Media release: The RSNO’s 2018:19 season


Thomas Søndergård’s first season as music director

“This is fantastic news for the orchestra. The…Danish conductor is precisely the right man for the job.” The Scotsman

“[Søndergård] brings a massive sense of purpose to music-making, and he certainly galvanises the RSNO into some extraordinary playing at all extremes of expression…” The Herald

“[Chan] made a big impression with both players and the critics.” International Arts Manager

DANISH conductor, Thomas Søndergård, RSNO principal guest conductor since 2012, assumes his role as the 36th individual to occupy the chief post of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s artistic team from October 2018, succeeding Peter Oundjian as music director.

Last year, the RSNO musicians voted overwhelmingly in favour of Søndergård’s appointment, who follows in the footsteps of previous music directors/principal conductors such as Sir George Henschel, George Szell, Sir John Barbirolli, Sir Alexander Gibson and Neeme Järvi, and is contracted for an initial four-year term.

The post of principal guest conductor, made vacant by Søndergård’s promotion to music director, has been filled by Hong-Kong born Elim Chan, previous winner of the London Symphony Orchestra’s Donatella Flick Conducting Competition and Dudamel fellowship with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2016:17.

In Søndergård’s first season as music director the RSNO will provide an insight into the future direction of the National Orchestra’s programming under his leadership, which includes the commencement of Mahler and Prokofiev symphonic cycles over four Seasons, performances of established works by Adès, Beethoven, Bruckner, Britten, Elgar, Gershwin, Grieg, Mozart, Poulenc, Rachmaninov, Ravel, Tchaikovsky, Saint-Saëns, Sibelius, and Walton, as well as new music by Lotta Wennäkoski, Ken Johnston, Gary Carpenter, Wynton Marsalis and Paul Chihara.

Said RSNO music director designate, Thomas Søndergård: “I have intimated previously that, as cliché as it may sound, I had the feeling from the very beginning of our relationship that we shared a special sense of purpose. I’m delighted that we have not succumbed to the ‘seven-year itch’, and that the orchestra has chosen me as its music director for the next chapter in its journey. I love working with these musicians, I feel at home in Scotland, and I hugely appreciate the warmth and generosity of the audiences we perform to. Now, more than ever, I look forward to visiting the great concert halls across the country and playing my part in providing the quality of musicianship the people of Scotland expect and deserve.

“The advantage of getting to know the orchestra over time is that I’ve developed a feeling for what we do well together. I’ve included music in this season that I think is important for us to do at this point in our journey together, and also music that best fits the combination of the Orchestra and me – all with a view of where we’d like to be in three or four years’ time.”

Added RSNO chief executive Dr Krishna Thiagarajan: “To a certain extent we must thank fate for lending a hand in getting us to this position. It was the cancellation of a guest conductor in 2009 and the subsequent appearance of Thomas that led to this orchestra meeting its next music director. From that first date, the musicians knew that this was a relationship we would build and develop. Nearly seven years later and we are now taking it to the next level. Similarly, with the appointment of Elim Chan as principal guest conductor, who initially came to us, stepping in for an indisposed Neeme Järvi last year, we are grateful for such fortune to strike twice. We look to the future with confidence as an exciting, innovative and growing national arts organisation, to better serve our audience.”

Thomas Søndergård

Thomas Søndergård appears for ten weeks during his inaugural Season as Music Director and commences his tenure with the first Mahler symphony, Symphony No5, of what will be a complete cycle over four years. An indication that Thomas will be introducing new works to Scotland is apparent in the choice of fellow Nord, Lotta Wennäkoski’s Flounce (which received its world premiere at the BBC’s Last Night of the Proms last year and receives its Scottish premiere here) as the first work to be performed as music director. Further indication that Thomas will bring new and exciting collaborative artists is evident in his choice of first guest soloist, Swiss pianist, Francesco Piemontesi, who will perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No2.

