Announced today – the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) has appointed Thomas Søndergård as its next Music Director, succeeding current Music Director Peter Oundjian from September 2018, with an initial contract running until 2021.
Thomas first appeared with the RSNO in November 2009 as a last-minute replacement for an indisposed Yakov Kreizberg and went on to deliver critically-acclaimed performances of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11 in Edinburgh and Glasgow. One music critic remarked of his first performance at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh: “The physical energy that the Danish conductor, Thomas Søndergård, put into the performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11 was staggering.” More recently The Scotsman commented that, “Thomas Søndergård exercises a magic touch with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.”
Thomas was appointed to the position of Principal Guest Conductor of the orchestra in 2011 and has since appeared with the RSNO up to four times each season. The repertoire he has brought to Scotland has been broad and varied, presenting works including those by Ravel, Haydn, Prokofiev, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Messiaen, Britten, Dvořák, Beethoven, Bartók, Sibelius, Tchaikovsky, Nielsen, Chopin, Mussorgsky, Szymanowski, Schubert, Stravinsky and Shostakovich.
Thomas will remain as Principal Conductor of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales – with whom he has recently performed at Paris’ new performance venue, La Seine Musicale – until the end of its 2017/18 Season and plans to continue his relationship with the orchestra thereafter.
Thomas said of his appointment:
“From the moment I was invited to stand in at the last moment to conduct Shostakovich’s Symphony No 11 nearly seven years ago I felt something important was going to happen. With so little time to prepare I felt we would have a lot of work to do, and yet once we began rehearsing our working relationship clicked in such a way that by the time of the performances, my first in Scotland, I think that together we were able to come close to the heart of this great music.
Since then we have grown together, explored a broad range of repertoire, gradually pushing the boundaries of what is possible, and our connection is as strong as ever. It’s wonderful to have reached this point and I look forward to the future musical journeys to come in my tenure as Music Director.
I must thank Peter Oundjian for his tireless support and his invaluable contribution. This is an ensemble in great shape with an insatiable appetite for music-making. I’m delighted that Peter has agreed to continue his work with the RSNO after 2017/18.
Scotland has a strong musical heritage and I feel privileged to play an increasingly involved role in the future of its national orchestra.”
RSNO Music Director Peter Oundjian: “I’ve enjoyed a tremendously fruitful time with the RSNO. The Orchestra’s passion for music-making is a thrill to be a part of. To welcome Thomas as my successor is both heart-warming and comforting, knowing that the musicians I’ve known for the past fifteen years will be in the most capable of hands. It promises to be a tremendously exciting future for Thomas and the RSNO and I wish them every success.”
RSNO Chief Executive Dr Krishna Thiagarajan: “In this business it is reasonably normal for the courtship of potential Music Directors to be relatively brief, a handful of dates before the decision is made. In this instance the musicians have had eight years’ experience of working with Thomas Søndergård, five of which as Principal Guest Conductor. That the Orchestra was virtually unanimous in its decision to appoint Thomas to succeed Peter speaks volumes about the strength of the relationship and the mutual respect they share. We hit the ground running with this appointment and over the next few years our supporters will witness their orchestra striving for new heights in performance and recording excellence.”
Thomas’ first RSNO programme as Music Director Designate features Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder with soloist Jennifer Johnston, Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3 and Sibelius’ Canzonetta, Kuolema: Kurkikohtaus (Scene with Cranes) and Symphony No. 5, at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh on Friday 26 May and at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Saturday 27 May.
Read the full release on the RSNO website.