National Symphony Orchestra
The 2016/2017 season marks the NSO’s 86th, and its seventh and final led by Music Director Christoph Eschenbach, also the Music Director of the Kennedy Center. Founded in 1931, the Orchestra has, throughout its history, been committed to artistic excellence and music education. In 1986, the National Symphony became an artistic affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where it has performed a full season of subscription concerts since the Center opened in 1971. The National Symphony Orchestra regularly participates in events of national and international importance, including performances for state occasions, presidential inaugurations and official holiday celebrations. Its regularly televised holiday appearances for Capitol Concerts and local radio broadcasts on WETA make the NSO one of the most-heard orchestras in the country.
The Orchestra itself numbers 96 musicians who perform approximately 150 concerts each year. These include classical subscription series, pops concerts, summer performances at Wolf Trap and on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol, chamber music performances in the Terrace Theater and on the Millennium Stage, and an extensive educational program, with performances designed for ages three years and up, and audience engagement activities, as well. Additionally, the NSO’s community engagement projects are nationally recognized, including NSO In Your Neighborhood (which comprises of a week of approximately 50 performances in schools, churches, community centers, and other neighborhood venues) and NSO Sound Health, which has taken the NSO to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Children’s Inn at NIH, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Children’s National Medical Center, and Inova Health System. Career development opportunities include the NSO Youth Fellowship Program and its Summer Music Institute.
Mstislav Rostropovich – globally recognized both for his formidable musical gifts and as an ardent advocate for human rights – was music director of the National symphony Orchestra from 1977 until 1994. His tenure proved to be one of the most glittering periods in the life of the NSO thus far, and saw the introduction of the signature projects that remain an important part of the NSO’s life to this day. One example is the John and June Hechinger Commissioning Fund for New Orchestral works in 1982; this has led to the creation of more than 60 works by more than 50 American composers, including two Pulitzer Prize winners. The American residencies, which took the NSO to 21 states, began during his time, with Alaska and Louisiana. Touring was a prominent part of Rostropovich’s tenure with the NSO: extensive travel around North and South America, four European Tours, the NSO’s first visits to Asia, and, in 1990, Rostropovich’s triumphant return to Russia after 16 years in exile for defending human rights. The capstone, the 1993 Russian visit in which the NSO became the first orchestra ever to perform in Red Square, ensured that the Rostropovich/NSO partnership was one heard around the world. Rostropovich’s time as music director had placed the NSO on the artistic map as never before.