Iceland Symphony Orchestra
About Iceland Symphony Orchestra
The Iceland Symphony Orchestra has more than doubled from an original 40 players at its founding in 1950 to become a world-class ensemble. It has not only toured throughout Scandinavia but also appeared at the BBC Proms, and in Croatia, Austria, and the United States, among other countries. It has also collaborated with pop bands and in 2012, launched Ilan Volkov's first Tectonics Festival of new and experimental music.
The Iceland Symphony began as a joint project of state and municipal governments and the Icelandic broadcasting company. It had only one regular chief conductor, Olav Kielland (1952-1955), between its founding and the 1970s. Vladimir Ashkenazy, a naturalized Icelandic citizen, began guest conducting with the ISO in 1972, and the following year, it chose Karsten Andersen as its first chief conductor since those early years. Conductors since then have included Petri Sakari (1988-1993 and 1996-1998), Osmo Vänskä (1993-1996), Rumon Gamba (2002-2010), and Volkov (2011-2014). Ashkenazy was named conductor laureate in 2002, and Vänskä was named chief guest conductor in 2014 and then honorary conductor in 2017. Yan Pascal Tortelier succeeded Volkov in 2015. In 2019, Eva Ollikainen was named the ISO's first female chief conductor, beginning with the 2020-2021 season. The ISO gives most of its performances -- which are also broadcast -- in Reykjavík's Harpa Concert Hall, opened in 2011, but it also takes its music to schools and to other communities, as well as its international appearances.
The ISO has made three notable recording series: a cycle of Sibelius symphonies with Sakari on Naxos, a cycle of Jón Leifs' works with orchestra on BIS, and a cycle of d'Indy's orchestral music on Chandos with Gamba. It was the first volume of this last series that earned the ISO a Grammy nomination in 2009 and proved its status as a top Nordic orchestra. The ISO released several albums in 2019: Gounod's symphonies, under Tortelier, on Chandos; Leifs' Edda II: The Lives of the Gods on BIS; and Concurrence, under principal guest conductor Daníel Bjarnason, on Sono Luminus. ~ Patsy Morita