Meet the RTÉ NSO

RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra

Principal Conductor: Alan Buribayev

From its foundation in 1948 as the Radio Éireann Symphony Orchestra, and first concert under the celebrated French conductor Jean Martinon, the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra has been at the forefront of symphonic music in Ireland providing an unbroken stream of concerts over a sixty-year period.

Apart from Martinon, who was at the helm in the beginning, other world-class conductors associated with the orchestra's early days have been Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, Edmond Appia and Milan Horvat, the outstanding guest-conductor being Sir John Barbirolli. The first half of the 1960s saw Tibor Paul as Principal Conductor; his tenure is memorable for the force of his personality, his Beethoven cycles, his work to provide a wider public image for the orchestra, the visit of Igor Stravinsky and the orchestra's first concerts in England in 1966.

Since that time, inevitably with many changes of personnel and indeed title, the orchestra under a succession of Principal Conductors has firmly established itself as a primary force in Irish musical life. The list of guest artists is long and distinguished and features such legendary names as Josef Szigeti, Isaac Stern, Wilhelm Kempff, Julius Katchen, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Martha Argerich, Radu Lupu, Joan Sutherland, Mitislav Rostropovitch, Paul Tortelier, Constantin Silvestri, Charles Dutoit, Witold Lutoslawski, Olivier Messiaen, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Steve Reich.

RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra plays a central role in classical music in Ireland though regular live performance and broadcasts alongside regional touring and residential projects; as an integral part of the Irish state broadcaster (RTÉ) the orchestra reaches a high level of listeners through its weekly live performances with the classical radio station RTÉ lyric fm and from this association onto the international radio stations of the EBU.

In 2004, the RTÉ NSO won the Orchestra and Concerto: CD Première category of the Critics' Awards in the Cannes Classical Awards for its recording of Joly Braga Santos' Symphony No. 4 under conductor Alvaro Cassuto. In 2005, Gerald Barry's opera The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant was released on the RTÉ label to considerable acclaim, as part of a new Composers of Ireland series. This has been followed by CDs of work by Raymond Deane, Seóirse Bodley, Deirdre Gribbin and Ian Wilson, the latter three on the RTÉ lyric fm label.

Highlights of recent seasons have included the complete cycles of Mahler, Shostakovich, Bruckner, Prokofiev, Beethoven and Schumann symphonies, a Brahmsfest, a Stravinsky retrospective, and the orchestral song-cycles of Mahler.

Additionally, the orchestra has given the world premières of works, commissioned by RTÉ, by composers including Donnacha Dennehy, Jennifer Walshe, Raymond Deane, Jane O'Leary, Philip Martin, Stephen Gardner, Seóirse Bodley, Gráinne Mulvey, Ian Wilson, Fergus Johnston, Eric Sweeney, John Buckley, Kevin O'Connell and Benjamin Dwyer. Collaborations between the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and RTÉ Television have included Rhapsody in the Park, The Symphony Sessions and The Mozart Sessions.

The RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra annual subscription concert season takes place mainly at the National Concert Hall, the orchestra's residence and runs each year from September to May. The season comprises of weekly concerts plus Soundings - a series of pre-concert talks, Horizons - the contemporary music series featuring works by Irish composers, FORTE - the musical discovery educational programme, a variety of Late Night concerts as well as lunchtime concerts, a mentoring scheme for young musicians, open rehearsals and annual regional concerts. A new addition to the 2011-2012 Season will be The Wild Card, an unannounced surprise extra piece of music to selected programmes. The orchestra also presents an annual summer evening and lunchtime concert series during the months of June and July.

The orchestra's international and critical acclaim also comes from its roster of recordings across a variety of labels, including RTÉ's own lyric fm label: notable this past year have been Editor's Choice in Gramophone (Stanford), Classic FM CD of the Month (Fleischmann), and international press acclaim for RTÉ lyric's fm's CD of works for solo clarinet and orchestra featuring RTÉ NSO Principal Clarinet, John Finucane.

Other events in 2011 include the RTE National Symphony Orchestra's performance for HM The Queen during her historic visit to Ireland, televised for the nation and featuring other Irish musical stars such as Eimear Quinn and Westlife; the orchestra's participation in local composer Brian Irvine's opera "Shelter me from the Rain: an opera for Carlow", a large-scale public art commission by Carlow Local Authority that engaged over 100 people from all walks of life; and the orchestra's performance at its' Patron, President Mary McAleese's final Garden party before leaving office.

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