BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (BBC SSO) is a broadcasting symphony orchestra based in Glasgow, Scotland. One of five full-time orchestras maintained by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), it is the oldest full-time professional orchestra in Scotland. The BBC SSO takes live music to towns and cities across Scotland every season, performs around Europe, and in recent years has toured in China, the USA and South America. It appears annually in Britain's most prestigious events including the BBC Proms and Edinburgh International Festival, and performs at such festivals as the Cheltenham, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival and the St.Magnus Festival in Orkney. Broadcasting is still its primary duty, and all of its performances can be heard on the BBC's radio and television services.
The BBC opened its Edinburgh studio in 1930, and decided to form its own full-time Scottish orchestra to complement BBC orchestras already established in London, Manchester and Wales. The BBC Scottish Orchestra was established as Scotland's first full-time orchestra on 1 December 1935 by the BBC's first head of music in Scotland, composer and conductor Ian Whyte.
In 1938, the orchestra moved into its purpose built home at Studio One, in the newly opened Glasgow Studios, at Broadcasting House in Queen Margaret Drive. The newly formed Scottish Variety Orchestra (which became the BBC Scottish Radio Orchestra in 1967) occupied Studio Two.
As one of the BBC's many ensembles, the orchestra led a busy though sheltered life, broadcasting live at least five times a week from its studio and only occasionally allowed out. Throughout the war, the orchestra fulfilled 30 hours of broadcasts per week on the BBC Home and World Services. This meant live performances at any time of day or night, often broadcasting live to Latin America at half past one in the morning.
By the end of the war, during which the orchestra had been expanded in numbers, Whyte had brought it to a standard considered good enough for the newly established Edinburgh Festival, at which it found itself propelled into the company of the Vienna and New York Philharmonics, appearing with soloists like Menuhin, Milstein and Schnabel. Since 1948, the BBC SSO has performed at the Festival on no less than 86 occasions.
Through the 1950s and 1960s, live studio broadcasting still dominated the orchestra's schedule, and there was little time in its schedule for public performances. Norman Del Mar's arrival as Principal Conductor in 1960 began to change that situation. He led the BBC Scottish Orchestra's first visit to The Proms in 1962, and through his efforts the orchestra was further expanded, necessitating a change of its title to "BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra" the following year. Del Mar's earliest projects included the UK premiere of Stockhausen's Gruppen, performed jointly in Glasgow with the Scottish National Orchestra, and it was his passion for contemporary music that laid the foundation for the BBC SSO's long-standing commitment to new work. Then, as now, the orchestra's indispensable support for Scottish composers found an important showcase in The Proms, the 1990 Premiere of James MacMillan's The Confession of Isobel Gowdie being perhaps the most celebrated example.
The last twenty years has seen the gradual emergence of the BBC SSO as a fully fledged 'public' orchestra, with foreign touring, commercial recordings and concerts all over the world consolidating its position as one of the cornerstones of Scottish musical life. It has seen steady artistic growth, especially under its most recent chief conductors: Jerzy Maksymiuk, Osmo Vänskä, Ilan Volkov and now Donald Runnicles.
At the beginning of January 2006 the BBC SSO moved from Broadcasting House, Glasgow - its base for nearly 70 years - to the fully refurbished Gewandhaus-like City Halls in Glasgow, which is now the orchestra's permanent, administrative, performance and recording home. Famed for its fine acoustic, City Halls is being developed as a major centre for music performance and education.
From 2003 to 2009, the orchestra's Chief Conductor was Israeli-born Ilan Volkov, the youngest-ever chief conductor of any BBC orchestra. In October 2007, the orchestra announced the appointment of Edinburgh born Donald Runnicles as its Chief Conductor in September 2009. Volkov took the title of principal guest conductor BBC SSO as of the 2009-2010 season, in parallel with the advent of Runnicles as chief conductor. In September 2011, the BBC SSO announced the extension of Runnicles' contract as chief conductor through 2015.
The British Royal Philharmonic Society presented the BBC SSO with its award for Best Orchestra in 2002, and its then-chief conductor Ilan Volkov with the prize for Best Young Artist in 2004.
Chief and Principal Conductors
- 2009–present: Donald Runnicles
- 2003-2009: Ilan Volkov
- 1996-2002: Osmo Vänskä
- 1983-1993: Jerzy Maksymiuk
- 1978-1980: Karl Anton Rickenbacher
- 1971-1977: Christopher Seaman
- 1965-1971: James Loughran
- 1960-1965: Norman Del Mar
- 1946-1960: Ian Whyte
- 1935-1946: Guy Warrack
Chief/Principal Guest Conductors
- 2009- Ilan Volkov
- 1989-1992 Takuo Yuasa
- 1986-1989 George Hurst
- 1983-1985 Vernon Handley
- 1981-1983 Sir Charles Groves
Associate Principal Conductor
- 1996-2005 Martyn Brabbins
Associate Guest Conductors
- 2010- Andrew Manze
- 2006-2009 Stefan Solyom
Assistant & Associate Conductors
- 1946-1948 Robert Irving
- 1948-1949 Harry Platts
- 1949-1951 John Hopkins
- 1952-1954 Alexander Gibson
- 1954-1956 Gerald Gentry
- 1957-1959 Colin Davis
- 1959-1960 Bryden Thomson
- 1960-1962 James Lockhart
- 1962-1964 Bernard Keeffe
- 1964-1967 Graham Treacher
- 1968-1970 Christopher Seaman
- 1970-1972 Andrew Davis
- 1973-1976 Christopher Adey
- 1977-1980 Simon Rattle
- 1983-1985 Nicholas Kraemer
- 1989-1991 Christopher Bell
- 1992-1996 Martyn Brabbins
- 1994-1998: Tan Dun (Associate Composer/Conductor)
- 1999-2003: Stuart MacRae (Composer in Association)
- 2005-2007: Jonathan Harvey (Composer-in-Association)
- 2004-2006: Anna Meredith (Composer in Residence)
- 2010 - Matthias Pintscher (Artist-in-Association)
As well as its regular live broadcasts and recordings for the BBC, and recordings for BBC Music Magazine, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra has recorded 98 commercial CDs for labels including BIS, NMC and Hyperion, with whom it has a long association. The orchestra has gathered 4 Gramophone Awards and a Grammy nomination for its commercial recordings.
- Jonathan Harvey: Body Mandala - Anu Komsi (soprano), BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Ilan Volkov (conductor). Label: NMC
- English Orchestral Songs – Christopher Maltman (baritone), BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Martyn Brabbins (conductor), Adrian Adlam (leader). Label: Hyperion.
Notes and references
- George Hall (29 January 2006). "Look north for acoustic paradise". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-04-03.
- Tim Cornwell, "Top conductor to leave Scottish Symphony Orchestra" The Scotsman, 2007-09-18.
- Tim Cornwell, "Conductor back after 18 years to lead BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra". The Scotsman, 2007-10-02.
- Matthew Westphal (1 October 2007). "Homecoming: Donald Runnicles to Succeed Ilan Volkov at BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra". Playbill Arts. Retrieved 2008-09-14.
- Michael Tumelty (10 December 2008). "Working with perfect harmony". The Herald. Retrieved 2008-12-11.
- "Donald Runnicles extends his contract with the BBC SSO" (Press release). BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. September 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-01.
- "News: BBC SSO wins coveted Gramophone Award" (Press release). BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. 26 September 2008. Retrieved 2009-09-22.