Iceland Symphony Orchestra
Sinfóníuhljómsveit Íslands (Iceland Symphony Orchestra) (ISO) is an Icelandic orchestra based in Reykjavík. The ISO is an autonomous public institution under the auspices of the Icelandic Ministry of Education. The Iceland Symphony Orchestra made its home in Háskólabíó (University Cinema) from 1961–2011, but moved into the new 1800-seat Harpa (Reykjavík Concert and Conference Center) in spring 2011. The orchestra gives approximately sixty concerts each season. Per a 1982 law (changed in 2007), the ISO's primary financial sources are the Icelandic treasury (82%) and the City of Reykjavik (18%).
- 1 History
- 2 Principal conductors
- 2.1 Olav Kielland (1952-1955)
- 2.2 Bohdan Wodiczko (1965-1968, 1970-1971)
- 2.3 Karsten Andersen (1973-1978)
- 2.4 Jean-Pierre Jacquillat (1978-1986)
- 2.5 Petri Sakari (1987-1993, 1996-1998)
- 2.6 Osmo Vänskä (1993-1996)
- 2.7 Rico Saccani (1998-2001)
- 2.8 Rumon Gamba (2002-2010)
- 2.9 Ilan Volkov (2011-2014)
- 2.10 Yan Pascal Tortelier (2016-present)
- 3 Vladimir Ashkenazy
- 4 Recordings
- 5 Harpa Concert Hall
- 6 Notable performances
- 7 Collaboration with popular musicians
- 8 References
- 9 External links
The first known instance of an orchestra concert in Iceland was on May 22, 1921 when a group of 20 jobbing musicians played for King Christian X of Denmark who was on official visit in the country. The same basic group and its conductor, composer Þórarinn Guðmundsson, became the founding members of an official orchestra, The Reykjavík Orchestra (Hljómsveit Reykjavíkur; RO), in the same year. The RO remained virtually the only functional orchestra in Iceland until the founding of the ISO in 1950. Among the highpoints of The RO’s operating time was a celebration in Þingvellir on the occasion of the 1000-year-anniversary of the Icelandic national Parliament in 1930, which saw the premiere of several compositions by Icelandic composers.
Among other steps toward the foundation of ISO was the foundation of the Reykjavík Music School (Tónlistarskóli Reykjavíkur) in 1930 and the foundation of The Icelandic Federation of Musicians (Félag íslenskra hljóðfæraleikara, later renamed Félag íslenskra hljómlistarmanna; FÍH) in 1939, which became the most influential trade union of musicians in Iceland during the 20th century. Several reputable Icelandic musicians, composers and music enthusiasts wrote articles in local newspapers during this period where Iceland’s primitive state of musical culture was reprimanded, most notably Jón Leifs (1899-1968), composer and conductor, who had studied at the Leipzig Conservatory during WWI. Leifs emphasized the inevitable need of a decent symphony orchestra lest Iceland should lag behind other civilized countries. Furthermore, the growing music industry was stimulated by a handful of European musicians who came to live and work in Iceland during the first half of the century. Among the most influential were Franz Mixa (1902-1994), Victor Urbancic (1903-1958) and Wilhelm Lanzky-Otto (1909-1991).
Foundation and first years (1950-1956)
During the late-forties, the dream of a professional orchestra loomed ever larger in public discussion in Iceland. A group of musicians, led by composers Páll Ísólfsson (1893-1974) and Jón Þórarinsson (1917-2012), wrote a formal proposal to the government where suggestions of administration and ownership of the planned orchestra were put forward. Eysteinn Jónsson (1906-1993), minister of culture, introduced a bill in Parliament during the winter of 1947-1948 where a special fund for the management of an orchestra was planned. Jónsson’s bill assumed that financial support should come from The National Radio (Ríkisútvarpið; RÚV), The Reykjavík Music Society (Tónlistarfélag Reykjavíkur) and The National Theatre (Þjóðleikhúsið), which was not yet in operation. The rest of the funding was supposed to come from a tax imposed on movie tickets. However, there was no agreement on the bill in Parliament as MPs representing constituencies outside Reykjavík expressed great antagonism to the idea.
