjian brings grand-scale, immersive works and Thomas Søndergård explores German romanticism
  • Works by John Adams, Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, George Gershwin, André Previn and Bernard Herrmann
  • The RSNO Chorus celebrates its 175th anniversary with performances of Bernstein’s MASS, Chichester Psalms, Brahms’ A German Requiem and Holst’s The Planets
  • Schumann Symphonic Cycle with Sir Roger Norrington over two Seasons commencing with Nos1 and 2
  • UK premiere of new version of Anton Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony
  • Symphony, Soup and Sandwich lunchtime concert series extended to four programmes in Glasgow
  • RSNO at the Movies film music series develops co-promotion with Edinburgh International Film Festival
  • Celebration of America’s greatest living composer, John Williams, with a programme dedicated to the music of Star Wars
  • Scottish exclusive events featuring the life and work of Hollywood legend Gene Kelly
  • Pre-season performances featuring works of eminent Chinese composer Xiaogang Ye in Edinburgh and Glasgow
  • Seven-concert Chamber Series in Glasgow

AS the Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s 125th anniversary celebrations come to a close, the organisation looks forward to the RSNO Chorus’ 175th birthday which lands during the forthcoming 2017:18 Season.

Formed as the Glasgow Choral Union in 1843 the RSNO Chorus is recognised as the longest continuously-operational performing arts organisation in Scotland.

In 2017:18, the chorus and orchestra will mark the occasion by staging the Scottish première of Leonard Bernstein’s mammoth MASS as well as his Chichester Psalms, Brahms’ A German Requiem, and Holst’s The Planets.

Peter Oundjian enters his sixth consecutive RSNO season as music director with principal guest conductor, Thomas Søndergård, sharing the sexennial anniversary.

In a season which will see the RSNO perform over 100 concerts across ten Scottish towns and cities, including three additional performances in Perth, the orchestra has a purposeful remit: to deliver the highest quality live orchestral experience to as many people as possible.

RSNO chief executive, Dr Krishna Thiagarajan: “Since I joined the RSNO in 2015, I have been honoured to be part of a team which has been able to provide our loyal and growing support with a greater number of concerts and of unparalleled variety.

“We’ve strived to offer more of what our core audience love – large scale symphonic repertoire – while bringing in new strands to develop audiences for live orchestral music, such as music from films and for schools, the latter recently reintroduced at our rehearsal and performance venue, the RSNO Centre.

“We have a drive and a duty to do more, however, and I’m proud to unveil this gem of a season, designed to showcase the excellence and versatility of Scotland’s national orchestra.”

RSNO music director, Peter Oundnian, added: “It gives me great pleasure in unveiling our 2017:18 Season, one which bids farewell to a significant anniversary for the orchestra and which heralds a milestone for our founding organisation, the RSNO Chorus.

“Since its humble beginnings as an amateur singing group meeting weekly in a café on Glasgow’s Argyle Street 175 years ago, the former Glasgow Choral Union has displayed a determination to bring important works to the concert halls of Scotland, many of them for the first time, including Handel’s Messiah.

“It is this pioneering spirit which we endeavour to continue. We bring many well-loved works of the grand symphonic and choral tradition this season, but also the less frequently performed, a greater number of new works, and for Leonard Bernstein’s 100th anniversary, his celebratory and revelatory MASS, a first for Scotland.”


One of the first American composers and conductors to receive international recognition, Leonard Bernstein would have been 100 in 2018, and in collaboration with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland the RSNO and RSNO Choruses recognise the centenary, part of a nationwide Bernstein 100 celebration, with the Scottish première of his 1971 MASS, which was commissioned by Jacqueline Kennedy in honour of her husband John F. Kennedy and, in the words of the composer’s son Alexander, “…was his life statement.”

The RSNO and RSNO Chorus further celebrate the music of the 20th century great, with performances of Chichester Psalms and Symphonic Dances from West Side Story.

West Side Story will also feature in an RSNO-led community project in Glasgow, details of which will be released later in the year.

Finally, Bernstein will be the Composer In Focus, where RSNO musicians investigate the composer’s work and life over an afternoon, held at the RSNO Centre in Glasgow and Usher Hall, Edinburgh.

RSNO music director, Peter Oundnian, will open his sixth season with Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, Elgar’s Violin Concerto with Nicola Benedetti, and Gavin Higgins’ Velocity, in association with Resonate, PRS for Music Foundation’s initiative to encourage professional orchestras to perform the best British works composed in the last 25 years.

Continuing the season, Peter will lead the Orchestra in programmes including Beethoven’s Symphony No6 Pastoral, Brahms’ A German Requiem, the first UK performances of a new version of Bruckner’s Symphony No8 revised by Paul Hawkshaw, Professor of Music at Yale University, Shostakovich’s Symphony No7 Leningrad, Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante, and concluding with Mahler’s Symphony No9 in June 2018.

Peter and the RSNO will be embarking on further projects beyond the coming season, details of which will be announced in due course.

