The ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra is one of four major orchestral ensembles based in Vienna, the others being the Vienna Philharmonic, Vienna State Opera Orchestra, and Vienna Symphony Orchestra. The ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, or Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien, is unique because it is only radio symphony orchestra in Austria and is thus the official Austrian broadcast orchestra. Its repertory has been broad, taking in pre-Classical, Classical, Romantic, and 20th century music, with a substantial portion devoted to contemporary works. The orchestra typically performs at one of four Viennese locales: the Musikverein, Wiener Konzerthaus, ORF RadioKulturhaus, and the Theater an der Wien. The ensemble receives government funding and is regarded as a cultural goodwill ambassador for Austria. The orchestra consists of about 100 players and gives regular tours abroad, previous trips having taken them throughout Europe, the Americas, and Japan.
The Vienna RSO was formed in 1969 from the ORF Symphony Orchestra, a postwar ensemble largely devoted to contemporary music. The new ensemble retained the name of the parent orchestra and its management appointed the first chief conductor, Milan Horvat (1969-1975), who largely retained the policy of promoting music of contemporary Austrian composers and works by Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern.
With the ascension of Leif Segerstam as chief conductor in 1975, the Vienna RSO, while retaining a strong allegiance to 20th century music, began to focus attention on Classical and Romantic works, as well. This tendency was expanded further when Lothar Zagrosek (1982-1986) succeeded Segerstam. Zagrosek often played rarely encountered Classical works.
Bertrand de Billy succeeded Davies in 2002. He was even more active in the recording studio, with well over 20 recordings to his credit, recordings that covered broader repertory, including many standards by Haydn, Beethoven, Dvorák, Debussy, and more. In the latter years of his tenure de Billy had disputes with orchestra management that led to his decision to step down. In 2009 the orchestra's management announced that Cornelius Meister would succeed Davies in 2010, his tenure scheduled to run through at least 2014.