In 1950, the steering committee of RÚV agreed to experimentally finance the activity of an orchestra of 40 members for a few months. No formal inaugural meeting was held so the orchestra’s foundation date is considered March 9, 1950 when its first concert took place.
At the outset, the ISO was efficient in concerting and gave fifteen public performances during its first year of existence. However, the beginning was unpromising from a financial perspective: Operating costs were higher than applied to any other musical institution of the country, no budget estimates had yet been made and the public response was marked by lack of interest. Wage disputes were frequent and members of the orchestra, most of whom worked part-time, regularly consulted their unions. In early 1953, members of the orchestra went on strike on account of overdue wage payments.
Only few weeks after the ISO’s inauguration, Þjóðleikhúsið opened for the first time, and the two institutions maintained a close alliance for several years. The ISO had no venue of its own so concerts were normally held in Þjóðleikhúsið, and the orchestra provided music for theatrical performances.
Of the forty founding members, fourteen came from out of Iceland. This made the ISO an unconventional organization in Iceland since the country’s level of immigration had always been extremely low.
In 1954, the running of the ISO was incorporated into RÚV. This meant that the orchestra’s members had more job security and more wage stability than before. However, attendance to concerts remained low and after the first twelve months of the collaboration with RÚV, the orchestra was run at a great loss. Bjarni Benediktsson, minister of culture, appointed a committee for heightened efficiency of the management. Debates in Parliament followed and since increased subscription fees for RÚV seemed the most logical conclusion, no agreement was reached on the matter. Consequently, the activity of ISO came to a halt and no concerts were held during the winter 1955-1956.
Rebranding and revitalization (1956-1982)
In March 1956, advances were made towards restoring the ISO as a private institution and reinstating routine performances. A new board was appointed, headed by Ragnar Jónsson, book publisher and art patron. Operating summaries and work schedules gradually became better organized. The orchestra’s title had previously been Sinfóníuhljómsveitin („The Symphony Orchestra“) but was now formally changed to Sinfóníuhljómsveit Íslands (The Icelandic Symphony Orchestra). Bjarni Benediktsson, minister of culture, was the main advocate of the new title and showed great interest in defining the orchestra as a national treasure. One factor of this approach was the idea of habitually touring the orchestra around the whole country instead of limiting concerts to Reykjavík alone.
The ISO’s first performance outside Reykjavík was in Akureyri on 21 May 1956. The following years, annual concert tours took place, normally at the end of the season. Duration of tours was typically between one and two weeks. The orchestra’s first trip abroad was to the Faroe Islands in 1977.
The upsurge that started in 1956 was not to be long-lasting. In 1960, the orchestra’s board found itself relapsing into financial difficulties, partly due to a high inflation which annually reduced the Icelandic króna’s purchasing power by around 10%. Attendance to concerts remained moderate and earnings were negligible. In February 1961, the board decided to seek renewed ties with RÚV and reshape the ISO as a de facto department of the radio. The board was divided on the issue and chairman Jónsson was opposed to the shift. The final result, however, was a rearrangement of the orchestra as a subdivision of RÚV. The arrangement was intended as a temporary solution but remained unchanged until 1982 when Alþingi passed a law on the ISO. Collaboration with Þjóðleikhúsið remained virtually unchanged until 1971 when a contract was made between the two institutions, loosening the ISO’s players from their former duties as unpaid participants in the theatre’s performances.
In 1961, the ISO was transferred to its new residence in Háskólabíó, Reykjavík’s largest movie theatre. This was the first time that the ISO was able to practice on a permanent basis on the same location as its concerts were held. However, dissatisfaction grew since the acoustics of Háskólabíó were considered unsatisfactory for orchestra concerts. Bohdan Wodiczko, principal conductor, expressed his dislike of Háskólabíó early on and for the next decades, similar views are frequent in interviews with conductors, players and other people connected with the ISO. Háskólabíó remained the orchestra’s main venue for fifty years until the opening of Harpa Concert Hall in 2011.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the ISO gradually grew and developed. No formal regulations existed on the orchestra’s management and its relationship with sponsors was more or less random. In 1976, Vilhjálmur Hjálmarsson, minister of culture, appointed a committee to write a parliamentary bill for the ISO. The committee wrote a draft which was rearranged by a new committee, appointed in 1978. The proposals underlined the importance of the ISO’s independence towards RÚV and Þjóðleikhúsið – the orchestra should be able to stand on its own and not only serve as a satellite of the other two institutions. The parliamentary bill was approved in Alþingi on 26 April 1982.