Principal guest conductor, Thomas Søndergård, also entering his sixth RSNO year, opens his Season with Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, and continues with a focus on the worlds of Brahms and Richard Strauss.

The two composers, Strauss at one point a young disciple of Brahms, endured a complex relationship, Strauss admitting at one point to Brahmsschwärmerei (Brahms adoration), though Brahms was critical of Strauss’ musical style.

This criticism didn’t prevent him from composing the autobiographical tone-poem Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life) and Thomas and the Orchestra will present a programme with Ein Heldenleben paired with Brahms’ Piano Concerto No2, a work written 20 years after the first mainly due to the composer’s self-doubt, precipitated by the poor reception of the First Concerto in 1859.

Strauss himself only composed three works for Piano and Orchestra, one of which being Burleske, to be performed by Kirill Gerstein with Thomas leading the orchestra among a programme also featuring Strauss’ Suite from Der Rosenkavalier and his ‘helden’ Brahms’ Symphony No1.

Thomas Søndergård will also lead the musicians in one of the explorative presentations Under The Skin of…, the focus being the life and music of Johannes Brahms, presented by RSNO violin, Ursula Heidecker Allen.

RSNO principal tuba, John Whitener, is accompanied by conductor, Karl-Heinz Steffens, and the orchestra in an insightful examination of Elgar’s contribution to music.

The RSNO welcomes Artist In Residence for 2017:18, cellist Jan Vogler who, with his wife – violinist, Mira Wang – will perform two double concertos, in addition to Schumann’s Cello Concerto and a performance in the RSNO’s Chamber Series.

Other new artists to the RSNO include conductors, Gemma New, Patrycia Pieczara, Jamie Phillips, Nicholas Kraemer, Karl-Heinz Steffens and Dirk Brossé, and soloists, Roman Rabinovich, Esther Yoo, Reginald Mobley, Ben Bevan, Sunwook Kim, Leon McCawley, Ning Feng, LU Wei, HU Shengnan and WAN Jienie.

Returning friends of the RSNO include conductors Gilbert Varga, Edward Gardner, John Storgårds, Cristian Măcelaru, Lorenzo Viotti, Kristjan Järvi, Clemens Schuldt, Richard Kaufman, Christopher Bell and John Logan. Soloists include Nicola Benedetti, James Ehnes, Augustin Hadelich, Sarah-Jane Brandon, Roderick Williams, Baiba Skride, Julia Doyle, Nicholas Mulroy, Christian Blackshaw, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, Xiayin Wang, George Li, Jubilant Sykes, Kirill Gerstein and Kari Kriikku.

American composer, Jennifer Higdon, who studied at the Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia, has been commissioned by the RSNO to write a Concerto for Tuba which will receive its world premiere with RSNO principal tuba and fellow Curtis Institute alumnus, John Whitener.

Another world premiere will be a work yet to be written by one of the participants of this year’s RSNO Composers’ Hub. Scottish premieres include works by Xiaogang Ye, Gavin Higgins, Wolfgang Rihm, John Harbison, RSNO Principal Horn Christopher Gough and the national première of Leonard Bernstein’s MASS.

Symphony, Soup and a Sandwich, the lunchtime concert series approaching its third year at the RSNO Centre in Glasgow, returns with an additional concert for 2017:18, a total of four programmes.

The platform has been developed for the forthcoming season, with well-known symphonic works sitting alongside contemporary pieces from a British composer and a less familiar works from an established name.

RSNO assistant conductor, Holly Mathieson, conducts Haydn’s La Passione Symphony, Copland’s Appalachian Spring and Judith Weir’s Still, glowing. Patrycia Pieczara makes her RSNO début, leading the orchestra in a performance of Mendelssohn’s Sympohny No4 Italian, Oliver Searle’s RSNO commission Sauchiehall and Barber’s Essay No2. Gemma New is also new to the RSNO and presents Beethoven’s Symphony No7, Sally Beamish’s Whitescape and Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks.

Peter Oundjian takes the opportunity of the final Symphony, Soup and a Sandwich of the 2017:18 Season to invite three musicians from the orchestra to take the spotlight, RSNO principal trumpet, Christopher Hart, in Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto, and RSNO leader, Maya Iwabuchi, and RSNO principal viola, Tom Dunn, in Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante.

In Focus, formerly Discover Days, return for the coming year.  Each In Focus Day will be led by RSNO musician, Bill Chandler, where the group will take an in-depth look at the works and related contexts of a featured composer. Tickets cost £16.50 and include refreshments.

Film, Folk and Festive

The RSNO’s film music programmes have introduced thousands of new people to live orchestral music, and their popularity has continued with the sell-out John Williams and Friends concerts last February. RSNO At The Movies is expanded for 2017:18. Hollywood conductor and former member of John Williams’ orchestra, Richard Kaufman, continues his relationship with Scotland, bringing a concert programme devoted entirely to The Music of Star Wars.

A wider scope of orchestral music used for the silver screen is provided by Richard and the RSNO later in 2018 with Classics at the Movies, featuring classical soundtracks from Alien, The Blues Brothers, Raging Bull, Trainspotting and more.

