IS

The Orchestra

Iceland Symphony Orchestra

The Iceland Symphony Orchestra gave its first concert in 1950 and has since expanded from a part-time ensemble of forty players to an internationally renowned orchestra of eighty-five full-time musicians. As Iceland’s national orchestra, resident at Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavík and funded in large part by the Icelandic state and the city of Reykjavík, it gives around a hundred concerts each season, its repertoire ranging from traditional classical works to contemporary and film music. It has worked with such renowned musicians as Daniel Barenboim, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Joshua Bell, Hilary Hahn, Jonas Kaufmann, Isabelle Faust, and Evelyn Glennie. Currently Conductor Laureate, Vladimir Ashkenazy has conducted the Orchestra regularly since the early 1970s. Among the orchestra’s former Chief Conductors are Petri Sakari, Rumon Gamba, Ilan Volkov, and Yan Pascal Tortelier. Osmo Vänska is Honorary Conductor, having worked closely with the orchestra since his tenure as Chief Conductor in the 1990s, and the highly acclaimed Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir is Composer-in-Residence. In September 2020, the Finnish conductor Eva Ollikainen will assume the post of Chief Conductor and Artistic Director.

The Iceland Symphony Orchestra’s wide-ranging international discography includes highly praised cycles of the symphonies of Sibelius and orchestral works by Jón Leifs. The first volume in the series devoted to orchestral works by Vincent d’Indy with Rumon Gamba was nominated for a Grammy award in 2008. Its most recent release, of symphonies by Charles Gounod, was an Editor’s Choice in Gramophone and CD of the week in The Sunday Times. The Iceland Symphony Orchestra has appeared widely throughout Europe, including performances at the BBC Proms and Wiener Musikverein, and in 2018 embarked on a highly successful three-week tour of Japan with Ashkenazy. It has also appeared twice in Carnegie Hall, New York. Writing in The New York Times, the critic Alex Ross described its performance under Osmo Vänskä as “sensational… one of the finest Sibelius performances I have encountered.”