The Russian National Orchestra (= RNO; Russian: Российский национальный оркестр) was founded in 1990 by pianist and conductor Mikhail Pletnev and premiered in Moscow in 1990. The RNO is widely recognized today as one of the world’s top orchestras. Of its debut at the BBC Proms in London, the Evening Standard wrote, "They played with such captivating beauty that the audience gave an involuntary sigh of pleasure." The RNO is also described as "a living symbol of the best in Russian art" (Miami Herald), "as close to perfect as one could hope for" (Trinity Mirror), and "astoundingly virtuosic" (Glasgow Herald).
The first Russian orchestra to perform at the Vatican (Apostolic Palace) and in Israel, the RNO maintains an active international tour schedule, appearing throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas. The RNO is a frequent visitor to major festivals such as Edinburgh, Shanghai and the BBC Proms. The orchestra presents its own RNO Grand Festival each September to open the Moscow season, and is the founding orchestra of Festival Napa Valley, held every July in California’s Napa Valley.
RNO concerts are regularly aired on National Public Radio in the USA, the European Broadcasting Union, and Russia’s Kultura channel. The orchestra’s critically acclaimed discography, launched with a 1991 CD on Virgin Classics cited as the best recording of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6, Pathétique in history, now numbers more than 80 recordings on Deutsche Grammophon, Pentatone, Ondine, Warner Classics and other prestigious labels. The RNO has recorded and with conductors that include RNO Founder and Artistic Director Mikhail Pletnev, Vladimir Jurowski, Kent Nagano, Alexander Vedernikov, Carlo Ponti Jr., José Serebrier and Vasily Petrenko. Notable releases include the complete L.v. Beethoven symphonies and piano concertos on Deutsche Grammophon and Tchaikovsky’s six symphonies for Pentatone. The orchestra’s Shostakovich project, also on Pentatone, has been cited as “the most exciting cycle of Dmitri Shostakovich's symphonies to be put down on disc, and easily the best recorded” (SACD.net).
The RNO's recording of Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf and Beintus's Wolf Tracks, conducted by Kent Nagano and narrated by Sophia Loren, Bill Clinton and Mikhail Gorbachev, received a 2004 Grammy Award, making the RNO the first Russian orchestra to win the recording industry's highest honor. A Spanish-language version narrated by Antonio Banderas was released in 2007, following a Russian version narrated by actors Oleg Tabakov and Sergei Bezrukov, with a Mandarin edition following in 2011. Narrators in concert versions of these works have included actors Danny Glover, Diana Douglas, Sean Dill and Debbie Allen, model Tatiana Sorokko, Singaporean violinist Min Lee, and BBC anchor Seva Novgorodsev. The orchestra’s recording of D. Shostakovich's Symphony No. 7, conducted by Paavo Järvi, was awarded the prestigious Diapason d’Or de l’Année 2015 as the year's best symphonic album, and nominated for a 2016 Grammy award.
A regular visitor to the Schleswig-Holstein, Gstaad and Rheingau festivals, the RNO is also the founding orchestra of Napa Valley Festival del Sole, Festival of the Arts BOCA in Florida, and the Singapore Sun Festival, and resident orchestra for multiple seasons of the Tuscan Sun Festival in Cortona, Italy. The RNO launched its own annual festival in 2009, held each September in Moscow.
In 2008, a panel of international critics assembled by Gramophone named the Russian National Orchestra as one of the world's top orchestras.
The Russian National Orchestra is unique among the principal Russian ensembles as a private institution supported by individuals, corporations and foundations in Russia and throughout the world. Affiliated organizations include the Russian National Orchestra Trust, the Russian Arts Foundation and the American Council of the RNO. Another RNO innovation is Cultural Allies, an ongoing program encompassing exchanges between artists in Russia and the West, and the commissioning of new works.