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New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

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New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
NZSO playing at Te Papa in 2009
Native nameTe Tira Pūoro o Aotearoa
Former nameNational Orchestra of the New Zealand Broadcasting Service (1946–1963)
NZBC Symphony Orchestra (1963–1975)
Founded1946; 78 years ago (1946)
LocationNew Zealand
Concert hallMichael Fowler Centre
Auckland Town Hall
Dunedin Town Hall
Christchurch Town Hall
Napier Municipal Theatre
Civic Theatre (Invercargill)
Principal conductorGemma New (2022)
Logo of New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO) is a symphony orchestra based in Wellington, New Zealand. The national orchestra of New Zealand, the NZSO is an autonomous Crown entity owned by the New Zealand Government, per the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra Act 2004. It is currently based in the Michael Fowler Centre and has frequently performed in the adjacent Wellington Town Hall before it was closed in 2013. It also performs in Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin.


A national orchestra for New Zealand was first proposed with the founding of the Radio Broadcasting Company in 1925, and broadcasting studio orchestras operated in major cities from the late 1920s. A national orchestra was formed in 1939 for New Zealand's Centennial Exhibition in 1940.

Invitation card to the Royal Concert for His Majesty King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit of Thailand, August 1962
NZBC National Orchestra invitation card, August 1962

The orchestra became permanent in 1946 in the aftermath of World War II as the "National Orchestra of the New Zealand Broadcasting Service" (by Oswald Cheesman and others); the inaugural concert took place on 6 March 1947. It was managed as a department of the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation, which later became Radio New Zealand, as the NZBC National Orchestra.[1][2][3]

The orchestra was renamed the NZBC Symphony Orchestra in 1963, and in 1975 renamed again to the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. In 1988, the orchestra became fully independent of Radio New Zealand, and began operating as an independent Crown-owned company.[3][1][2] Even after the formal separation of the orchestra from Radio New Zealand, NZSO performances continue to be recorded, broadcast and archived by Radio New Zealand Concert. Auckland Town Hall, Wellington Town Hall and Michael Fowler Centre performances are broadcast live-to-air and streamed online, and performances in other centres or overseas cities are usually recorded and broadcast at later dates.

In 2022 the orchestra performed a special 75th anniversary concert, conducted by Gemma New.[4]



The NZSO has always had a heavy touring schedule within New Zealand. It performed in Christchurch as early as 1947. It performs its core series of 12 programmes in Wellington and Auckland, about half of those in Hamilton, Christchurch and Dunedin, and visits several provincial cities each year. It has several times toured overseas, notably in 2005 to the BBC Proms, the Snape Maltings, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and the World Expo at Aichi in Japan.[5]


Franz-Paul Decker was the last NZSO conductor to have the title of chief conductor, and had the title of Conductor Laureate until his death in May 2014. The first conductor to have the title of Music Director of the NZSO was James Judd, from 1999 to 2007. Judd is now the orchestra's Music Director Emeritus.

In May 2007, Pietari Inkinen was named the NZSO's second Music Director,[6] and he formally took up the post in January 2008. Inkinen concluded his NZSO tenure in 2015 and subsequently took the title of honorary conductor.[7] In June 2015, the NZSO announced the appointment of Edo de Waart as its next music director, with his first concerts in March 2016.[8] De Waart's last concert as Music Director was in November 2019. In 2020 he became NZSO Conductor Laureate.[9] NZSO Associate Conductor Hamish McKeich was appointed NZSO Principal Conductor in Residence from January 2020.[10] Gemma New was appointed the orchestra's artistic director and principal conductor in 2022, the first woman to hold the position.[11]

The orchestra's affiliated conductors to date include:


The NZSO has recorded several LPs and many CDs, several with internationally known soloists such as Alessandra Marc and Donald McIntyre. In the last decade it has sold 500,000 CDs. It records at least one CD of New Zealand music each year. It has made a number of recordings on the American Koch label and now (2007) records regularly with Naxos.[12] The latest recordings are two CDs of music by Jean Sibelius[13] and one CD of music by Einojuhani Rautavaara.

In 2012, the NZSO collaborated with Booktrack and Salman Rushdie to create music for an enhanced edition of Rusdhie's short story In the South .[14] The NZSO recorded part of Howard Shore's score for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, notably the "Mines of Moria" sequence, as well as an alternate version of the cue "The Breaking of the Fellowship". The NZSO also performed and recorded Howard Shore's score for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.

An NZSO recording of works by Pulitzer Prize-winning Chinese composer Zhou Long and the Symphony ‘Humen 1839’, written in collaboration with compatriot Chen Yi, was nominated for Best Orchestral Performance at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards in February 2016. Singaporean Darrell Ang conducted the recording, which was recorded in Wellington's Michael Fowler Centre in June 2013 and released on the Naxos label in May 2015. It was the first Grammy nomination for the NZSO.

In 2020 the NZSO collaborated with composer Claire Cowan to produce a recording of the music from the original ballet "Hansel and Gretel", which had been commissioned by The Royal New Zealand Ballet the preceding year.[15] The album won the 2021 Aotearoa Music Award for Best Classical Album.[16]

Subsidiary orchestras[edit]

National Youth Orchestra[edit]

The NZSO National Youth Orchestra was founded by John Hopkins in 1959.[17][18] It auditions afresh each year and, after an intensive rehearsal schedule, performs one programme, in 2007 to be repeated in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

The NYO celebrated its 50th Anniversary Celebratory Season in 2009, under the baton of Paul Daniel, with John Chen as soloist and Ben Morrison as Concertmaster. Their programme was Mahler's 7th Symphony, Ravel's Left-Hand piano concerto and an original composition by Natalie Hunt, Only to the Highest Mountain. The 2009 season also saw the return of John Hopkins to join in the celebrations.

