Saturday 08 Mar 2014
The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra celebrates its 75th anniversary on 3 December 2010, marking three-quarters of a century as a cornerstone of Scottish cultural life.
Celebrations include a special concert from the orchestra's home at Glasgow City Halls on Thursday 2 December featuring violinist Nicola Benedetti, broadcast live on BBC Two Scotland and BBC Radio 3, and a BBC Two documentary on Sunday 28 November charting the orchestra's history.
It was a simple Radio Times listing for 3 December 1935 that announced the first broadcast by the new BBC Scottish Orchestra – a modest studio ensemble of only 35 players and Scotland's first full-time professional orchestra.
Seventy-five years on, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra has evolved into an award-winning and internationally regarded model of what a modern orchestra should be. Some of the biggest names in classical music have passed through the BBC SSO in the past 75 years, including conductors Sir Alexander Gibson, Sir Simon Rattle, Sir Andrew Davies, Sir Charles Groves, Norman Del Mar and its current Chief Conductor, Donald Runnicles.
The BBC SSO's transformation from humble studio-ensemble to one of the leading symphony orchestras in the UK has been a colourful one and a special 30-minute documentary for BBC Two on Sunday 28 November, The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra At 75, revisits some of the many musicians and conductors who have featured in the orchestra's fascinating journey.
This documentary looks back at how the orchestra survived the threat of the axe on more than one occasion and how each attempt made it more relevant to the ever-changing world of music broadcasting. The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra At 75 shows how the last 25 years have seen the orchestra gradually emerge from the studio to become a fully fledged "public" orchestra Scotland could identify with, but also one whose reach by virtue of the airwaves, stretches far beyond the concert platform to audiences worldwide.
The programme features contributions from many of the musicians and key figures in the orchestra's life, past and present, who have witnessed its transformation, including conductors Donald Runnicles, Osmo Vänskä and composer James MacMillan.
Pioneering new music has been central to the BBC SSO's success and the birthday concert on Thursday 2 December will feature the world premiere of Everyone Sang, written especially for the orchestra's birthday by young Scottish composer Helen Grime.
Violinist Nicola Benedetti's association with the orchestra goes back to her 2004 triumph in the BBC Young Musician of the Year contest and she will perform Beethoven's Violin Concerto for the first time in Scotland.
At the core of the concert is the orchestra itself, showcased in Walton's Symphony No. 1, one of the most admired of all British symphonic works. For this special occasion, the orchestra will be conducted by Martyn Brabbins, who has been closely allied to the BBC SSO for 20 years. This concert also forms part of the BBC SSO's season of British music, This Sceptred Isle.
Seventy-five years on, broadcasting is still the BBC SSO's primary duty and the birthday concert will be broadcast live on Radio 3 and BBC Two Scotland and will be presented by James Naughtie and Mary Ann Kennedy.
Sunday 28 November
Happy Birthday BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
BBC Two Scotland
Viewers outside Scotland can access this programme on Sky Channel 971, Freesat Channel 960 or the BBC's iPlayer service – bbc.co.uk/iplayer
Thursday 2 December
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra 75th Birthday Concert
City Halls, Glasgow
Live broadcast on Radio 3 and BBC Two Scotland
Helen Grime, Everyone Sang (World Premiere/BBC Commission)
Beethoven Violin Concerto
Walton Symphony No. 1
Nicola Benedetti, violin
Martyn Brabbins, conductor
Pre-Concert Prelude (6.15pm in the Recital Room)
Cellist Anthony Sayer reflects on over 40 years as a member of the BBC SSO
Post-Concert Coda (approximately 10 minutes after the main concert)
The BBC SSO play several short works by Ian Whyte, founder-conductor of the BBC Scottish Orchestra in 1935).