The Northern Sinfonia of England was founded in 1958 by Michael Hall, who served as the ensemble's conductor and artistic director, though he never officially held either title. The inaugural concert was given on September 24, 1958, at the Newcastle City Hall, which would serve as the orchestra's regular performance venue until 2004, when the move to the Sage Gatehead Centre was made. The ensemble was initially known only as the Sinfonia Orchestra but added Northern to its name in 1959.
Among Hall's accomplishments was the founding of a youth orchestra, originally called the Junior Philharmonic but now known as the Young Sinfonia. Hall was succeeded by Rudolf Schwarz
, who served as artistic director from 1964-1973. Despite his title he shared conducting duties of regular concerts with Boris Brott. The Northern Sinfonia Chorus was established in 1973 by the ensemble's principal timpanist Alan Fearon.
By the time of Christopher Seaman's tenure (1973-1979), the Northern Sinfonia was gaining notice abroad. Among its first successful recordings were a 1976 EMI
LP, The Lighter Elgar, led by Neville Marriner
, and a 1977 Enigma Records LP of Bach
's Brandenburg Concertos No. 4, No. 5, and No. 6, led by George Malcolm
and Ivan Fischer
co-directed the NS from 1979-1982, but it was during and immediately following the tenure of Richard Hickox
(1982-1990) that the ensemble moved into the international limelight. Hickox
would make over 20 recordings with the NS, many after he departed. Among his more notable recorded efforts was the 1993 Chandos
CD of Walton
's opera, The Bear. Heinrich Schiff
served as artistic director from 1990-1996. Primarily a cellist, Schiff
achieved critical acclaim with the NS both in concert and on recordings. In the latter realm, the Schiff
/Northern Sinfonia 1993 CD of Mozart
symphonies No. 29 and No. 40 and "Eine kleine Nachtmusik" on Virgin Classics
was a notable success.
's tenure (1996-1999) was noteworthy for acclaimed performances of works by French composers, like Fauré
, and Ravel
. Austrian violinist/conductor Thomas Zehetmair
was appointed music director in 2002, and his initial three-year contract was extended in 2005, with further extensions keeping him in the post until 2014. Among Zehetmair
's more notable recordings with the NS is the 2011 Avie
CD of Schubert
's Ninth Symphony and Hans Gál
's Second Symphony.
The ensemble re-located to Gateshead in 2004. Queen Elizabeth II bestowed the title "Royal" on the orchestra in 2013, making it the Royal Northern Sinfonia, and Lars Vogt
was named its music director beginning with the 2015-16 season.