Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra

Biography and history

The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra is renowned as one of Europe’s most versatile orchestras with broad and exciting repertoire and a constant drive to break new ground. The multi-award-winning orchestra is praised and for its exceptional, wide-ranging musicianship as well as collaborations with the world’s foremost composers, conductors and soloists. “The orchestra has an incredible humility towards the music and a wonderful feel for musical imagination and inventiveness”, says music director Daniel Harding.

Permanent home of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra since 1979 is Berwaldhallen, the Swedish Radio’s concert hall. In addition to the seated audience, the orchestra reaches millions of listeners on the radio and the web through Klassiska konserten i P2. Several concerts are also broadcast and streamed on Berwaldhallen Play and in 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.

In the 2019–2020 season, the orchestra celebrated Berwaldhallen’s 40th anniversary with a musical buffet, from the world première of Tobias Broström’s Nigredo: Dark Night of the Soul with Håkan Hardenberger and Jeroen Berwaerts to sold-out disco concerts with Andreas Lundstedt, Lina Hedlund and Mariette. Edward Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius, for the first time in Berwaldhallen, and the première of Victoria Borisova-Ollas Oh Giselle, Remember Me with Truls Mørk were also among the highlights.

In the spring of 2020, the orchestra broadcast a series of newly programmed concerts in Swedish Radio P2 and on Berwaldhallen Play as well as Swedish Television and Medici.TV, when the coronavirus made performing for a live audience impossible. The concerts featured guests such as Alan Gilbert, Stina Ekblad, Peter Mattei and Malin Byström. The season finale was a staging by Andrew Staples of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, conducted by Music Director Daniel Harding, which received rave reviews at home and abroad.

The orchestra is regularly invited to international festivals and concert halls. Twice the orchestra has performed with Daniel Harding at the Anima Mundi Festival in Pisa. In September 2019 they performed Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem with the Swedish Radio Choir and the year before, Bruckner’s profound fifth symphony. In November 2018, the orchestra went on a major, weeklong European tour with Daniel Harding and violinists Alina Ibragimova and Janine Jansen, featuring violin concertos by Schumann, Berg and Sibelius.

Recent highlights of the orchestra’s extensive discography are acclaimed recordings of Mahler’s fifth and ninth symphonies as well as Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem, the latter recorded with the Swedish Radio Choir and soloists Matthias Goerne and Christiane Karg.

The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra give annual concerts with music from popular films and video games, featuring guest conductors like John Wilson and Charles Hazlewood, and regularly do ground-breaking crossover projects with prominent jazz, pop and rock artists, and leading conductors and arrangers like Hans Ek.

Several of the orchestra’s players are also distinguished soloists and chamber musicians. In the concert series Chamber Unplugged, they perform a curated selection of music in a smaller format. The youngest concertgoers meet the orchestra at the popular Radioapan performances and the orchestra members collaborate with El Sistema Stockholm to provide role models for future generations of musicians and music lovers.

The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra has been a vital part of the Baltic Sea Festival since the festival’s inception. Each year, the orchestra performs several acclaimed programmes. Two of the main highlights are Brahms’ Requiem in 2010 with Riccardo Muti, the Swedish Radio Choir and Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks, and Schoenberg’s Gurre-Lieder in 2016 with the Royal Swedish Philharmonic Orchestra and some of Sweden’s top choirs.

Other memorable events include premieres of Anders Hillborg’s Aeterna in 2017 and Victoria Borisova-Ollas’ Open Ground in 2006, the Wagner programme with star soprano Nina Stemme and Esa-Pekka Salonen in 2011, and Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte at the Drottningholm Palace Theatre in 2013 conducted by Daniel Harding with soloists including Andrew Staples and Mari Eriksmoen.

Acclaimed conductor Daniel Harding is Music Director of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra since 2007. Since 2018, he also serves as Artistic Director, a sign of their continuing fruitful and dynamic collaboration. The orchestra is also proud to have Klaus Mäkelä as its principal guest conductor, a dynamic conductor who immediately made a strong impression on both the orchestra and the audience.

The first radio orchestra was founded in 1925, the same year as radio broadcasts started in Sweden. Ever since, the orchestra’s concerts have been broadcast by the Swedish Radio. The orchestra existed in various incarnations during the first 40 years. In the 1930s, it featured famous bandleaders like Sune Waldimir, and from the late 1940s, conductor Sten Frykberg started it on its journey towards becoming a world-class ensemble.

The orchestra 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 such as Herbert Blomstedt, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Manfred Honeck and Daniel Harding.