The Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della Rai was created in 1994 from the unification of the public radio orchestras of Torino, Rome, Milan and Naples, becoming one of the most prestigious musical groups in Italy. The first concerts were conducted by Georges Prêtre and Giuseppe Sinopoli, followed by Jeffrey Tate, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Eliahu Inbal and Gianandrea Noseda.
Since November 2009 Juraj Valčuha has been Principal Conductor.
Beginning October 2016 James Conlon will be the Orchestra’s new Principal Conductor.
Other important conductors include Carlo Maria Giulini, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Mstislav Rostropovič, Myung-Whun Chung, Riccardo Chailly, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Yuri Ahronovitch, Marek Janowski, Semyon Bychkov, Dmitrij Kitaenko, Aleksandr Lazarev, Valery Gergiev, Gerd Albrecht, Yutaka Sado, Mikko Franck, James Conlon, Roberto Abbado and Kirill Petrenko.
With the presence of its concerts in the programme schedules of the radio (Radio3) and television (Rai1, Rai3 and Rai5), the OSN Rai has contributed to the diffusion of the great symphonic repertoire as well as the historic and contemporary avant-garde, thanks to commissions and first performances which have gained artistic, editorial and discographic recognition. An example of this is the 2004 Rai NuovaMusica series of contemporary music concerts.
The Orchestra holds regular Season concerts and special music cycles; since 2013 it has been performing at the Summer classical music festivals held in Piazza San Carlo, a project by the city of Turin. It is often invited by important Italian festivals such as MITO SettembreMusica, Biennale di Venezia, Ravenna Festival, and Rimini’s Sagra Malatestiana.
The Orchestra takes part to several institutional events, including the Christmas Concerts in Assisi, broadcasted worldwide, and the celebrations for Italy’s Festa della Repubblica (Republic Day).
Engagements abroad are also numerous and prestigious: besides its international tours (Japan, Germany, England, Ireland, France, Spain, Canary Islands, South America, Switzerland, Austria, Greece) and the 2006 invitations to the Salzburg Festival, and to Berlin’s Philharmonie to celebrate Hans Werner Henze’s eightieth birthday, in recent years the OSN Rai has performed in 2011 in the United Arab Emirates within the Abu Dhabi Classics, and on tours in Germany, Austria and Slovakia, making its debut at Vienna’s Musikverein with its Principal conductor Juraj Valčuha. The Orchestra has made its debut at the RadiRo Festival in Bucharest in 2012 and at the Enescu Festival in 2013; the Orchestra also held tours in Germany and Switzerland in November 2014, and in Russia in October 2015.
It participated in the operatic film Rigoletto a Mantova, conducted by Mehta and with the direction of Bellocchio, and Cenerentola, una favola in diretta, broadcast live and worldwide on Rai1. The orchestra is also involved in the recording of themes and sound tracks for Rai television programmes. Numerous CDs and DVDs have been made of its concerts.