National Youth Orchestra Composer-in-Residence scheme

In 2005 the orchestra inaugurated its Composer-in-Residence scheme appointing Robin Toan as first recipient of the award.[19]

List of recipients

  • 2005 Robin Toan [19]
  • 2006 Claire Cowan [20]
  • 2007 Karlo Margetić [21]
  • 2008 Tabea Squire [22]
  • 2009 Natalie Hunt [23]
  • 2011 Alexandra Hay [24]
  • 2012 Alex Taylor [25]
  • 2013 Sam Logan [26]
  • 2014 Sarah Ballard [27]
  • 2015 Salina Fisher[28]
  • 2016 Celeste Oram[29]
  • 2017 Reuben Jelleyman[29]
  • 2018 Josiah Carr [30]
  • 2019 Glen Downie [31]
  • 2020 Joshua Pearson [32]
  • 2021 Ihlara McIndoe
  • 2022 David Mason
  • 2023 Nathaniel Otley

New Zealand Chamber Orchestra[edit]

The New Zealand Chamber Orchestra was founded in 1987 by NZSO violinist Stephen Managh, its first leader, and comprises members of the NZSO. Later renamed the NZSO Chamber Orchestra, they toured and recorded extensively for 13 years. They generally performed without a conductor under the direction of their first violinist and Musical Director Donald Armstrong. They are not currently performing.[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "NZBC Symphony Orchestra". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. 1966. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
  2. ^ a b "A history of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra". Ministry for Culture and Heritage. 20 June 2013. Archived from the original on 18 January 2015. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
  3. ^ a b Walls, Peter (22 October 2014). "Orchestras – The National Orchestra". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  4. ^ Rashbrooke, Max (11 September 2022). "NZSO anniversary concert reveals bright future in hands of brilliant new conductor". Stuff. Retrieved 28 September 2022.
  5. ^ George Hall (20 August 2005). "Prom 46: New Zealand Symphony/ Judd (Royal Albert Hall, London)". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 March 2009.
  6. ^ William Dart (21 May 2007). "New Zealand Symphony Orchestra at Auckland Town Hall". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 6 March 2009.
  7. ^ "NZSO announces new role for music director" (Press release). New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. 13 April 2015. Retrieved 29 June 2015.
  8. ^ "NZSO announces new Music Director Edo de Waart" (Press release). New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. 29 June 2015. Retrieved 29 June 2015.
  9. ^ "New Zealand Symphony Orchestra Music Director Appointed Conductor Laureate" (Press release). New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. 17 July 2019. Retrieved 17 July 2019.
  10. ^ "NZSO appoints Hamish McKeich as Principal Conductor in Residence" (Press release). New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. 4 November 2019. Retrieved 4 November 2019.
  11. ^ Fallon, Virginia (26 February 2022). "Breaking the brass ceiling: NZSO appoints first woman principal conductor in 75 years". Stuff. Retrieved 26 February 2022.
  12. ^ William Dart (30 August 2007). "Happy birthday to a classical act". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 6 March 2009.
  13. ^ William Dart (13 March 2008). "Finnish flourish in prophetic recording". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 6 March 2009.
  14. ^ "Salman Rushdie Collaborates With Booktrack And The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Booktrack Launches A New E-reader Platform". Booktrack. Archived from the original on 4 April 2014. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  15. ^ "NZSO Recording Aotearoa". NZSO. New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. Retrieved 15 February 2023.
  16. ^ "Award History". Aotearoa Music Awards. Archived from the original on 25 October 2020. Retrieved 15 February 2023.
  17. ^ "New Zealand Symphony Orchestra National Youth Orchestra official Homepage". Archived from the original on 21 August 2009.
  18. ^ Tonks, Joy (2011). The NZSO National Youth Orchestra : fifty years and beyond. Wellington [N.Z.]: Victoria University Press. ISBN 978-0-86473-609-3. OCLC 456176486.
  19. ^ a b "National Youth Orchestra 2005". Scoop. 10 August 2005.
  20. ^ "National Youth Orchestra 2006". Scoop. 23 August 2006.
  21. ^ "Karlo Margetic". 14 April 2018.
  22. ^ "Tabea SQUIRE: Ao". RNZ. 22 May 2019.
  23. ^ "Natalie Hunt is 2009 NYO Composer-in-Residence | Composers Association of New Zealand". Archived from the original on 26 December 2021. Retrieved 27 August 2020.
  24. ^ "Alexandra HAY: White Rain". RNZ. 29 October 2015.
  25. ^ "Milestone performance features NZ musical youth". www.voxy.co.nz.
  26. ^ "NZSO National Youth Orchestra announces 2013 Composer-in-Residence | Ministry for Culture and Heritage". mch.govt.nz.[permanent dead link]
  27. ^ "Composer in residence appointed for NZSO National Youth Orchestra | Ministry for Culture and Heritage". mch.govt.nz.[permanent dead link]
  28. ^ "NZSO National Youth Orchestra from Concert Hall". RNZ.
  29. ^ a b "New Zealand's best young musicians to work with two giants of British music". Ministry for Culture and Heritage. 10 July 2017. Archived from the original on 22 February 2021. Retrieved 6 March 2021.
  30. ^ Betts, Richard (26 June 2018). "Young composer sees a forest through the trees" – via www.nzherald.co.nz.
  31. ^ "NYO Celebrates - with the NZ Youth Choir". New Zealand Youth Choir.
  32. ^ Live, Auckland. "National Youth Orchestra - Leningrad". Auckland Live.
  33. ^ "Discography: New Zealand Chamber Orchestra". Discogs. Retrieved 6 April 2023.

External links[edit]