Donald Runnicles to become BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra’s Conductor Emeritus

I am honoured and gratified to assume this new role, which enables me to deepen the artistic bond with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.Donald Runnicles, Chief Conductor, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Date: 22.10.2014     Last updated: 22.10.2014 at 13.10
The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra has announced that Donald Runnicles will become its Conductor Emeritus in September 2016, when he will step down from the post of Chief Conductor.

Runnicles has been at the helm of the orchestra for the past five years, but has worked with the BBC SSO since 2001. The Emeritus role means that he will continue to appear annually with the orchestra from the 2016/17 season onwards.

Donald Runnicles commented: “Since the beginning it has been my great privilege to lead and work with this remarkable group of musicians. I’ve always been struck by their extraordinary passion for and commitment to a phenomenal range of repertoire – and the relationship continues to blossom. I am honoured and gratified to assume this new role, which enables me to deepen the artistic bond with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.”

Ken MacQuarrie, Director of BBC Scotland, said: “Any of the countless number of people who have seen or heard the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra perform under Donald Runnicles over the past years can be in no doubt about the special connection between them. It’s one of the great success stories in classical music, and I’m thrilled it’s happened here in Scotland. This new appointment will continue that very special relationship, and means that Donald will stay at the heart of the BBC and of Scotland’s cultural life for many years to come.”

Laura Samuel, Leader of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, said: “Donald is an incredibly generous musician and I am so pleased that we will continue to build upon the relationship with the orchestra that has formed during his years as Chief Conductor. He always brings fascinating works to challenge and inspire us - individually and as an ensemble - and we look forward to many more years of thrilling concerts together.”

Since assuming the role of Chief Conductor, Donald Runnicles has regularly toured with the BBC SSO across Scotland and the UK, as well as in Europe, including a successful tour of Austria and Germany in 2010. Highlights of his tenure include acclaimed performances of Mahler’s symphonies at the BBC Proms and Edinburgh International Festival, Brahms’s A German Requiem, James MacMillan’s St John Passion, concert performances of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde and Tannhäuser, a commercial recording of Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony, and a number of world premieres.

This week he conducts a concert staging of Berg’s Wozzeck at Glasgow’s City Halls, featuring an international cast, and which will be recorded for future broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

Notes to Editors 


Edinburgh-born Donald Runnicles has been Chief Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra since September 2009. He is also General Music Director of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Music Director of the Grand Teton Music Festival in Jackson, Wyoming, and Principal Guest Conductor of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

His work with the BBC SSO includes performances throughout Scotland as well as regular appearances at the BBC Proms and Edinburgh International Festival. He maintains guest relationships with the Berlin Philharmonic and London Symphony orchestras, and works closely with the Philadelphia Orchestra, which he took on a tour of China in the summer of 2013.

As one of today’s leading Wagner conductors, current and recent projects for the Deutsche Oper Berlin include Tristan und Isolde, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and a Ring cycle. Other work there includes Falstaff, Don Carlo, Otello, Peter Grimes, Jenůfa and Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust. From 1992 to 2008 he was Music Director of the San Francisco Opera, where highlights included the world premiere of John Adams’s Doctor Atomic, and the US premiere of Messiaen’s Saint François d’Assise. At the close of his tenure he was awarded the San Francisco Opera Medal, the company’s highest honour.

His recent disc of Wagner arias with Jonas Kaufmann and the Deutsche Oper orchestra won a 2013 Gramophone Award. Other CDs include Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, Bruckner’s Symphony No.7 (with the BBC SSO), Mozart’s Requiem, Orff’s Carmina Burana, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Britten’s Billy Budd, Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel and Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi.

Donald Runnicles is a recipient of the OBE and holds honorary degrees from the University of Edinburgh, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

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Chief Conductor: Donald Runnicles

Principal Guest Conductor: Ilan Volkov

Artist-in-Association: Matthias Pintscher

Conductor Laureate: Jerzy Maksymiuk

The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra’s position as one of the pillars of Scotland’s musical life has been established steadily since it was founded in December 1935. Based at City Halls in Glasgow (since 2006), it is a key contributor to the BBC’s broadcasting and cultural role and performs to large and enthusiastic audiences in venues throughout Scotland, as well as carrying out a busy schedule of recordings, concerts and broadcasts for BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio Scotland, BBC television, and online. A past recipient of the Royal Philharmonic Society Award for best orchestra, the BBC SSO has made over 120 commercial recordings, many of which have received prizes, including four Gramophone Awards.

Few orchestras can rival the BBC SSO for its wide range of repertoire and activity and few orchestras play contemporary music with such commitment and energy. Running parallel to its main concert seasons in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow the orchestra has established strong links with local communities through its thriving learning and outreach programme. It is also a major partner in Big Noise, Scotland’s innovative project for social change through music, and it maintains a close association with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, working over a variety of disciplines with conductors, composers, soloists and orchestral players.

The BBC SSO appears annually at the BBC Proms and the Edinburgh International Festival, as well as at other major festivals throughout the world. Earlier this year it toured India (Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai) with violinist Nicola Benedetti, conductor James MacMillan and members of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Other recent highlights include a complete cycle of the nine Symphonies of Vaughan Williams which reached its triumphant conclusion in May, and a performance at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival of Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, conducted by Ilan Volkov.

The 2014/2015 season includes special concerts in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow celebrating the 60th birthday of Chief Conductor Donald Runnicles, all three of James MacMillan’s Piano Concertos played by Peter Donohoe and, as part of an exploration of Shakespeare in music, a performance of the incidental music Mendelssohn composed for A Midsummer Night’s Dream as well as Walton’s score for the 1944 film Henry V.

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