Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra

Biography and history

Orchestral music has been part of Swedish radio since the very first broadcast in January 1925, when a concert with the Skandia Cinema’s orchestra in Stockholm was broadcast. Later in the same year, Radiotjänst’s (Radio Service’s) Orchestra, consisting of prominent freelance musicians, was formed, tasked with playing a largely classical repertoire for radio’s broadcasts. In the 1930s, the orchestra was dissolved, and Radiotjänst entered into an agreement with the country’s professional orchestras instead, in Stockholm and Gothenburg for instance. During the same period, in 1936, Radiotjänst’s Dance and Entertainment Orchestra was formed, and, led by Sune Waldimir and others, it became well known and popular.

The size and ambition of the orchestra grew over the years, and it performed an increasingly varied repertoire; both symphonic standard pieces and entertainment music. Young conductor Sten Frykberg took over the orchestra, which was then renamed the Radio Orchestra, in 1948. Frykberg also introduced his symphony matinees, a series of afternoon concerts where he himself introduced the music to the listeners. The entertaining and educational concerts became very successful and well liked by critics and listeners alike.

In the 1960s, music radio’s management were successful in engaging Romanian conductor Sergiu Celibidache, and in 1965, he became the de facto Principal Conductor of the Radio Orchestra, which had now grown to include around 100 musicians, following an amalgamation with the other full-time ensemble, Radiotjänst’s TV Orchestra. In March, 1967, the orchestra was given its current name – the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra – and during Celibidache’s eventful years, the orchestra became an internationally renowned art music ensemble of the highest order. The orchestra has continued to be shaped by its leaders, from Herbert Blomstedt and Esa-Pekka Salonen to current Music Director Daniel Harding.

Since his appointment as Music Director in 2007, Daniel Harding has continued to develop new collaborations and modes of expression for the orchestra. One example is groundbreaking concert series Interplay, through which the audience meets music in new and exciting contexts alongside researchers, writers and professors. Many of the orchestra’s members are also prominent soloists and chamber musicians. In concert series Chamber Unplugged, you’ll get close to the music – and the musicians – as they offer big pieces in small formats. The annual Baltic Sea Festival, on the other hand, offers music on a much bigger scale, and the Radio Symphonists are one of the festival’s key players.

The orchestra is known among music lovers for its award-winning recordings. In 2014, it won the BBC Music Magazine Award for its interpretations of Bartók’s Violin Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 with star soloist Isabelle Faust, and in the same year, the recording of Britta Byström’s viola concerto A Walk after Dark with Ellen Nisbeth was named best record of the year by many Swedish publications. In 2015, the orchestra was awarded a Gramophone Award for its recording of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto Nos. 3 and 4 with Maria João Pires. Other notable recordings include Jörg Widmann’s Violin Concerto with Christian Tetzlaff, and Berlioz’ L’enfance du Christ which was praised in publications such as Gramophone and Daily Telegraph.

The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra’s regular tours have made their top-class, extensive performing known throughout the world, and they are often invited to international festivals and concert halls. In the spring of 2016, they toured Europe with pianist and Mozart specialist Maria João Pires and noted young violinist Veronika Eberle. In August, 2014, they were guests at the Turku Music Festival, as well as the BBC Proms in London, and earlier the same year, they opened the Easter Festival in Aix-en-Provence.

The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra are celebrated as one of the most interesting and multifaceted orchestras in the world. During the season 2016-2017, Daniel Harding celebrated ten years as the orchestra’s Music Director, and is booked for concerts until 2020.