Thomas and the RSNO are joined by 2017 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Main Prize and Song Prize winner, Scottish mezzo-soprano Catriona Morison for the second week of the 2018:19 Season, for performances of Ravel’s song-cycle Shéhérazade, which shares the programme with selected movements from Grieg’s Peer Gynt and Rachmaninov’s Symphony No1.

Poulenc’s Gloria is the featured work in Søndergård’s first programme as music director with the RSNO Chorus, which continues to celebrate its 175th anniversary in 2018. Thomas welcomes soprano Elin Rombo for the Mass, and also pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk, who will perform Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No1. These concerts begin with Prokofiev’s Symphony No1 Classical and, to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, performances of Ken Johnston’s cantata, All Those Men Who Marched Away.

In the Year of Young People, Søndergård’s Guide to the Orchestra exhibits works associated with orchestral music and younger listeners. Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra and Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals are often paired, but with two world premieres, including Gary Carpenter’s Ghost Songs, written to mark the 40th anniversary of the RSNO Junior Chorus, and Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos with soloists Christina and Michelle Naughton, it’s a gala event for all ages.

A seasonal Søndergård presents a festive offering in December, with excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, joined by this Season’s RSNO Artist in Residence Johannes Moser for Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme, and to begin, Prokofiev’s Winter Bonfire.

In the New Year, Søndergård takes us hunting in the Alps by way of Bruckner’s Symphony No4, paired in the programme with the most complete element of Mahler’s final symphony, the Adagio from Symphony No10.

In February, Søndergård and Nicola Benedetti team up for the Scottish premiere of Wynton Marsalis’ Violin Concerto, composed especially for the Scottish violinist in 2015. Robert Russell Bennett’s symphonic arrangement of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess and Dances from Thomas Adès’ chamber opera Power Her Face complete the programme.

Thomas returns to Scotland in March for performances of Prokofiev’s Symphony No5 and Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, with soloist, Olga Kern. The audience in Edinburgh will also be treated to a world premiere of Paul Chihara’s A Matter of Honor, while the following night in Glasgow will feature Sibelius’ Symphony No7.

The survey of the symphonies of Gustav Mahler continue in May, with performances of his Sixth Symphony, paired with Mozart’s Piano Concerto No23 K488 with frequent RSNO guest artist Ingrid Fliter.

Søndergård’s first RSNO Season as Music Director concludes in dramatic fashion when the Orchestra is joined by the RSNO Chorus for Belshazzar’s Feast, William Walton’s cantata to religious freedom. Sibelius’ suite to Belshazzar’s Feast opens the evening, and Truls Mørk performs Elgar’s Cello Concerto.

Elim Chan

Audiences and musicians were so delighted with Elim Chan’s first two appearances with the orchestra at the beginning of last year it prompted the decision to appoint her as the next principal guest conductor, succeeding Thomas Søndergård. She returns to Scotland for three programmes in 2018:19.

In November Chan presents Rachmaninov’s nostalgic orchestral suite Symphonic Dances, Dukas’ symphonic poem The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and, with multiple award-winning pianist Benjamin Grosvenor, Chopin’s Piano Concerto No2.

Ever the romantic, Chan returns in February for Valentine’s Day week. Selected movements from Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet share this programme with Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture. Lukáš Vondráček, who, according to The Telegraph has “…a marked tendency for winning competitions…” joins Chan and the Orchestra for Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No2.

For the penultimate concerts of the 2018:19 Season Chan and the Orchestra perform Elgar’s Enigma Variations, the Scottish premiere of Hong Kong-born composer Fung Lam’s Endless Forms and Sibelius’ Violin Concerto with soloist Benjamin Beilman.

RSNO principal guest conductor designate, Elim Chan, said: “I am thrilled to be a part of the RSNO Artistic Team and very much look forward to exploring together what’s ahead!”

Guest conductors

Carlos Miguel Prieto returns in October for a complete concert performance of de Falla’s Three-Cornered Hat. The relationship between the orchestra and multiple award-winning composer Krzysztof Penderecki extends many decades, who first conducted the orchestra in 1975.

