It was founded in 1927 as a small studio ensemble at Finnish Radio, the state-owned broadcasting organization. It reached symphony orchestra size in 1947, and now numbers 70 players. Its repertory is made up primarily of pre-Romantic works, but also includes those of the Romantic, Post-Romantic, Modern, and Contemporary eras. It still premieres a number of new works commissioned by the broadcasting company each year. In its performances and recordings, the orchestra has become a significant advocate for contemporary Finnish composers.
In addition to all of the FRSO's concerts being broadcast, the orchestra has made over 80 recordings. In fact, the only surviving recording of Jean Sibelius conducting was the FRSO's first recording, made in 1939. Other Finnish composers the orchestra has recorded, mainly for the BIS and Ondine labels, include Leif Segerstam, Leevi Madetoja, Paavo Heininen, Joonas Kokkonen, Magnus Lindberg, Kaija Saariaho, Aarre Merikanto, Aulis Sallinen, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Väinö Raitio, Jouni Kaipainen, Uuno Klami, and Eero Hämeenniemi.