After the passing of the ISO law in 1982, the orchestra received provisions on the national budget. The number of players in the ISO had grown and kept growing during this period. The orchestra had 40 salaried players in 1950, 65 in 1986, 72 in 2000 and 95 in 2016.
In 1986, the ISO offered season tickets and subscription packages for the first time. The subscription system was based on four types or “series”: Yellow series (large orchestral works, local soloists), Red series (solo concertos, foreign soloists), Green series (accessible music, e.g. Viennese waltzes and operettas) and Blue series (contemporary music and Icelandic works). The system underwent some changes during the next years and in 2016, it is arranged as follows: Red series (with a primary focus on large orchestral works), Yellow series (mostly Classical and early Romantic works), Green series (popular favourites) and Blue series (family concerts).
The ISO is active in collaborating with Icelandic schools and regularly holds school concerts where students of various ages are invited in groups. During the 2000s, ISO expanded its child targeted marketing and promotion to a considerable extent. In 2007, Barbara the clown (played by Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir) performed as concert announcer for the first time and in 2008, the ISO introduce Maximús Músíkús, a mouse mascot aimed at young children. In family concerts, Barbara and Maximús has been regular guests ever since.
The ISO normally holds around 60 concerts each year. Concerts are broadcast live on RÚV’s Rás 1 (national radio station). In March 2015, the ISO began collaboration with Icelandic telephone company Síminn, broadcasting videos of chosen concerts. Video recordings are accessible to subscribers, but a number of them can be found on the ISO’s YouTube channel.
Olav Kielland (1952-1955)
Kielland introduced a degree of discipline and professionalism unmatched in earlier stages of the Icelandic music world. He wrote a code of conduct that was supposed to apply during the orchestra’s practice sessions. Kielland was considered a temperamental and colorful character and several anecdotes survive from members who served under his command. The German players of the ISO are said to have received a particularly harsh treatment from Kielland. Nevertheless, Kielland’s arrival was generally acclaimed in the papers and seen as clear step forward for the young orchestra. Kielland’s three-year contract expired in 1955 and was not renewed. After his departure from the ISO, no principal conductor was employed on a permanent basis until 1965.
Bohdan Wodiczko (1965-1968, 1970-1971)
Wodiczko first conducted a concert of the ISO on 22 February 1960 when Chopin’s 150th anniversary was celebrated. The collaboration was fruitful and Wodiczko conducted ten more concerts during the following season. In 1965 he signed a three-year contract as principal conductor. Wodiczko had a reputation as a recluse who confined his social life in Iceland to the company of orchestra members. During his stay in Iceland, Wodiczko was greatly motivated by his ambition to enhance the local cultural scene; in a 1961 interview he stated that his monthly salary with the ISO roughly equalled the amount they would receive for a single concert in Europe. The ISO’s repertoire underwent considerable changes during Wodiczko’s time in office, moving enhancingly towards modern music instead of classical and romantic compositions.
Karsten Andersen (1973-1978)
Andersen first conducted a concert of the ISO on June 9, 1972 as part of the Reykjavik Arts Festival when held for the second time. His conservative taste in music resulted in a highly conventional repertoire and little risk taking. Andersen held office as principal conductor of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra while working with the ISO and traveled frequently between Norway and Iceland, spending on average one week every month in Iceland. Andersen’s time in office marks the ISO’s unbroken period of principal conductors.
Jean-Pierre Jacquillat (1978-1986)
Jacquillat introduced French impressionistic compositions in the ISO’s repertoire in a greater degree than any of his predecessors. When asked in a 1986 interview whether he considered himself to have acquired anything positive as principal conductor, Jacquillat replied: “It is up to others to judge. In any case, I can boast of having introduced a lot of French music to Icelandic listeners. There are several French composers I would have liked to play here, like Boulez and Messiaen, but the orchestra is simply to small.” Newspaper articles and memoirs of ISO’s members describe Jacquillat as an extrovert and embracing personality. Jacquillat died in a car accident merely three months after completing his contract with the ISO.
