The Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) is Scotland's national symphony orchestra. Based in Glasgow, the 89-member 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, when it took the name Scottish National Orchestra. It 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 specialities, 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, Bryden Thomson, maintained the Nordic link with a cycle of Nielsen symphonies.
The RSNO's base is at Henry Wood Hall in Glasgow and is also used as its recording venue. The RSNO also performs throughout Scotland, at such venues as the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Usher Hall (Edinburgh), Caird Hall (Dundee), 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) conducted by Marin Alsop, who was the RSNO's principal guest conductor from 2000 to 2003. In May 2007, the RSNO made their first recordings with Stéphane Denève, of music of Albert Roussel, for Naxos. The first recording received the Diapason d'Or de l'année for Symphonic Music. The second disc in the series was released in 2008.
The RSNO 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 RSNO Chorus performs with the RSNO 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 music director from 2005-2012 was Stéphane Denève. In April 2007, his contract was initially extended through 2011, and in March 2010, further extended 1 year through the 2011–2012 season, after which time his tenure is scheduled to conclude. In January 2011, the RSNO announced the appointment of Peter Oundjian as its next music director, as of the 2012–2013 season, with an initial contract of 4 years. Past principal guest conductors, in addition to Alsop, have included Garry Walker (2003–2007). In October 2011, Thomas Søndergård was named the RSNO's next principal guest conductor, as of the 2012–2013 season, with an initial contract of 3 years for 3 programmes per year. The RSNO's current assistant conductor is Christian Kluxen, since September 2010.
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). The orchestra's current chief executive is Michael (Mick) Elliott.