BBC baton steps aside as new regime arrives

BBC baton steps aside as new regime arrives


norman lebrecht

October 22, 2014

Donald Runnicles will step down as chief conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in 2016. He will have held the reins for seven years.

Like all good conductors, he shows perfect timing. BBC Radio 3, which operates the orchestras, is getting a new bureaucrat in January and he has been charged with making cuts across the classical board. No orchestras can consider its position secure, although the trims are likelier to be attritional than abolitionist. Either way, Runnicles has picked a good moment.

Press release follows.




The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra has announced that Donald Runnicles will become its Conductor Emeritus in September 2016, when he will step down from the post of Chief Conductor.


Runnicles has been at the helm of the orchestra for the past five years, but has worked with the BBC SSO since 2001.  The Emeritus role means that he will continue to appear annually with the orchestra from the 2016/17 season onwards.


Donald Runnicles commented:

“Since the beginning it has been my great privilege to lead and work with this remarkable group of musicians. I’ve always been struck by their extraordinary passion for and commitment to a phenomenal range of repertoire – and the relationship continues to blossom.  I am honoured and gratified to assume this new role, which enables me to deepen the artistic bond with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.”


Ken MacQuarrie, Director of BBC Scotland, said:

“Any of the countless number of people who have seen or heard the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra perform under Donald Runnicles over the past years can be in no doubt about the special connection between them. It’s one of the great success stories in classical music, and I’m thrilled it’s happened here in Scotland. This new appointment will continue that very special relationship, and means that Donald will stay at the heart of the BBC and of Scotland’s cultural life for many years to come.”


Laura Samuel, Leader of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra said: 

“Donald is an incredibly generous musician and I am so pleased that we will continue to build upon the relationship with the orchestra that has formed during his years as Chief Conductor.  He always brings fascinating works to challenge and inspire us – individually and as an ensemble – and we look forward to many more years of thrilling concerts together.”


Since assuming the role of Chief Conductor, Donald Runnicles has regularly toured with the BBC SSO across Scotland and the UK, as well as in Europe, including a successful tour of Austria and Germany in 2010.  Highlights of his tenure include acclaimed performances of Mahler’s symphonies at the BBC Proms and Edinburgh International Festival, Brahms’s A German Requiem, James MacMillan’s St John Passion, concert performances of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde and Tannhäuser, a commercial recording of Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony, and a number of world premieres.


This week he conducts a concert staging of Berg’s Wozzeck at Glasgow’s City Halls, featuring an international cast, and which will be recorded for future broadcast on BBC Radio 3.


  • Will Duffay says:

    Does the BBC Concert Orchestra deserve to survive? (I know this piece is about the BBC Scottish, but just thinking more widely.)

  • Will says:

    yes, it’s a more versatile orchestra than the BBCSSO.