BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra appoints Donald Runnicles as new Chief Conductor

Donald Runnicles

"This has to go down as one of the most terrifying, thrilling evenings at the Proms this century ... Donald Runnicles lifted the BBC Scottish Symphony [Orchestra] to a new pinnacle." - The Independent, 31 July 2003

The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra today announced that the pre-eminent Scottish conductor, Donald Runnicles, will be its new Chief Conductor with effect from September 2009.

Runnicles, whose initial three-year contract includes a minimum of eight weeks with the orchestra, as well as recording and touring, replaces Ilan Volkov who steps down at the end of the 2008/2009 season. The appointment of Runnicles - who has not conducted regularly in the UK for more than 18 years - is a major coup for the BBC SSO.

Donald Runnicles first appeared with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra at the 2001 Edinburgh International Festival when he conducted Berlioz's Les Troyens; a critical success, the concert was described by The Times as "one of those evenings when lightning struck ... there was throughout a truly epic breadth to his reading."

He returned to Edinburgh in 2003 to conduct the orchestra in Wagner's Lohengrin, following it up with a concert staging of Strauss's Elektra at the BBC Proms, the latter being described as "gloriously conducted and wondrously played" by the Guardian.

Orchestra and conductor were again reunited at the opening concert of the 2005 Edinburgh International Festival, this time offering Verdi's Requiem and, a few days later, Mahler's Symphony No. 3. He last appeared in Edinburgh in 2006 where he conducted the orchestra in Bruckner's Symphony No. 6.

Runnicles' next concert with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra is in April 2008, when he comes to Glasgow to conduct Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde, and the Scottish première of James MacMillan's Symphony No. 3 Silence. He will continue to appear with the orchestra at the BBC Proms and in performances throughout Scotland.

Runnicles' appointment as Chief Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra reaffirms his commitment to symphonic music, both core and contemporary. His versatility across all genres will be particularly valuable to the BBC and its commitment to providing audiences throughout Scotland and beyond with core repertoire, whilst also championing the works of new composers.

Born in Edinburgh, Runnicles has held the posts of Music Director and Principal Conductor of the San Francisco Opera since 1992. He is also Music Director of the Grand Teton Music Festival, and Principal Guest Conductor of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

As well as appearing with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, this season he will conduct at the Metropolitan Opera, Vienna State Opera and the Berlin Philharmonic. He was awarded the OBE in 2004.

Speaking of the new appointment Donald Runnicles said: "The energy, enthusiasm and supreme musicianship of these terrific musicians is unrivalled. I am privileged to have made music with them over the past five years, and I am deeply privileged to embrace the future at the helm of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra."

Gavin Reid, Director of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, said: "We are absolutely thrilled that Donald Runnicles is to become the orchestra's new Chief Conductor. Donald and the orchestra have created breathtaking concerts at both the BBC Proms and Edinburgh International Festival in recent years and have a wonderful relationship. We are set for a truly exciting future."