RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra

RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra

Our Story

Chief Conductor: Jaime Martín

From its foundation in 1948 as the Raidió Éireann Symphony Orchestra the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra has been at the forefront of symphonic music in Ireland providing an unbroken stream of concerts. Since that time, the orchestra has firmly established itself as a primary force in Irish musical life. World-class conductors associated with the orchestra’s early days include Jean Martinon, Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, Edmond Appia, Milan Horvat and Sir John Barbirolli. The first half of the 1960s saw Tibor Paul as Principal Conductor, a tenure memorable for the visit of Igor Stravinsky.

Across the decades, the RTE NSO has worked with world famous composers, including Igor Stravinsky, Witold Lutosławski, Arvo Part, Steve Reich, Olivier Messiaen and Karlheinz Stockhausen. Among the many legendary conductors and artists who performed with the orchestra over the years were Josef Szigeti, Isaac Stern, Henryk Szering, Ruggiero Ricci, Wilhelm Kempff, Julius Katchen, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Martha Argerich, Radu Lupu, Joan Sutherland, Bernadette Greevy, Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras, Mstislav Rostropovich, Paul Tortelier, Constantin Silvestri, Charles Dutoit and Sir Charles Groves. World famous artists in recent years have included Boris Berezovsky, Sarah Chang, Nikolai Demidenko, Sir James Galway, Angela Gheorgiu, Evelyn Glennie, Angela Hewitt, Daniel Hope, Wolfgang Holzmair, Kiri te Kanawa, Freddy Kempf, Tasmin Little, Daniel Muller-Schott, Julian Rachlin, Alexander Toradze, Maxim Vengerov and Nikolaj Znaider.

Today the orchestra is a primary force in Irish musical life through year-long programmes of live performances of music ranging from symphonic, choral and operatic to film and popular music, contemporary traditional and contemporary classical and music with a particular educational focus; schools and educational projects; a mentoring scheme for young musicians; broadcasts on RTE and internationally through the European Broadcasting Union; recordings and new commissions. In November 2018, the orchestra, with conductor Nathalie Stutzmann and violinist Ray Chen, travelled to Bucharest to give the closing concert of the International Festival of Radio Orchestras. In 2017 the orchestra performed, by invitation, in China’s prestigious National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing with conductor Jose Serebrier.

The orchestra has been critically acclaimed for its recordings on the Marco Polo, Naxos, Claves and RTE lyric fm labels. These include the complete symphonies of Malcolm Arnold, Rachmaninov, Mendelssohn, and Nielsen, critically acclaimed recordings of works by Bizet and Dukas with conductor Jean-Luc Tingaud, a series of recordings as part of the Composers of Ireland series, a landmark recording project funded by RTÉ and The Arts Council which to date has recorded works by composers including Gerald Barry, Raymond Deane, Seóirse Bodley, Deirdre Gribbin, Ian Wilson, John Kinsella, Stephen Gardiner, Kevin O’Connell, Donnacha Dennehy and Kevin Volans as well as recordings of selected orchestral works by Aloys Fleischmann, Frederick May and Seán Ó Riada, Finghin Collins: Mozart Piano Concertos and Celine Byrne: For  Eternity.

Since September 2017, the orchestra has enjoyed a rich relationship with Nathalie Stutzmann as Principal Guest Conductor. In addition to Nathalie, major international artists in the 2018-2019 Season include Alexander Vedernikov, Leonard Slatkin, Jaime Martín, Maxim Vengerov, Ray Chen, Veronika Eberle, Vilde Frang, Amihai Grosz, Simone Lamsma, Alina Ibragimova, Kari Kriikku, Bryn Terfel, Piotr Beczala and Oksana Volkova and Irish artists Barry Douglas, Hugh Tinney, Orla Boylan, Celine Byrne, Anna Devin, Robin Tritschler, Ailish Tynan, the acclaimed young trad band Moxie, and concertina player Niall Vallely in the world premiere of his Concerto for Concertina and Orchestra.

World premieres of works by Irish composers have included music by Elaine Agnew, Gerald Barry, Ed Bennett, Linda Buckley, Ann Cleare, Siobhán Cleary, Frank Corcoran, Jerome de Bromhead, Raymond Deane, Donnacha Dennehy, David Fennessy, Deirdre Gribbin, Ronan Guilfoyle, Andrew Hamilton, Gráinne Mulvey, Kevin O’Connell, Karen Power, Jennifer Walshe and Bill Whelan. As part of RTÉ 1916, the orchestra premiered One Hundred Years a Nation by Shaun Davey with text by Paul Muldoon, in concert with a choir of 1000 voices at Collins Barracks, Dublin on Easter Sunday 2016. In addition, the orchestra featured in four concerts as part of Composing the Island: A century of music in Ireland 1916–2016. The orchestra performed repertoire by 16 Irish composers covering years from the 1920s through to composers of 2016.

Recent Irish premieres include Thomas Adès Totentanz,Detlev Glanert’s Insomnium Wolfgang Rihm’s  Verwandlung 4, Kaija Saariaho’s Circle Map, Huw Watkins’ Flute Concerto, Wave Movements by Bryce Dessner (The National) and Richard Reed Parry (Arcade Fire), and the European premiere of John Luther Adams’ Pulitzer Prize winning work, Become Ocean.

A marvellous, wonderful orchestra - Maxim Vengerov, violinist