National Symphony Orchestra


Patron: Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland
Chief Conductor: Jaime Martín

The National Symphony Orchestra, formerly the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, has been at the centre of Ireland’s cultural life since 1948 when the Raidió Éireann Symphony Orchestra, as it was originally called, was founded. On 24 January 2022, the orchestra transferred from RTÉ to the remit of the National Concert Hall. 

Resident orchestra at the National Concert Hall since its opening in 1981, today it is a primary force in Irish musical life through year-long programmes of live performances of music ranging from symphonic, choral and operatic to music of the stage and screen, popular and traditional music, new commissions, recordings, broadcasts on RTÉ and internationally through the European Broadcasting Union as well as educational projects and a mentoring scheme for young musicians. In October 2019 it entered an exciting new era when Jaime Martín made his debut in concert as the orchestra’s new Chief Conductor.

World-class conductors associated with the orchestra’s early days include Jean Martinon, Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, Edmond Appia, Milan Horvat and Sir John Barbirolli. The first half of the 1960s saw Tibor Paul as Principal Conductor, a tenure memorable for the visit of Igor Stravinsky. Principal Conductors thereafter were Albert Rosen, Colman Pearce, Bryden Thomson, János Fürst, George Hurst, Kasper de Roo, Alexander Anissimov, Gerhard Markson and Alan Buribayev. 

With a long-established international reputation, the NSO has worked with successive generations of world-famous composers from the aforementioned Igor Stravinsky, Witold Lutosławski, Olivier Messiaen and Karlheinz Stockhausen to Michael Tippett, Steve Reich and Arvo Pärt.

Among the legendary conductors, soloists and singers with whom it has performed are Wilhelm Kempff, Julius Katchen, Van Cliburn, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Josef Szigeti, Isaac Stern, Henryk Szeryng, Ruggiero Ricci, Martha Argerich, Radu Lupu, Mstislav Rostropovich, Joan Sutherland, Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo, José Carreras and our own Bernadette Greevy. More recent luminaries include Galina Gorchakova, Kiri Te Kanawa, Bryn Terfel, Angela Gheorghiu, Angela Hewitt, Nikolai Demidenko, Maxim Vengerov, Daniel Hope, Tasmin Little, Evelyn Glennie and Leonard Slatkin.

Collaborations with Irish artists include, among so many others, Sir James Galway, Mary Black, Lisa Hannigan, Liam O’Flynn, Brian Byrne, David Brophy, Eímear Noone, The Riptide Movement, Barry Douglas, John O’Conor, Patricia Bardon, Tara Erraught, Celine Byrne and Ailish Tynan.

Countless world premieres by Irish composers have included Sebastian Adams, Elaine Agnew, Gerald Barry, Ed Bennett, John Buckley, Irene Buckley, Linda Buckley, Ann Cleare, Rhona Clarke, Benjamin Dwyer, Siobhán Cleary, Frank Corcoran, Jerome de Bromhead, Raymond Deane, Donnacha Dennehy, Shaun Davey, David Fennessy, Stephen Gardner, Deirdre Gribbin, Ronan Guilfoyle, Andrew Hamilton, Marian Ingoldsby, Brian Irvine, Fergus Johnston, Gráinne Mulvey, Kevin O’Connell, Jane O’Leary, Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, Philip Martin, Karen Power, Eric Sweeney, Jennifer Walshe, Bill Whelan and James Wilson. As part of RTÉ 1916, the orchestra premiered One Hundred Years a Nation by Shaun Davey with text by Paul Muldoon, in concert with a choir of 1000 voices at Collins Barracks, Dublin on Easter Sunday 2016. In addition, the orchestra featured in four concerts as part of Composing the Island: A century of music in Ireland 1916–2016. The orchestra performed repertoire by 16 Irish composers covering years from the 1920s through to composers of 2016.

In recent years, the NSO has reached new audiences through its live screenings in concert of cinema blockbusters such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Jurassic Park, Ghostbusters and Casino Royale and with its lavish concert tributes to Hollywood icons Gene Kelly, John Williams and Elliot Goldenthal and songwriter extraordinaire Cole Porter.  Educational work includes its Music in the Classroom programme for primary and second level students, and a young musicians’ mentoring scheme. 

Work in the world of opera includes the world premiere of Gerald Barry’s The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (co-commissioned by RTÉ and English National Opera) and collaborations with Wide Open Opera: the Irish premieres of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde and John Adams’ Nixon in China, and a concert presentation of Raymond Deane’s The Alma Fetish in association with the National Concert Hall.
An acclaimed catalogue of recordings – on the RTÉ lyric fm, Naxos, BIS, Toccata Classics labels and others – includes the complete symphonies of Malcolm Arnold, Rachmaninov, Mendelssohn and Nielsen, critically acclaimed recordings of works by Bizet and Dukas with conductor Jean-Luc Tingaud, a series of recordings as part of the Composers of Ireland series, a landmark recording project funded by RTÉ and The Arts Council which to date has recorded works by composers including Gerald Barry, Raymond Deane, Seóirse Bodley, Deirdre Gribbin, Ian Wilson, John Kinsella, Stephen Gardiner, Kevin O’Connell, Donnacha Dennehy and Kevin Volans as well as recordings of selected orchestral works by Aloys Fleischmann, Frederick May and Seán Ó Riada, Finghin Collins: Mozart Piano Concertos and Celine Byrne: For Eternity

Other major recordings include Robert O’Dwyer’s Irish language opera Eithne (in partnership with Irish National Opera), José Serebrier’s Symphonic BACH Variations and Mary Black Orchestrated. Film and television scores include composer-conductor Michael Giacchino’s Lost in Concert and directors John Boorman’s Queen and Country and Lenny Abrahamson’s The Little Stranger