The Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra is the oldest broadcasting orchestra in the world. It is usually ranked as Denmark's leading symphony orchestra.
Copenhagen has been a musical center since it became the capital of Denmark in the fifteenth century. King Christian IV's long reign (1588 - 1648) saw the many court musicians sent to Venice for music studies, and Dowland, Schütz, and others were brought in to train the rest. They became the kernel for opera, ballet, and instrumental music at court and then, in the eighteenth century, in public theaters. The instrumental musicians were organized as the Kongelige Kapel (Royal Orchestra), and in 1780 were set up as the regular orchestra of the Royal Opera. Since then it has consistently given orchestral concerts.
In 1836, the Musikforening (Music Society) was established to organize public concerts and was ably led by Mendelssohn's one-time pupil Niels W. Gade. It and other musical societies continued to dominate concert life until the founding of the national radio station, the Statsradiofonien (later Danish Broadcasting Corporation), which in 1925 organized its own symphony orchestra.
Two of the greatest living conductors, Fritz Busch and Nikolai Malko, built the Radio Symphony Orchestra into an incisive, highly accurate ensemble of great flexibility. Aside from the period of Nazi German occupation from 1940 to 1945, the orchestra has consistently grown in stature. During its lifetime it has been guest-conducted by such stellar figures as Paul Kletzki, Leopold Stokowski, Rafael Kubelik, Bruno Walter, Sergiu Celibidache, Vaclav Neumann, Paavo Berglund, Eugene Ormandy, Sixten Ehrling, Herbert Blomstedt, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Kurt Sanderling, Christoph Eschenbach, Daniel Barenboim, Yuri Temirkanov, and Giuseppe Sinopoli.
The Danish Broadcasting Corporation (or DR) lost its broadcasting monopoly in 1986 but continues as a license-supported independent public corporation. The Danish National Radio Orchestra is a mainstay of its P2 (or Channel 2) classical music program, and of DR Klassik, a digital music classical channel available over cable or by satellite to nearly two million listeners. Among the important leaders of the orchestra have been Herbert Blomstedt, who was the principal conductor from 1967 to 1977, Leif Segerstam, chief conductor from 1998 to 1995, Ulf Schirmer (chief conductor 1995 - 1998) and his successor Gerd Albrecht, who became chief conductor in 2000. Michael Schönwandt was principal guest conductor until the end of 2000 and was succeeded by Thomas Dausgaard while Yuri Temirkanov continued as the other principal guest conductor.
The DNRSO has often toured, especially throughout Europe and to the United States. Albrecht took the orchestra to the U.S. in 2000 to mark its 75th birthday season with appearances at Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, and Chicago's Orchestra Hall, as well as concerts in Iceland.
It has recorded extensively and since becoming associated with the British label Chandos has released over 80 Chandos compact discs. These have included extensive series of music by Nielsen, Rued Langgaard, Per Nørgård, Jean Sibelius, and Gustav Mahler under Segerstam, Neeme Järvi, and Rozhdestvensky. It has also recorded for Decca and the Danish label dacapo. The orchestra received American Grammy nominations for its recording of the opera Holger Danske by Kunzen (1997), for Nørgård's Fifth Symphony (1998) and for Nielsen's Maskarade (2000). In 1999, the Maskarade recording received the Gramophone Award for Best Twentieth Century Opera Recordings. In 2000 Michael Schönwandt completed a complete Nielsen symphony set for dacapo, receiving a Danish Music Award for the release of the First and Sixth Symphonies. The DNRSO gives its regular concerts in the Radiohus Koncertsal (Radio House Concerto Hall), which opened in 1946.