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Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra

Biography and history

The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra is renowned as one of Europe’s most versatile orchestras with a broad and exciting repertoire and a constant drive to break new ground. The multi-award-winning orchestra has been praised for its exceptional, wide-ranging musicianship as well as collaborations with the world’s foremost composers, conductors and soloists.

Daniel Harding has been Music Director of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra since 2007, and also its Artistic Director in 2018. “The orchestra has an incredible humility towards the music and a wonderful feel for musical imagination and inventiveness”, says Daniel Harding.

The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra’s permanent home has, since 1979, been Berwaldhallen, the Swedish Radio’s concert hall.  In addition to the audience in the hall, the orchestra reaches many many listeners on Swedish Radio and on the web and through its partnership with the EBU.  Several concerts are also broadcast and streamed on Berwaldhallen Play and with Swedish Television, offering the audience more opportunities to come as close as possible to one of the world’s top orchestras.  “I have never had a concert where the orchestra haven’t played as if their lives depended on it!” says Daniel Harding.

The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra has been a vital part of the Baltic Sea Festival since the festival’s inception twenty years ago.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Swedish Radio Symphony was one of the only orchestras in the world which never stopped playing.  Its innovative and creative approach to making music in these dark times helped its public to cope and even made the news itself.  Its original productions when the public was absent included a fully staged Don Giovanni, an art film featuring Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll, and a poignant St John Passion, all with world-class soloists, conducted by Daniel Harding and directed by Andrew Staples.

The orchestra is regularly invited to international festivals and concert halls. In the 18/19 season, the orchestra undertook a major European tour with Daniel Harding and soloists Janine Jansen, Veronika Eberle and Alina Ibragimova. The orchestra also gave two concerts at the Anima Mundi Festival in Pisa, one featuring Bruckner’s profound Fifth Symphony and another with Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem with the Swedish Radio Choir. In Autumn 2021 the orchestra left Sweden for a new important European tour with Daniel Harding, Christian Gerhaher, Isabelle Faust and Johanna Wallroth.

Recent highlights of the orchestra’s extensive discography are acclaimed recordings of Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique, Mahler’s Fifth and Ninth Symphonies and Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem, the latter recorded with the Swedish Radio Choir and soloists Matthias Goerne and Christiane Karg, all with Daniel Harding conducting.

The Swedish Radio is Sweden’s foremost commissioner of new music and it is a fundamental part of the orchestra’s mission to perform works by contemporary composers. The last couple of years, these have included Thomas Adès, Sally Beamish, Harrison Birtwistle, Victoria Borisova-Ollas, Tobias Broström, Britta Byström, Anders Hillborg, Molly Kien, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Sven-David Sandström and Jörg Widmann.

The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra engages with new audience by giving concerts through the season with music from popular films and video games, and regularly create ground-breaking projects with prominent jazz, pop and rock artists, often led by Hans Ek. The orchestra also leads a series of concerts for young people.

The first radio orchestra was founded in 1925, the same year as radio broadcasts began in Sweden and the orchestra’s concerts have been broadcast by Swedish Radio ever since. The orchestra existed in various incarnations during its first forty years, but it assumed its ultimate form in 1965 under the baton of its first ever Music Director, Sergiu Celibidache. Two years later, it was officially named the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra.  The orchestra has continued to develop under the leadership of eminent conductors, in order, Herbert Blomstedt, Yevgeny Svetlanov, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Manfred Honeck.