Founded in 1950, the Iceland Symphony Orchestra (= ISO) is the national orchestra of Iceland, and is one of the leading institutions on the Icelandic cultural scene. Widely praised for its performances and recordings, each year the orchestra presents a full season of subscription series, school and family concerts, and concerts devoted to modern music. Since 2011, the orchestra's home has been Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavík. The ISO gives weekly concerts in Harpa, Reykjavík, from September to June every year.
Yan Pascal Tortelier assumed the post of Chief Conductor in September 2016, a role previously held by conductors such as Jean-Pierre Jacquillat, Petri Sakari, Rumon Gamba, Ilan Volkov and Osmo Vänskä, who currently holds the title of Principal Guest Conductor. Vladimir Ashkenazy has conducted the orchestra regularly since the early 1970's and now holds the position of Conductor Laureate. Daníel Bjarnason is the orchestra's Artist-in-Residence and is active in a variety of roles as conductor, composer, and educator.
The Iceland Symphony Orchestra has recorded for a number of international labels, including Deutsche Grammophon, BIS, Chandos and Naxos. The orchestra's complete cycle of Sibelius symphonies under the direction of Petri Sakari was praised by critics. Most recently, the orchestra recorded the complete orchestral works of Vincent d'Indy with Rumon Gamba for the Chandos label. The first volume of the series was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance.
The Iceland Symphony Orchestra has toured in Europe and the USA, and has performed to great acclaim at international festivals and in concert halls. Concerts abroad include appearances at the BBC Proms (2014), at Vienna's Musikverein and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., as well as two concerts in Carnegie Hall, in 1996 and again in 2000. Writing in the New York Times, critic Alex Ross described the orchestra's performance under Osmo Vänskä as “sensational… one of the finest Sibelius performances I have encountered.”