The RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra (previously known as The National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland and the RTÉ Symphony Orchestra) is the concert music orchestra of Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ). As one of the RTÉ Performing Groups, the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra now gives a 33-concert subscription season (Friday nights from September to May, broadcast live on RTÉ lyric fm), performs lighter Tuesday lunchtime and Friday evening concerts in June and July, plays an important role in Irish contemporary music through its Horizons series in January and February, and undertakes twice-yearly one-week tours of Ireland. Since 2005, the orchestra has been featured on RTÉ One's The Symphony Sessions.
In 1926, a national radio channel began, based in Dublin. It hired staff musicians, who often played together on the radio and in concert as a chamber orchestra. String players from the radio, wind players from the Army School of Music, and other musicians played as the Dublin Philharmonic Society under the direction of Colonel Fritz Brase, Head of the Army School of Music since 1927. The original group was gradually expanded during the 1930s and '40s and by 1946 had reached 40 musicians. Early conductors included Vincent O'Brien and, from 1941, Michael Bowles, guest conductors included Aloys Fleischmann and Frederick May. Often called the 'Station Orchestra', many (albeit not regular) public concerts were given and broadcast live from venues such as the Mansion House, Metropolitan Hall and Capitol Theatre.
In 1948, the broadcasting authority, now called Radio Éireann (Radio Ireland), expanded the orchestra to symphonic size by opening its membership to musicians from all over Europe. Ireland, as a neutral counzry during World War II, had been spared damage, so musicians from the wrecked economies of a ruined Europe were easy to attract. The new orchestra was named the Radio Éireann Symphony Orchestra. After Michael Bowles' involuntary retirement (Bowles had objected to recruiting so many foreigners for the 1948 enlargement), the new orchestra worked for a while without a permanent conductor, commissioning major guest conductors instead such as Jean Martinon and Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt. In 1953, the orchestra found a principal conductor in Milan Horvat, who remained until 1956. In 1961, Ireland added television to its broadcasting service. The name of the new organisation was to be Radio Telefís Éireann (RTÉ). The orchestra became known as the RTÉ Symphony Orchestra (RTESO). By now it was, de facto, the national orchestra of Ireland. Its new chief conductor from 1961 was Tibor Paul. He was succeeded by Albert Rosen,Colman Pearce, Bryden Thomson, and Janos Fürst.
In 1981, the RTESO found a new home when the National Concert Hall opened in Dublin. Also, at about the same time, it expanded its broadcasting activities. Until 1979, RTÉ had run only one radio channel and one television channel. In 1979, they established more channels, including an arts station called FM3, which aired numerous concerts by the RTÉSO. In 1989, the orchestra was again expanded and renamed the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland. George Hurst became principal conductor in 1990. Kasper de Roo succeeded Hurst from 1994 to 1998. Alexander Anissimov became the orchestra's principal guest conductor in 1995 and principal conductor in 1998. Gerhard Markson succeeded Anissimov in 2001 and was principal conductor through 2009. In May 2009, Alan Buribayev was named the newest principal conductor of the orchestra, effective September 2010, with an initial contract of three years. In September 2010, along with Buribayev assuming the principal conductorship, Hannu Lintu became the orchestra's principal guest conductor and Finghin Collins became the orchestra's first-ever Associate Artist.