Petri Sakari (1987-1993, 1996-1998)
Sakari, a violinist, was markedly ambitious about training the orchestra’s string players. He conducted the ISO for the first time in 1986 and described his relationship with the orchestra as “love at first sight”. During his time as principal conductor, the ISO signed a contract of recording ten albums with Chandos Records. Sakari conducted the orchestra on most of them. Furthermore, Sakari conducted the ISO in recordings of the complete symphonies by Jean Sibelius, made for Naxos Records in 1998-2000. Sakari often described his views on how the ISO’s board might improve the orchestra’s conditions, e.g. by hiring more players, financing more trips abroad and creating the position of assistant conductor.
Osmo Vänskä (1993-1996)
Vänskä’s period as conductor was marked by considerable activity on the international music scene. In February and March 1996, Vänskä conducted the ISO on a tour to the USA, playing in Florida, Massachusetts, Delaware and New York. Vänskä was criticized by several Icelandic composers for not giving priority to Icelandic compositions on ISO’s concerts. His reply to these criticisms was summarized in a 1996 interview: “Icelandic music should not be on the ISO’s repertoire unless it is truly deserving. It is the music’s quality, not origin, which is most important.” In 2014, Vänskä signed a contract as the ISO’s main guest conductor. His contract was renewed in 2016 and Vänskä will serve the position until 2020.
Rico Saccani (1998-2001)
Saccani conducted the ISO regularly as a guest conductor from 1987 before signing a contract as principal conductor in 1998. When asked about his aims for the ISO, Saccani declared that he wanted to focus on more southern and operatic styles of music and highlight compositions by Italian, Spanish and French composers. As for the ISO’s management, Saccani proposed increased sponsorship as a solution to prevent financial difficulties. Saccani renewed his contract in 2000 and was supposed to serve as conductor until 2002, but in March 2001, he abruptly abandoned the position, left the country and was unreachable for weeks. Several rumors surrounded Saccani’s retirement: An opinion poll is said to have been held among the ISO’s players where the results were confidential and clearly expressing a negative view towards the conductor. On May 18, Saccani published an announcement where he stated that he had decided to quit due to illness.
Rumon Gamba (2002-2010)
Gamba was 29 years old when engaged at the ISO, thereby becoming the youngest principal conductor in the orchestra’s history. He often underlined the ISO’s key role in promoting Icelandic music: “Which orchestra should take care of it if not the ISO?” Gamba conducted the ISO in several recordings for Chandos Records and greatly emphasized the value of recordings to make the orchestra visible on the international scene. Gamba’s repertoire was diversified, and among ISO’s projects during his period was playing all of Shostakovich’s symphonies over a five-year period.
Ilan Volkov (2011-2014)
Volkov’s inauguration as principal conductor nearly coincided with the ISO’s transfer to Harpa Concert Hall and he was frequently asked to comment on the building’s qualities in the media. He had been conducting the BBC SSO for thirteen years when he signed a contract with the ISO. Shortly after he started working in Iceland, Volkov stated in an interview that he had accepted the position because he was interested in finding a venue where he could develop his ideas more freely. Two and a half years later, shortly before the end of his term in position, Volkov confessed that his initial aims for the ISO had miscarried up to a point: “I did have a lot of freedom with the repertoire for the first couple of years, but financial constraints meant that we had to be a bit more careful with the programming in the final one.”
Yan Pascal Tortelier (2016-present)
In October 2015, the ISO declared that Tortelier had been engaged as principal conductor. The initial concert of the season 2016-2017 will serve as Tortelier’s inauguration in the position, but he first collaborated with the ISO on Reykjavik Arts Festival in 1998. When Tortelier’s engagement was revealed, he expressed his enthusiasm in further developing the orchestra and hoped he could help to reach new audiences worldwide.
