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's performing home is the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.
The orchestra had a long-standing recording contract with Chandos Records in the 1980s and 1990s. 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.
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, principal guest conductor, Garry Walker, and associate conductor James Lowe 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 is currently sponsored by STV, Scotland's most popular peak time TV channel. In April 2007, the orchestra shifted from control by the Scottish Arts Council to control by the Scottish Executive.