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The Orchestre National de France is both an established authority and a dynamic force in the interpretation of French music. Its international tours have made it a flagship for French culture across the world, while its presence throughout France, reinforced by vibrant educational programmes, has cemented its relationship with a diversity of national audiences.

A Radio France ensemble, the Orchestre National de France was founded in 1934 as the country’s first full-time symphony orchestra. Its mission to serve the symphonic repertoire was furthered by radio broadcasts of its concerts, and it soon achieved an enviable reputation.

Désiré Émile Inghelbrecht was the first conductor to take charge of the ensemble. The musical tradition he established, characterised by a significant commitment to French repertoire, continues today. He was followed after World War II by Manuel Rosenthal, André Cluytens, Roger Désormière, Charles Munch, Maurice Le Roux and Jean Martinon. Sergiu Celibidache, the orchestra’s principal guest conductor from 1973 to 1975, was succeeded by Lorin Maazel, who in 1977 became its music director. Jeffrey Tate held the post of principal guest conductor from 1989 to 1998, while subsequent music directors were Charles Dutoit (1991 to 2001), Kurt Masur (2002 to 2008), Daniele Gatti (2008 to 2016) and Emmanuel Krivine (2017 to 2020). The current music director is Cristian Măcelaru, who assumed his responsibilities on 1st September 2020.

Conductors associated with the orchestra over its history include Leonard Bernstein, Pierre Boulez, Sir Colin Davis, Bernard Haitink, Antal Doráti, Eugen Jochum, Igor Markevitch, Lovro von Matačić, Riccardo Muti, Seiji Ozawa, Georges Prêtre, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Sir Georg Solti and Yevgeny Svetlanov, while it has welcomed such soloists as Martha Argerich, Claudio Arrau, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Nelson Freire, Yo Yo Ma, Yehudi Menuhin, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Vlado Perlemuter, Sviatoslav Richter, Mstislav Rostropovitch, Arthur Rubinstein and Isaac Stern.

In the course of the 20th century the Orchestre National de France gave the premieres of a number of major works, including Le Soleil des eaux by Boulez, Messiaen’s Turangalîla Symphony (French premiere), Xenakis’s Jonchaies and the majority of Dutilleux’s large-scale compositions.

Each year the Orchestre National de France gives a total of some 70 concerts in Paris, basing itself since November 2014 at the Auditorium de Radio France, and on tour in France and abroad.