Two programmes are in partnership with the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF), who last month confirmed the RSNO as a Performance Partner for the next three years.

In addition to the screening of Raiders of the Lost Ark as a key element of EIFF 2017, the RSNO will provide the live soundtrack to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho in Edinburgh and Glasgow in October, and Brief Encounter gets the live orchestral treatment in Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow in February, with conductor, Dirk Brossé, and pianist, Leon McCawley.

Scottish folk heroes, Phil Cunningham and Aly Bain, join the orchestra for a celebration of the RSNO’s connections with alternative music genres, for their St Andrew’s Day Party in Glasgow.

Joining them will be special guest vocalists and musicians for an evening of Scottish music and storytelling.

The actor, dancer and choreographer, Gene Kelly, came to Scotland to scout for locations for the 1954 film, Brigadoon, and while the producers eventually opted for the studio for filming, Kelly never lost his love of the country.

So says his wife, Patricia Ward Kelly, who comes to Scotland this coming season to present a portrait of the artist’s life, Gene Kelly: A Life in Music, accompanied by live orchestra and screenings of well-known and never-before-shown footage.

Prior to Gene Kelly: A Life In Music, an introductory evening held at the RSNO Centre, An Evening with Patricia Ward Kelly gives an intimate insight into the artist who created some of the most memorable scenes in film history.

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 2017:18 Season they will partner to present two programmes; Ghost Train at the end of October, and in December a festive musical feast, Tinseltown in Glasgow and Edinburgh, both presented by the irrepressible team of Owen Gunnell and Oliver Cox.

For more information on CCC events, please visit

RSNO Chamber Series

In the sixth consecutive year that the RSNO Chamber Series has been running, the musicians themselves take greater control of the programming, none more so than with Nordic Viola, a presentation devised by RSNO viola, Katherine Wren, who has taken a musical sabbatical over the past year to visit the islands of the north Atlantic taking inspiration from the local cultures.

The 2017:18 Chamber Series opens though with Prokofiev’s Quintet in G major paired with a quintet composed by RSNO principal horn, Christopher Gough. In November the series presents Shostakovich’s String Quartet No8 arranged for string orchestra, alongside André Previn’s Nonet and John Adams’ Shaker Loops.

In December, Brahms’ Horn Trio will be performed by RSNO principal horn, Christopher Gough, RSNO leader, Maya Iwabuchi, and pianist Scott Mitchell, alongside Lennox Berkley’s Trio for Horn, Violin and Piano and a selection of jazz standards arranged by Christopher.

Artist-in-residence, Jan Vogler, joins the Chamber Series and four RSNO String Principals in February for performances of Haydn’s String Quartet No2, Barrière’s Sonata No10 and Arenesky’s String Quartet for Violin, Viola and Two Cellos. Celebrating Debussy is in March, with a quintet performing an all-French repertoire with elements of Ravel and Messiaen included for good measure. The series concludes for 2017:18 with an evocation of 20th Century Masterworks; Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No2 juxtaposed with Vaughan-Williams’ Piano Quintet in C minor.

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.

At the start of 2017, the RSNO was delighted to re-sign a new multi-year agreement with long standing corporate partner, ScotRail.

ScotRail will continue to be the RSNO’s Official Transport Provider, a partnership which reduces the environmental impact of the RSNO’s busy touring schedule and encourages concert-goers to take the train to concerts, supporting ScotRail’s commercial activities across Scotland. The partnership also supports ScotRail’s developing network of community rail partnerships (CRPs), providing music-making and engagement in communities across Scotland.

Capital Document Solutions continues its generous support of the RSNO’s photocopying and document management services in the RSNO’s new home. Across the season, Capital Document Solutions sponsors concerts from our Gala and Movies series, 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 tenth year.

The RSNO is proud to be Classic FM’s Orchestra in Scotland and in 2017 the RSNO is delighted to be supporting Classic FM’s 25th birthday celebrations with a special series of concerts and events.

The RSNO’s partnership with Glasgow Airport enters its eighth year following the successful 2016 project which saw the RSNO stage two performances in Glasgow Airport’s main terminal to jointly celebrate the orchestra’s 125th anniversary and Glasgow Airport’s 50th birthday. The RSNO and director, Eliott Murray, performed a special selection of hits from the 60s – the decade the airport was opened alongside a dedicated arrangement of ‘Happy Birthday’.

The RSNO has recently forged a new partnership with the Institut Français Écosse, an association which will support 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 eighth 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: Arthur J. Gallagher & Co, Brewin Dolphin, Capital Document Solutions, Glasgow Airport, Institut Français Écosse, Istituto Italiano di Cultura, Prestonfield, La Bonne Auberge, TOTAL E&P UK Limited, Valvona & Crolla and The Weir Group.

Principal media partner: Classic FM

Broadcast partner: BBC Radio

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 Distillers Ltd, J&A Mitchell and Co. Ltd.

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


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