The Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra is one of the most adventurous orchestras in Europe and one of the best orchestras in a country that has more symphonies per capita than any other. Based in Helsinki, it is the primary radio orchestra of the Finnish Broadcasting Company (Yle).
The FRSO was founded in 1927 as a small studio ensemble at Finnish Radio, the state-owned broadcasting organization led by Erkki Linko. The orchestra grew over the next several decades, reaching symphony orchestra size in 1947, and now comprises about 90 members. Its repertory is made up primarily of Classical and Romantic works, but also includes those of the Post-Romantic, Modern, and contemporary eras. In its performances and recordings, the orchestra has become a significant advocate for contemporary Finnish composers. It premieres new works commissioned by the broadcasting company each year; during the 2018-2019 season, the FRSO premiered four such works.
Its first chief conductor was Toivo Haapanen, who held the post from 1929 until 1950. Other conductors for the FRSO include Paavo Berglund, Leif Segerstam, Okku Kamu, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, and Sakari Oramo. Hannu Lintu was named chief conductor in 2013, holding this post until 2021. Nicholas Collon was selected to become the chief conductor beginning in 2021. Under Saraste, tours became a regular practice for the orchestra and have taken it through Europe, Asia, the U.S., and the Canary Islands.
In addition to all of the FRSO's concerts being broadcast, the orchestra has made dozens of recordings. In 1939, the FRSO made its first recording, which is the only surviving recording of Jean Sibelius conducting. Other Finnish composers featured on FRSO releases include Leif Segerstam, Leevi Madetoja, Paavo Heininen, Joonas Kokkonen, Magnus Lindberg, Kaija Saariaho, Aarre Merikanto, Aulis Sallinen, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Väinö Raitio, Jouni Kaipainen, Uuno Klami, and Eero Hämeenniemi. The orchestra has won several kudos, including two Grammophone awards: one in 2006 for Lindberg: Clarinet Concerto and the other in 2018 for Bartók: Violin Concertos. In 2019, the orchestra was heard on the Ondine album Kaija Saariaho: True Fire; Trans; Ciel d'hiver, which earned a Grammy award nomination. The FRSO has recorded mainly for the BIS and Ondine labels. ~ Joseph Stevenson & Keith Finke