The Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the national chamber orchestra of Scotland, was founded in 1974. It is made up of 38 regular players, though its number can vary according to a given work's instrumental demands. The ensemble gives a regular series of concerts in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, St. Andrews, Dumfries, Perth and other Scottish cities, but does not claim any one location as its home. It also give regular concerts throughout the Scottish Highlands and Islands, as well as abroad, in Europe, Asia, and the U.S. In 2001, the orchestra's principal conductor was Joseph Swenson, who succeeded Jukka-Pekka Saraste. Serving as conductor laureate is Charles Mackerras, who has made a number of highly successful recordings with the orchestra including the Brahms symphonies and five Mozart operas; many of the ensemble's greatest successes have come under Mackerras' baton, at least in the recording venue. Mackerras' recording of Mozart's last four symphonies with the orchestra received numnerous awards including the BBC Music Magazine Disc of the Year in 2009. The British conductor Robin Ticciardi was named principal conductor in 2009 and his contract extends until 2015.
The repertory of the orchestra is quite varied, encompassing the works of Mozart and Haydn, as well as of Prokofiev and Peter Maxwell Davies. Indeed the orchestra has commissioned a number of works from the latter composer, including 10 so-called Strathclyde Concertos. Other composers who have received commissions from the orchestra include Einjuhani Rautavaara, Gordon Crosse, Judith Weir, James MacMillan, Mark-Anthony Turnage, and Sally Beamish.
Conductors who have led the orchestra include Emmanuel Krivine, Andrew Litton, Nicholas McGegan, Frans Brüggen, and Jaime Laredo. The instrumental makeup of the ensemble is as follows: seven first violins and five second; four violas, four cellos, and two double basses; two flutes and one piccolo; two oboes and one English horn; two clarinets and one bass clarinet; two bassoons and one contrabassoon; two horns; two trumpets; one timpani. The SCO has recorded for Telarc, ASV, Delos, the Edinburgh-based Linn recordings, and other labels. The group frequently performs with its adjunct organization, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra Chorus.