Vladimir Ashkenazy became an Icelandic citizen in 1972, eleven years after marrying Icelandic piano player Þórunn Jóhannsdóttir. He was one of the main instigators of Reykjavik Arts Festival which was held for the first time in 1970. Ashkenazy collaborated with the ISO for the first time as soloist on 19 December 1971 and for the first time as conductor on 12 October 1972. He conducted the orchestra fourteen times during the next six years, but in September 1978, an interview was published in Gramophone where Ashkenazy described the players of the ISO as “semi-professionals”. In the interview, Ashkenazy even made the following expression when speaking about the players of the ISO: “Sometimes they produce interesting musical performances but technically they are not very good. You have to treat them as children.” The comment was harshly received by members, organizers and spokesmen of the ISO. Helga Hauksdóttir, chairman of the ISO’s company union, expressed her disappointment in an interview with Morgunblaðið where a strong sense of dissension can be noted: “If Vladimir Ashkenazy wants to compare the ISO with the world’s first-rate orchestras, we must be allowed to reply in the same spirit and compare his talents as conductor with some of the excellent conductors who have worked with us during the last few years. Even if he has improved since his first attempts with the ISO some years ago, I’m sure most of the orchestra’s players agree that he is nowhere near being a first-class conductor.”
Ashkenazy moved to Switzerland in 1978, around the same time as his disagreement with the ISO became public. He didn’t collaborate with the ISO for over twenty years, but on 18 January 2001, he conducted the orchestra for the first time after the long break. During the same time, Ashkenazy praised the ISO in interviews, declaring that the orchestra had made great improvements during the last years. Since 2001, Ashkenazy has conducted the ISO annually. In April 2002, he was appointed honorary conductor of the ISO and has held the position since. On 4 My 2011, he conducted the orchestra for the first time at the inaugural concert of Harpa Concert Hall.
Ashkenazy has conducted the ISO on three recorded albums.
The ISO has participated in 87 published albums, both under its own name and accompanying other artists. The first album recorded by the ISO was Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, conducted by Václav Smetácek and narrated by Helga Valtýsdóttir, in 1956. The impression, however, was mysteriously lost and the recording has since remained unheard. Seven years passed until ISO recorded its second album which included “Minni Íslands” (“Theme of Iceland”) by Jón Leifs and Symphony no. 16, “Icelandic”, by Henry Cowell. The orchestra had premiered Cowell’s symphony on 21 March 1963 and recorded it later the same year. The composition was dedicated to the memory of explorer Vilhjálmur Stefánsson with whom Cowell had maintained friendship since 1941, and since his Symphony no. 16 includes motifs from Icelandic folk melodies he considered the ISO an ideal performer for the piece.
Jón Leifs is the single composer whose works have been recorded most often by the ISO, spanning twelve albums in all. The first major work was The Saga Symphony, recorded in 1975 and conducted by Jussi Jalas. Jalas had conducted the orchestra several times in concert and served as its first ever guest conductor on 27 June 1950. The Saga Symphony was recorded again in 1996 and conducted by Osmo Vänska. Between 1996 and 2002 the orchestra recorded many of Leifs’ most important works, including Geysir, Hekla, Hafís and Baldr.
The ISO’s visibility in the international music industry escalated in the 1990s under Petri Sakari’s command. Sakari conducted the orchestra in various recordings for Chandos Records in 1992-1996, as well as conducting the complete symphonies by Jean Sibelius for Naxos Records in 1996-2000 (published as a box set in 2001). Collaboration with Chandos Records continued during Rumon Gamba’s period as principal conductor, resulting in a two-volume recording of the orchestral works of Malcolm Williamson (published in 2006-2007) and a six-volume recording of the orchestral works of Vincent d’Indy (published in 2008-2015). The first volume of the d’Indy-series was nominated for a Grammy award for Best Orchestral Recording in 2009 and the second volume was chosen as Gramophone’s Editor Choice.
Harpa Concert Hall
Main article: Harpa (concert hall)
For decades, the prospect of building a specialized venue for major classical concerts was discussed publicly in Iceland. No real concert halls existed in Iceland during the 20th century and classical concerts typically took place in churches, theatres and sports halls. Háskólabíó, ISO’s venue from 1961, was designed and intended as a movie theatre and no measures were taken during its construction towards making it a locale for classical concerts. Conductors and musicians who performed in Háskólabíó remained unsatisfied with the building’s acoustics from the beginning, even if some improvements were made, e.g. by installing large panels on the walls of the theatre’s main hall.
