The Royal Scottish National Orchestra is Scotland's national symphony orchestra. Based in Glasgow, the 89-strong professional orchestra also regularly performs in Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee, and abroad.
Formed in 1891 as the Scottish Orchestra, the company has performed full-time since 1950 and was awarded royal patronage in 1991. Shortly after the award it briefly used the title Royal Scottish Orchestra before reverting to its present name.
Under its first Scottish-born, and longest serving conductor, Sir Alexander Gibson, the orchestra began to develop an international profile. In line with Gibson's own specialisms, the orchestra became known for its interpretations of Scandinavian composers, notably Jean Sibelius and Carl Nielsen. This was consolidated in the tenure of Neeme Järvi who also led the orchestra through its first complete Gustav Mahler cycle. The second Scot to lead the orchestra, the late Bryden Thomson, maintained the Nordic link with a memorable cycle of Nielsen symphonies, with the recordings of the Fourth and Sixth symphonies generally regarded as amongst the finest available.
The RSNO's base is at Henry Wood Hall in Glasgow and is also used as its recording venue. However the orchestra is committed to performing throughout Scotland and in particular at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Usher Hall, Edinburgh(temporarily Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Dundee Caird Hall, Aberdeen Music Hall, Perth Concert Hall and Eden Court Inverness.
The orchestra had a long-standing recording contract with Chandos Records in the 1980s and 1990s which has recently been re-established. Today, it chiefly records for Naxos Records, most notably in a cycle of Anton Bruckner symphonies with the late Georg Tintner, cycles of Arnold Bax symphonies with David Lloyd-Jones, and several recordings of American works (including the complete orchestral works of Samuel Barber) under the baton of Marin Alsop. In May 2007 the RSNO’s much-anticipated first recording under Stéphane Denève - the first instalment of a complete cycle of Roussel’s orchestral works - was released on the Naxos label, and in November received the Diapason d’Or de l’année for Symphonic Music. The second disc in the series was released in 2008 to widespread critical acclaim.
The Orchestra is supported by the RSNO Chorus. The RSNO Chorus evolved from a choir formed in 1843 to sing the first full performance of Handel's Messiah in Scotland, in April 1844. The Chorus performs with the Orchestra throughout the year, and for the RSNO's Season and Prom series in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee. In addition to its commitment to the RSNO, the Chorus performs independently and has toured worldwide. The current chorus director is Timothy Dean, since 2006.
The RSNO's artistic team is headed by music director, Stéphane Denève and assistant conductor David Danzmayr with Simon Woods as its chief executive. Denève began his tenure as music director in 2005, and is expected to continue through 2011.
The RSNO's principal sponsors and donors currently include TOTAL E&P UK Limited, Standard Life, First ScotRail, STV, Capital Solutions, the essentia group, The Courier, Western SAAB, Shell UK Limited, Cadenhead's, Springbank Distillers Ltd, Mitchell's Glengyle. The RSNO's Media Partners currently include Classic FM, BBC Radio 3 and The Evening Times. In April 2007, the orchestra became one of Scotland's five national performing companies, supported directly by the Scottish Government (previously support came through the Scottish Arts Council).