The Oslo Philharmonic is Norway's flagship orchestra, with concerts often broadcast nationally and a distinguished recording catalog that has spread its work internationally. Many of the orchestra's conductors have been foreigners; it flourished especially in the 1980s and '90s under the leadership of Latvian Mariss Jansons, who came to Oslo for his first conducting post outside the Soviet Union.
The modern Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra evolved from several earlier groups: Edvard Grieg's Christiana Musikforening and the Christiana Theater Orchestra (Christiana was the former name of Oslo). In 1919, these coalesced into the Filharmonisk Selskaps Orkester, or Orchestra of the Philharmonic Company; the name Oslo Philharmonic (Oslo-Filharmonien) was first used in 1979. In the 1920s and '30s, the orchestra prospered, attracting top foreign conductors and composer/conductors including Artur Nikisch, Maurice Ravel, and, a week before the Nazi invasion of Norway in 1940, Wilhelm Furtwängler. The orchestra's concerts were heard on Norwegian radio from the early 1920s.
The orchestra's activities were suspended during World War II, but the postwar years brought new energy and exposure. Sweden's Herbert Blomstedt, who held the baton from 1962 to 1968, was the orchestra's first non-Norwegian conductor; he took the group on a tour of major European musical capitals, and the Finn Okko Kamu (1975-1979) led an American tour. His successor, Janssons, brought the orchestra to new heights of international renown, signing a longstanding recording contract with Britain's EMI label. The orchestra moved into the new Oslo Concert Hall in 1977, but the hall has been controversial; Janssons resigned his post in 2000 after a dispute with the hall's owner, the Oslo city government, over its acoustics. He was succeeded by the American veteran André Previn (2002-2006), Finland's Jukka-Pekka Saraste (2006-2013), and the Russian Vasily Petrenko (2013-2020). Finland's Klaus Mäkelä was slated to assume the conducting post in 2020.
The orchestra has maintained a busy recording schedule, releasing as many as four albums a year on the Simax, Dacapo, and Lawo Classics labels. In 2019, on the latter imprint, Petrenko led the orchestra in a recording of the Richard Strauss tone poems Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30, and Ein Heldenleben, Op. 40.