During the 1980s, public enthusiasm for building a proper music hall increased considerably. The initiative came from entrepreneurs and academics no less than from musicians. On 15 May 1983, an article by building contractor Ármann Örn Ármannsson appeared in Morgunblaðið, deploring the lack of a venue for symphony concerts in Iceland. Ármannsson proposed the establishment of an organization of those interested in paving the way for a concert hall. Three weeks later, on 4 June 1983, an inaugural meeting of the advised organization took place in Háskólabíó. The organization was simply entitled Association towards building a concert hall (Samtök um byggingu tónlistarhúss; SBT) and was prominent on the cultural scene during the next years. Two years later, the SBT was allocated a building site in Laugardalur, east of Reykjavík’s city centre, where the anticipated concert hall was supposed to rise. An architectural competition was held in 1986 in which a first prize was given to architect Guðmundur Jónsson who completed his blueprints in 1988. At the award ceremony in 1986, hopes were expressed that the concert hall should become ready for use in 1990. Discussions of the future concert hall were supplemented with a subordinate debate on whether the building should be fit for opera staging as well as symphony concerts. The ISO had been the main point of reference for the concert hall from the start but opera lovers wanted their share as well.
A number of international artists gave SBT financial support in its efforts to build a concert hall in Iceland. On 26 February 1985, The Philharmonia Orchestra played in a benefit concert, conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy, in Royal Festival Hall in London and donated all the income to SBT. According to organizers, the concert raised $1,260. Classical pianist Martin Berofsky, who lived in Iceland from 1982-1987, held a series of recitals in the USA, donating the profits to the project of building a concert hall in Iceland. Berofsky’s first recital in the cycle took place in Harvard on 19 October 1986.
Aspirations for building a concert hall in Iceland persisted through the 1990s. Several politicians declared themselves able and willing to make the dream come true, but without any tangible result. In 2000, the current location of Harpa was chosen as a building site. In May 2003, Vladimir Ashkenazy heavily criticized the tardiness of Icelandic politicians on a meeting with the ISO and declared that he would “probably find it difficult to travel from the cemetery to conduct the orchestra”. That same year, the company Austurhöfn-TR was specifically founded to supervise the construction of the concert hall.
In 2005, Portus Group, owned by Landsbanki Íslands, signed a contract to build and operate the concert hall. During this time, the idea had been expanded and modified with the intention of making the building multipurpose – a concert and conference complex. Construction of the building began on 12 January 2007. During the financial crisis of 2007-2008, construction work came to a halt, but was started anew in March 2009.
Harpa Concert Hall was formally opened 4 May 2011 with an inaugural concert of the ISO.
|29 March 1951||Aram Khachaturian (conductor)||Aram Khachaturian: Ode in Memory of Lenin, The Battle of Stalingrad, Masquerade Suite, Gayane Suite
Pyotr Tchaikovsky: Serenade for String Orchestra op. 48
|14 September 1954||Mstislav Rostropovich||Antonín Dvořák: Cello Concerto op. 104|
|19 March 1964||Alfred Brendel||Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Concerto no. 4|
|5 June 1964||Vladimir Ashkenazy
(first performance with ISO)
|Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Concerto no. 1
Sergei Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto no. 3
|29 May 1966||Wilhelm Kempff||Robert Schumann: Piano Concerto in a minor op. 54|
