The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra is Scotland's national broadcasting orchestra and considered one of the leading orchestras in Europe. It is one of the five full-time BBC orchestras, and the oldest full-time radio orchestra in Scotland. While most of its performances are in studio for the BBC, it has enjoyed success performing throughout the U.K. and internationally.
The BBC SSO was founded as the BBC Scottish Orchestra in 1935 by conductor and composer Ian Whyte while he served as the first head of music in Scotland for the BBC. Originally located in Edinburgh, the orchestra moved in 1938 to its newly built home in Glasgow. Throughout World War II, the orchestra continued broadcasting its live studio performances for the BBC Home and World Services. Following the war, Whyte expanded the size of the orchestra and in 1948 began the orchestra's annual trip to perform in the Edinburgh Festival. However, the majority of its performances remained in studio.
In 1960, Norman Del Mar was named principal conductor. In 1961, Del Mar lead the BBC Scottish Orchestra, along with the Scottish National Orchestra, in the U.K. premiere of Stockhausen's Gruppen für drei orchester. The following year he would lead the orchestra in its first performance at the BBC Proms. The orchestra expanded further under Del Mar, and in 1963 was renamed the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Following Del Mar's departure in 1965, the BBC SSO had a number of principal conductors, including James Loughran (1965-1971), Christopher Seaman (1971-1977), and Jerzy Maksymiuk (1983-1993). In 2003, Ilan Volkov became the youngest chief conductor of a BBC orchestra; during Volkov's tenure, the orchestra moved to its new home at City Halls in Glasgow. He served as chief conductor until 2009. In 2016, Thomas Dausgaard was named chief conductor with a contract running through 2022.
In the 1990s, while continuing to perform for BBC programming, the BBC SSO began performing more often in public. It went on international tours across Europe, the Americas, India, and China. The orchestra also attended more festivals, including the Cheltenham Festival and the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival.
Alongside its live broadcast performances, the BBC SSO has released a multitude of commercial recordings, with a majority on the Hyperion label. The BBC SSO under Dausgaard released a recording of Sibelius' Kullervo in 2019 on Hyperion. ~ Keith Finke