New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

NZSO playing at Te Papa in 2009
Founded 1946
Concert hall Michael Fowler Centre
Music director Edo de Waart

The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO) is a symphony orchestra based in Wellington, New Zealand. The national orchestra of New Zealand, the NZSO is an autonomous crown entity owned by the Government of New Zealand, per the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra Act 2004. It is currently based in the Michael Fowler Centre and frequently performs also in the adjacent Wellington Town Hall. It also performs in Auckland.


A national orchestra for New Zealand was first proposed with the founding of the Radio Broadcasting Company in 1925, and broadcasting studio orchestras operated in major cities from the late 1920s. A national orchestra was formed in 1939 for New Zealand's Centennial Exhibition in 1940.

The orchestra became permanent in 1946 in the aftermath of World War II as the "National Orchestra of the New Zealand Broadcasting Service" (by Oswald Cheesman and others); the inaugural concert took place on 6 March 1947. It was managed as a department of the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation, which later became Radio New Zealand, as the NZBC National Orchestra and later the NZBC Symphony Orchestra.[1][2][3]

The orchestra was renamed the NZBC Symphony Orchestra in 1963, still being administered by Radio New Zealand. In 1975, it became the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. In 1988, the orchestra became fully independent of Radio New Zealand, and began operating as an independent Crown-owned company under its current name, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.[3][1][2] Even after the formal separation of the orchestra from Radio New Zealand, NZSO performances continue to be recorded, broadcast and archived by Radio New Zealand Concert. Auckland Town Hall, Wellington Town Hall and Michael Fowler Centre performances are broadcast live-to-air and streamed online, and performances in other centres or overseas cities are usually recorded and broadcast at later dates.



The NZSO has always had a heavy touring schedule within New Zealand. It performed in Christchurch as early as 1947. It performs its core series of 12 programmes in Wellington and Auckland, about half of those in Hamilton, Christchurch and Dunedin, and visits several provincial cities each year. It has several times toured overseas, notably in 2005 to the BBC Proms, the Snape Maltings, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and the World Expo at Aichi in Japan.[4]


Franz-Paul Decker was the last NZSO conductor to have the title of chief conductor, and had the title of Conductor Laureate until his death in May 2014. The first conductor to have the title of Music Director of the NZSO was James Judd, from 1999 to 2007. Judd is now the orchestra's Music Director Emeritus.

In May 2007, Pietari Inkinen was named the NZSO's second Music Director,[5] and he formally took up the post in January 2008. Inkinen concluded his NZSO tenure in 2015 and subsequently took the title of honorary conductor.[6] In June 2015, the NZSO announced the appointment of Edo de Waart as its next music director, with his first concerts in March 2016.[7]

The orchestra's affiliated conductors to date include:


The NZSO has recorded several LPs and many CDs, several with internationally known soloists such as Alessandra Marc and Donald McIntyre. In the last decade it has sold 500,000 CDs. It records at least one CD of New Zealand music each year. It has made a number of recordings on the American Koch label and now (2007) records regularly with Naxos.[8] The latest recordings are two CDs of music by Jean Sibelius[9] and one CD of music by Einojuhani Rautavaara.

In 2012, the NZSO collaborated with Booktrack and Salman Rushdie to create music for an enhanced edition of Rusdhie's short story In the South .[10] The NZSO recorded part of Howard Shore's score for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, notably the "Mines of Moria" sequence, as well as an alternate version of the cue "The Breaking of the Fellowship". The NZSO also performed and recorded Howard Shore's score for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

In April 2016 the orchestra recorded the 207 national anthems to be used at medal ceremonies at the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro the following year.

The NZSO was nominated for Best Orchestral Performance at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards which took place in Los Angeles in February 2016.

A recording of works by Pulitzer Prize-winning Chinese composer Zhou Long and the Symphony ‘Humen 1839’, written in collaboration with compatriot Chen Yi, was in the running for the Award. Singaporean Darrell Ang conducted the recording, which was recorded in Wellington’s Michael Fowler Centre in June 2013 and released on the Naxos label in May 2015. The Grammy Award went to the Boston Symphony Orchestra for its recording Shostakovich: Under Stalin’s Shadow – Symphony No. 10. The other nominees included the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Symphony and The Oregon Symphony. It was the first Grammy nomination for the NZSO.

Subsidiary orchestras

National Youth Orchestra

The NZSO National Youth Orchestra was founded by John Hopkins in 1959.[11] It auditions afresh each year and, after an intensive rehearsal schedule, performs one programme, in 2007 to be repeated in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. In 2005 the orchestra inaugurated its Composer-in-Residence scheme appointing Robin Toan as first recipient of the award.[12] In 2006, Claire Cowan was Composer-in-Residence.[13]

The NYO celebrated its 50th Anniversary Celebratory Season in 2009, under the baton of Paul Daniel, with John Chen as soloist and Ben Morrison as Concertmaster. Their programme was Mahler's 7th Symphony, Ravel's Left-Hand piano concerto and an original composition by Natalie Hunt, Composer-in-Residence: Only to the Highest Mountain. The 2009 season also saw the return of John Hopkins to join in the celebrations.

New Zealand Chamber Orchestra

The New Zealand Chamber Orchestra was founded in 1987 by NZSO violinist Stephen Managh, its first leader, and comprises members of the NZSO. Later renamed the NZSO Chamber Orchestra, they toured and recorded extensively for 13 years. They generally performed without a conductor under the direction of their first violinist and Musical Director Donald Armstrong. They are not currently performing.[14]


  1. 1 2 "NZBC Symphony Orchestra". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. 1966. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
  2. 1 2 "A history of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra". Ministry for Culture and Heritage. 20 June 2013. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
  3. 1 2 Walls, Peter (22 October 2014). "Orchestras - The National Orchestra". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  4. George Hall (2005-08-20). "Prom 46: New Zealand Symphony/ Judd (Royal Albert Hall, London)". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-03-06.
  5. William Dart (21 May 2007). "New Zealand Symphony Orchestra at Auckland Town Hall". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 6 March 2009.
  6. "NZSO announces new role for music director" (Press release). New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. 13 April 2015. Retrieved 29 June 2015.
  7. "NZSO announces new Music Director Edo de Waart" (Press release). New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. 29 June 2015. Retrieved 29 June 2015.
  8. William Dart (2007-08-30). "Happy birthday to a classical act". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2009-03-06.
  9. William Dart (2008-03-13). "Finnish flourish in prophetic recording". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2009-03-06.
  10. "Salman Rushdie Collaborates With Booktrack And The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Booktrack Launches A New E-reader Platform". Booktrack. Retrieved 2015-06-06.
  11. New Zealand Symphony Orchestra National Youth Orchestra official Homepage
  12. "National Youth Orchestra 2005". Scoop. 10 August 2005.
  13. "National Youth Orchestra 2006". Scoop. 23 August 2006.
  14. "NZSO Chamber Orchestra". Retrieved 2015-06-06.

External links

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