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BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (Symphony Orchestra)

Founded: 1935 - Glasgow, Scotland, UK, as BBC Scottish Orchestra
Re-named: 1963, as 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 December 1, 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 World War II, 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 Wiener Philharmoniker and New York Philharmonic Orchestra, appearing with soloists like Yehudi Menuhin, Milstein and Artur Schnabel. Since 1948, the BBC SSO has performed at the Festival on no less than 86 occasions.

Through the 1950ís and 1960ís, 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.

Recent and forthcoming highlights include Richard Straussís An Alpine Symphony at this yearís (2013) Edinburgh International Festival, and concert performances in Glasgow and Edinburgh of Wagnerís opera Tristan und Isolde with Donald Runnicles. There will also be concerts featuring major 19th and 20th century works from Poland; the continuation of a Ralph Vaughan Williams symphony cycle under Andrew Manze; music from American composer John Zorn; and in May 2013 a new work from Matthias Pintscher to complement the centenary of Igor Stravinskyís The Rite of Spring.

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

Guy Warrack (1935-1946)
Ian Whyte (1946-1960)
Norman Del Mar (1960-1965)
James Loughran (1965-1971)
Christopher Seaman (1971-1977)
Karl Anton Rickenbacher (1978-1980)
Jerzy Maksymiuk (1983-1993)
Osmo Vänskä (1996-2002)
Ilan Volkov (2003-2009)
Donald Runnicles (2009-Present)

Chief/Principal Guest Conductors

Sir Charles Groves (1981-1983)
Vernon Handley (1983-1985)
George Hurst (1986-1989)
Takuo Yuasa (1989-1992)
Ilan Volkov (2009-)

Associate Principal Conductor

Martyn Brabbins (1996-2005)

Associate Guest Conductors

George Malcolm (1965-1967)
Stefan Solyom (2006-2009)
Andrew Manze (2010-)

Assistant & Associate Conductors

Robert Irving (1945-1948)
Harry Platts (1948-1949)
John Hopkins (1949-1951)
Alexander Gibson (1952-1954)
Gerald Gentry (1954-1956)
Colin Davis (1957-1959)
Bryden Thomson (1959-1960)
James Lockhart (1960-1962)
Bernard Keeffe (1962-1964)
Graham Treacher (1964-1967)
Christopher Seaman (1968-1970)
Andrew Davis 1970-1972 ()
Christopher Adey (1973-1976)
Simon Rattle (1977-1980)
Nicholas Kraemer (1983-1985)
Christopher Bell (1989-1991)
Martyn Brabbins (1992-1996)

Affiliated composers

Tan Dun (Associate Composer/Conductor, 1994-1998)
Stuart MacRae (Composer in Association, 1999-2003)
Anna Meredith (Composer in Residence, 2004-2006)
Jonathan Harvey (Composer-in-Association, 2005-2007)
Matthias Pintscher (Artist-in-Association, 2010-)


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 CDís 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.
Harvey: Body Mandala - Anu Komsi (soprano), BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Ilan Volkov (conductor) (NMC)
English Orchestral Songs - Christopher Maltman (baritone), BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Martyn Brabbins (conductor), Adrian Adlam (leader). Label (Hyperion)


Source: BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra Website (September 2012); Wikipedia Website (January 2013)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (February 2013)

Recordings of Bachís Instrumental Works




Norman Del Mar


Violin Concerto No. 1 BWV 1041 [w/ violinist Max Rostal]

Nicholas Kraemer


Violin Concerto No. 1 BWV 1041, Violin Concerto No. 2 BWV 1042, Orchestral Suite No. 3 BWV 1068 [w/ violinist Alina Ibragimova]

Links to other Sites

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (Official Website)
BBC Sctotlandís Music Blog

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (Wikipedia)

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Last update: Sunday, May 28, 2017 16:30