The SNO performed the UK premiere of his First Violin Concerto in 1979. He returns to Scotland to celebrate his 85th birthday, conducting Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No5 and his own Violin Concerto No2 Metamorphosen with Anne-Sophie Mutter as soloist.

Sir Roger Norrington resumes his interpretation of the works of Robert Schumann with the conclusion of the symphonic cycle. Gilbert Varga brings new life to Dvořák’s New World Symphony. Philadelphia Orchestra lends its assistant conductor Kensho Watanabe who will conduct Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. Nathalie Stutzmann makes her RSNO debut as a conductor with an all-Beethoven programme, including the Coriolan Overture and Symphony No5.

Guest soloists

Francesco Piemontesi makes his RSNO debut, appearing as the first guest soloist of the 2018:19, playing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No2. BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2017 winner Scottish mezzo-soprano Catriona Morison also makes her RSNO debut, channelling the spirit of Ravel’s Shéhérazade.

British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor is also new to the Orchestra, who will perform Chopin’s Piano Concerto No2 in November. Winner of the 2005 Arthur Rubenstein Competition Alexander Gavrylyuk first performed with the RSNO in 2011 and rejoins the musicians for Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No1.

Soprano Elin Rombo appears in the same programme for Poulenc’s Gloria.  More Poulenc the following week, in the form of his Concerto for Two Pianos with sisters Christina and Michelle Naughton as twin soloists. Penderecki’s Violin Concerto No2 will be performed by superstar German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, to whom the concerto is dedicated. RSNO Artist in Residence for 2018:19 is German-Canadian cellist Johannes Moser, who will join the RSNO in December for performances of Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme, and again in April for The Music of John Williams, plus an appearance in the RSNO Chamber Series. RSNO favourite Nicola Benedetti returns in February for the Scottish premiere of Wynton Marsalis’ Violin Concerto. Lukáš Vondráček is another newcomer to the RSNO, who will perform Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto. Mozart’s Violin Concerto No4 K218 will be played by Francesca Dego. Hungarian violinist Kristóf Baráti, who wowed audiences with the BBC SSO last year, returns to perform Brahms’ Violin Concerto in March. American violinist Benjamin Beilman, described by the Philadelphia Inquirer as, “…monstrously talented…” makes his RSNO debut in May 2019 for performances of Sibelius’ Violin Concerto. Scottish International Piano Competition 2017 winner Can Çakmur fulfils his competition-winning obligations next year, coming to play Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No3, in a programme that also features soprano Fflur Wyn and tenor Adrian Dwyer for Orff’s Carmina Burana. Olga Kern performed Rachmaninov with the RSNO in 2013 and returns in 2019 for more, this time for performances of Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp K299 features our very own Principal Flute Katherine Bryan and harpist Pippa Tunnell in May. More Mozart, in the guise of his Piano Concerto No23 K488 will be performed by Ingrid Fliter, who also contributes to the exploratory concert [INSIDE]OUT earlier in the week. To close the 2018:19 Season Truls Mørk will play Elgar’s Cello Concerto and 2017 Cardiff Singer of the World finalist, baritone Anthony Clark Evans performs Walton’s cantata Belshazzar’s Feast with the RSNO and RSNO Chorus.


The exploratory programmes by the RSNO, introduced in 2015, have been developed for 2018:19. Now titled [INSIDE]OUT and this year presented by broadcaster and musician Tom Redmond, [INSIDE]OUT will explore the musical worlds of Robert Schumann in February (with conductor Sir Roger Norrington) and in May Mozart, with music director Thomas Søndergård and pianist Ingrid Fliter, both at the RSNO Centre, Glasgow.