|29 September 1966||Claudio Arrau||Johannes Brahms: Piano Concerto no. 1 op. 15|
|29 June 1970||Daniel Barenboim (conductor), Itzhak Perlman||Ludwig van Beethoven: Overture to The Creatures of Prometheus op. 43
Pyotr Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto in D major op. 35
Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony no. 7 op. 92
|9 June 1972||Yehudi Menuhin||Ludwig van Beethoven: Violin Concerto|
|13 May 1976||Emil Gilels||Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Concerto no. 5|
|14 June 1982||Ivo Pogorelich||Fréderic Chopin: Piano Concerto no. 2|
|16 November 1985||Anne-Sophie Mutter||Antonio Vivaldi: The Four Seasons op. 8 no. 1-4
Joseph Haydn: Symphony no. 104 in D major
|14 April 1988||Mischa Maisky||Richard Strauss: Don Quixote|
|2 June 1990||Andrei Gavrilov||Sergei Rachmaninov: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini op. 43|
|16 March 1995||Grigory Sokolov||Fréderic Chopin: Piano Concerto no. 2|
Collaboration with popular musicians
On 19 November 1978, the ISO teamed up with pop musician Gunnar Þórðarson, former frontman and main songwriter of Thor’s Hammer. The concert marks the beginning of ISO’s association with the popular music industry. In 1986, an album entitled Í takt við tímann (“In keeping with the times”) where the ISO performed a selection of Icelandic pop classics. Since 2002, ISO has regularly performed with pop musicians in concert, often recording and publishing the results on CD. The following list demonstrates the main bands and artists who have been associated with the ISO in concert:
- 2001: Quarashi
- 2002: Sálin
- 2003: Todmobile
- 2004: Nýdönsk
- 2006: Björgvin Halldórsson
- 2007: Dúndurfréttir
- 2008: Lady and Bird
- 2009: Gunnar Þórðarson
- 2010: Hjaltalín
- 2010 and 2011: Páll Óskar Hjálmtýsson
- 2011 and 2012: Sigurður Guðmundsson and Sigríður Thorlacius
- 2013: Skálmöld, Ólafur Arnalds
- 2015: Eivør Pálsdóttir
- 2016: Emiliana Torrini
- Bjarnason, Bjarki (2000). Sinfóníuhljómsveit Íslands: Saga og stéttartal. Reykjavík: Sögusteinn. p. 24. ISBN 9789979762010.
- Bjarnason, Bjarki (2000). Sinfóníuhljómsveit Íslands: Saga og stéttartal. Reykjavík: Sögusteinn. pp. 38–39. ISBN 9789979762010.
- Leifs, Jón (14 August 1921). "Íslenskt tónlistarlíf". Morgunblaðið. Retrieved 31 May 2016.
- Stefánsson, Gunnar (1997). Útvarp Reykjavík: Saga Ríkisútvarpsins 1930-1960. Reykjavík: Sögufélag. pp. 307–308. ISBN 9979905913.
- "180. mál, Sinfóníuhljómsveit Íslands". Vefur Alþingis. Alþingi. 18 March 1948. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- Bjarnason, Bjarki (2000). Sinfóníuhljómsveit Íslands: Saga og stéttartal. Reykjavík: Sögusteinn. p. 81. ISBN 9789979762010.
- Bjarnason, Bjarki (2000). Sinfóníuhljómsveit Íslands: Saga og stéttartal. Reykjavík: Sögusteinn. p. 110. ISBN 9789979762010.
- Stefánsson, Gunnar (1997). Útvarp Reykjavík: Saga Ríkisútvarpsins 1930-1960. Reykjavík: Sögufélag. p. 328. ISBN 9979905913.
- "Sinfóníuhljómsveitin heimsækir Akureyri" (PDF). Íslendingur. 3 May 1956. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- Bjarnason, Bjarki (2000). Sinfóníuhljómsveit Íslands: Saga og stéttartal. Reykjavík: Sögusteinn. pp. 118–120. ISBN 9789979762010.
- Guðmundsson, Már (2004). "Gjaldmiðillinn og íslenska fjármálakerfið" (PDF). Peningamál. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- Bjarnason, Bjarki (2000). Sinfóníuhljómsveit Íslands: Saga og stéttartal. Reykjavík: Sögusteinn. pp. 151–152. ISBN 9789979762010.
- "Lög um Sinfóníuhljómsveit Íslands". Vefur Alþingis. 7 May 1982. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
- "Lög um breytingu á lögum nr. 36/1982, um Sinfóníuhljómsveit Íslands". Vefur Alþingis. 1 February 2007. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
- Bjarnason, Bjarki (2000). Sinfóníuhljómsveit Íslands: Saga og stéttartal. Reykjavík: Sögusteinn. p. 157. ISBN 9789979762010.
