The ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra is a top orchestra of world renown; the orchestra defines itself in the Vienna orchestral tradition. Cornelius Meister took over as Principal Conductor and Artistic Director in September 2010. Marin Alsop has been appointed as new Chief Conductor from the 1st of September 2019. The Vienna RSO is known for its exceptional, bold programming. By combining nineteenth-century repertoire with contemporary pieces and rarely performed works of other time periods, our programming often places Romantic era classics in unexpected contexts.
All of its performances are broadcast over radio, particularly on Österreich 1, but also internationally. For the past several years, one has been able to hear each and every RSO concert across the globe on the internet for one week after the initial broadcast. Through the growing presence on European television, as well as the collaboration with the FM4 young people's station, the Vienna RSO is constantly reaching out to new music lovers. Numerous enthusiastic supporters have become members of the "Friends of the RSO" association.
The Vienna RSO regularly performs on two subscription series in the Vienna Musikverein and Konzerthaus. In addition, the orchestra appears annually at major Austrian and international festivals. The Vienna RSO has close ties to the Salzburg Festival, the Wiener Festwochen, Wien Modern, and musikprotokoll im steierischen herbst, which provides a platform for the performance of new and experimental music. Tours to Japan and China are a regular part of the Vienna RSO schedule as well. The orchestra has also concertised in the USA and South America, Thailand and Taiwan. Most recent tours have taken the Vienna RSO to the Berlin, Cologne and Essen Philharmonic Halls, the Alte Opera in Frankfurt, and the Tonhalle in Düsseldorf. Since 2007, the Vienna RSO has successfully collaborated with the Theater an der Wien, thereby gaining an excellent reputation as an opera orchestra. Yet the Vienna RSO is also entirely at home in the film music genre. Every year, the Vienna RSO is conducted by composers who have won an Oscar for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures. In 2012, the Vienna RSO recorded the soundtrack to the film, "Die Vermessung der Welt" (Measuring the World).
Alain Altinoglu, Leonard Bernstein, Ernest Bour, Christoph von Dohnányi, Christoph Eschenbach, Michael Gielen, Jakub Hrůša, Ingo Metzmacher, Andris Nelsons, Kirill Petrenko, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Guiseppe Sinopoli, Hans Swarowsky, Jeffrey Tate, and Simone Young are among the guests who have stood on the podium of the Vienna RSO. Composers Luciano Berio, Friedrich Cerha, Peter Eötvös, Hans Werner Henze, Ernst Krenek, Bruno Madera, Krzysztof Penderecki and Matthias Pintscher have all conducted the orchestra. Internationally renowned soloists who make regular appearances with the Vienna RSO include Renaud and Gautier Capuçon, Martin Grubinger, Hilary Hahn, Patricia Kopachinskaya, Gidon Kremer, Lang Lang, Sabine Meyer, Gabriela Montero, Anna Netrebko, Heinrich Schiff and Christian Tetzlaff.
The broad scope of its recording activities includes works in every genre, among them many first recordings that represent modern Austrian classicists and contemporary Austrian composers. This is how the "Neue Musik aus Österreich" series of CD recordings came about. Orchestral works by Friedrich Cerha, the recording of all nine symphonies by Egon Wellesz, orchestra music by Josef Matthias Hauer, and first recordings of music by Erich Zeisl are all part of this series. Among the last released recordings were the twenty-four CD set "my RSO" as well as high praised recordings with pieces from Anton Bruckner, Richard Strauss, Béla Bartók, Antonín Dvořák ("The Spectre’s Bride") or Gustav Mahler ("Das Klagende Lied"). In 2018 the Vienna RSO won the renowned ICMA in the category "Symphonic Music" for its 3-CD-Box "Martinů: The Symphonies".
The Vienna RSO has initiated a broad-based educational programme. It is comprised of workshops for children and young people, as well as the "Mitten in my RSO", "my RSO Musiklabor", and "Klassische Verführung" concert series. Highly talented musicians have been admitted to the very own RSO orchestra academy since 1997. The Vienna RSO plays regularly for the final concerts of the conducting classes at the Vienna University of Music. In 2013 the educational project "My RSO – Greatest Hits for Contemporary Orchestra" was awarded the Bank Austria Kunstpreis.
In 1969, the Vienna RSO grew out of the main orchestra of the Austrian Radio. Under the leadership of its chief conductors, Milan Horvat, Leif Segerstam, Lothar Zagrosek, Pinchas Steinberg, Dennis Russell Davies, Bertrand de Billy and Cornelius Meister, the orchestra has continuously expanded its repertoire amid growing international renown.