Symphony, Soup and a Sandwich

The now established lunchtime concert series in Glasgow continues for 2018:19 with three programmes spread across the Season. Increasingly acknowledged as a proving-ground for emerging conductors, the forthcoming season welcomes Tung-Chieh Chuang, Harish Shankar and Eugene Tzigane to Scotland, all for their RSNO debuts, with programmes ranging from Fauré’s Masques et bergamasques and Bizet’s Symphony in C, to Brahms’ Symphony No2 and Beethoven’s Egmont Overture and Symphony No4.

RSNO at the Movies

The RSNO’s film music programmes have introduced thousands of new people to live orchestral music, and their popularity has continued, as illustrated by the large audiences experienced at The Music of Star Wars concerts in Perth, Edinburgh and Glasgow last February. The RSNO’s film music provision continues to grow for the forthcoming Season.  

The Orchestra’s chief film music conductor, Richard Kaufman, returns to conduct The Music of Harry Potter in March and The Music of John Williams in April. In January Anthony Weeden conducts and Tom Redmond presents Sci-Fi Spectacular!, with a programme including music from films such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Alien, Avatar and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

The RSNO has recorded a number of scores for movies over the years, principally for the Hollywood label Varèse Sarabande, and for the label’s 40th anniversary the RSNO is joining forces with conductor Diego Navarro, flautist Sara Andon producer Robert Townson and the RSNO Chorus to survey some of the music the partnership has brought to bear, from composers such as Jerry Goldsmith, Elmer Bernstein, Alex North and Game of Thrones composer Ramin Djawadi. Also joining the orchestra for this special occasion will be Scottish composer Patrick Doyle and English composer Rachel Portman.

The Orchestra’s partnership with Edinburgh International Film Festival began in 2015 with the screening of Back to the Future at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre with live symphonic accompaniment. Since then the RSNO has provided the live score for films such as Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T. The Extra Terrestrial. Next year, Back to the Future will come to Glasgow, due to popular demand.

Seasonal favourite the RSNO Christmas Concert, featuring the screening of Raymond Briggs’ animated classic The Snowman, welcomes conductor Matthew Hamilton and presenter Jamie MacDougall to add a little magic to the festivities.

RSNO Chamber Series

The RSNO’s Chamber Series continues to present its musicians in a more intimate setting. The first of the new season, in November, features pianist Benjamin Grosvenor playing Brahms’ Piano Quintet No1 and Schubert’s Trout Quintet.

In December RSNO principal Oboe Adrian Wilson leads the ensemble for Mozart and More, with a programme including Mozart’s Oboe Quartet K370, String Quartet No19 K465 Dissonance and Finzi’s Prelude and Fugue for String Trio and Interlude for Oboe and String Quartet.

In January the RSNO Brass Quintet presents Brilliant Brass, which includes music from Bach by way of Vivaldi in the Concerto in D major BWV972, Morten Lauridsen’s O magnum mysterium, Dukas’ Fanfare from La péri, Arnold’s Brass Quintet No1 and Bagatelle Suite from the RSNO’s own principal Horn Christopher Gough.

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.

In 2017 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.

The RSNO’s partnership with Glasgow Airport enters its ninth year following the successful 2017 project which saw the RSNO stage two performances in Glasgow Airport’s main terminal. The RSNO and assistant conductor, Holly Mathieson, performed two programmes of well-loved classical favourites and invited passengers to the podium to conduct Scotland’s national orchestra.

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 ninth 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.

Principal Sponsors: Capital Document Solutions, Victor & Carina Contini, Gallagher, Glasgow Airport, Harry Fairburn, Institut Français Écosse, Investec Wealth & Investment,Old Course Hotel St Andrews, Prestonfield, La Bonne Auberge, Valvona & Crolla.

Principal media partner: Classic FM

Broadcast partner: BBC Radio 3

Principal transport provider: ScotRail

Corporate partners: 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, Confab, Culture Republic, Dyslexia Scotland, Glasgow Life, Horsecross Arts, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Sistema Scotland, Skills Development Scotland, Tayside Healthcare Arts Trust, Usher Hall, Year of Young People, Young Scot.

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