- "Subscription series". ISO homepage. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- "ISO YouTube Channel". YouTube. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- Bjarnason, Bjarki (2000). Sinfóníuhljómsveit Íslands: Saga og stéttartal. Reykjavík: Sögusteinn. pp. 102–104. ISBN 9789979762010.
- "Yfirlýsing frá stjórn Sinfóníuhljómsveitarinnar" (PDF). Morgunblaðið. 6 May 1952. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- "Á förnum vegi" (PDF). Helgafell. 1 May 1953. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- Egilson, Gunnar (13 June 1985). "Minning: Bhodan Wodiczko hljómsveitarstjóri" (PDF). Morgunblaðið. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- "Uppeldi æskunnar ekki heilt nema tónlistin sé einn þáttur þess" (PDF). Morgunblaðið. 11 June 1961. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- Kristjánsdóttir, Guðrún; et al. (2000). Sinfóníuhljómsveit Íslands 50 ára. Reykjavík: Sinfóníuhljómsveit Íslands. p. 20.
- "Hljómsveitarstjórinn fljúgandi" (PDF). Alþýðublaðið. 31 October 1973. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- "Spilar fleira en það sem gott þykir" (PDF). DV. 22 May 1986. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- "Þetta er fyrsta flokks hljómsveit". Morgunblaðið. 8 December 1990. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- "Finninn sem fann ástina". Morgunblaðið. 7 May 1998. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- "Menningin getur verið öflugur fisksali" (PDF). Morgunblaðið. 1 May 1996. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- "Osmo framlengir til 2020". ISO homepage. 21 January 2016. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- "Með tónlistina í kollinum" (PDF). Morgunblaðið. 10 September 1998. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- "Allt mjög dularfullt" (PDF). Fréttablaðið. 16 May 2001. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- "Stjórnandi utan í fússi" (PDF). Fréttablaðið. 11 May 2001. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- "Batt vonir við gagnkvæman skilning og traust" (PDF). Morgunblaðið. 18 May 2001. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- "Leitin að hljómnum snýst um hugarfar" (PDF). Morgunblaðið. 5 September 2002. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- "Þetta fólk leikur alltaf með hjartanu" (PDF). SunnudagsMogginn. 13 June 2010. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- "Lighting a Fire under the Orchestra". The Reykjavik Grapevine. 22 February 2012. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- "Ilan Has (not quite) Left The Building". The Reykjavík Grapevine. 8 September 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- "Yan Pascal Tortier ráðinn nýr aðalhljómsveitarstjóri". ISO homepage. 6 October 2015. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- Stringer, Robin (September 1978). "Vladimir Ashkenazy interviewed". Gramophone. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- "Sumir vilja aldrei segja sannleikann og aðrir vilja aldrei heyra sannleikann" (PDF). Morgunblaðið. 10 October 1978. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- "Ashkenazy gefur Sinfóníuhljómsveitinni bestu einkunn" (PDF). Morgunblaðið. 12 September 2000. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- "Ashkenazy heiðursstjórnandi" (PDF). Morgunblaðið. 12 April 2002. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- Bjarnason, Bjarki (2000). Sinfóníuhljómsveit Íslands: Saga og stéttartal. Reykjavík: Sögusteinn. p. 158. ISBN 9789979762010.
- "Ætlið þér að hafa okkur að fíflum?" (PDF). Tíminn. 24 March 1963. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
- Ármannsson, Ármann Örn (15 May 1983). "Nýtt tónleikahús á Íslandi" (PDF). Morgunblaðið. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
- "Ætlunin að ljúka við tónlistarhúsið árið 1990" (PDF). Morgunblaðið. 10 June 1986. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
- Jónsdóttir, Bergþóra (16 April 2003). "Tónlistarhús í tæpa öld" (PDF). Morgunblaðið. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
- "Royals at concert". The Times-News. 27 February 1985. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
- "Berkofsky styrkir Tónlistarhús í Reykjavík" (PDF). DV. 31 October 1986. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
- "Fyrirmunað að skilja að tónlistarhús skuli ekki risið" (PDF). Morgunblaðið. 6 May 2003. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
- "Contract to build and operate Icelandic National Concert & Conference Center awarded". Iceland Review. 22 September 2005. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
- "Saga hússins". Harpa webpage. Retrieved 10 June 2016.