The Iceland Symphony Orchestra (ISO) announces the appointment of Barbara Hannigan as their Chief Conductor and Artistic Director for an initial period of three seasons commencing in August 2026. Hannigan’s first position as Chief Conductor will see her work with the Icelandic orchestra for a minimum of 6 subscription weeks per season in addition to touring and recording. As their Artistic Director, she will also contribute significantly to the innovative programming of the orchestra. 

“Always curious, courageous and creative, the players of the ISO are dedicated to working at the highest level. Their technical excellence co-exists alongside their wonderful imagination. In working with the ISO, I have felt the desire and possibility, for the first time, to consider a position as Chief Conductor. It is a matter of creative chemistry and collective timing that drives us to embark on this new path, together.” – Barbara Hannigan 

“Barbara Hannigan is one of a kind, and we can’t wait to work more with such an outstanding artist, perform the innovative programmes she is renowned for and be a part of her unique expression. The first time she walked on stage to conduct our orchestra, we all felt something exceptional and unique in the air. Experiencing the trust between her and the musicians and how they create and go on an adventure together is extremely inspiring. We are grateful and honored to be the first orchestra to appoint Barbara Hannigan as Chief Conductor and Artistic Director. We know that she will significantly influence the orchestra, our audiences and the Icelandic cultural life in the years to come.” – Lára Sóley Jóhannsdóttir, Managing Director ISO 

Previous collaborations
Barbara first conducted the Iceland Symphony Orchestra in the spring of 2022, with a stunning debut at the Reykjavík Arts Festival performing Charles Ives’ The Unanswered Question, Arnold Schönberg’s Verklärte Nacht, Alban Berg’s Suite from Lulu, and George Gershwin’s Girl Crazy Suite (arr. Bill Elliott). In June 2023, Barbara Hannigan and the Iceland Symphony Orchestra presented a programme of three captivating compositions, in which Hannigan’s lyricism and playfulness were on display in equal measure, both in her singing and her conducting: Haydn’s Symphony No. 96 in D major, Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 and the world premiere of Golfam Khayam’s I am not a tale to be told. They joined forces again in April 2024 when they performed Francis Poulenc’s La Voix humaine alongside Strauss’ Metamorphosen

More about Barbara Hannigan
Barbara Hannigan maintains her relationship with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra as their Principal Guest Conductor, a position she has held since 2019. She is Associate Artist with the London Symphony Orchestra, Première Artiste Invitée with l’Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, and will begin as Principal Guest Conductor with Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne in 2024/25. She also continues collaborating with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra and Munich Philharmonic. In addition to having been named the Reinbert de Leeuw Professor of Music at the Royal Academy of Music in London, Barbara’s dedication to the younger generation of musicians led her to create the mentoring initiatives Equilibrium Young Artists and Momentum: Our Future Now. Her profound commitment to the music of our time is proven by world premiere performances of over 85 new works, and by her extensive collaborations with composers including György Ligeti, Henri Dutilleux, Gerald Barry, Pierre Boulez, John Zorn, George Benjamin and Hans Abrahamsen. 

More about the Iceland Symphony Orchestra
Resident orchestra of Reykjavík’s phenomenal Harpa Concert Hall, the Iceland Symphony Orchestra is the national orchestra of Iceland and one of the leading institutions on the country’s cultural scene. In The New York Times, Alex Ross described the orchestra’s performance under Osmo Vänskä as “sensational… one of the finest Sibelius performances I have encountered.” The ISO regularly performs throughout Europe and beyond, including performances at the BBC Proms, Wiener Musikverein, Carnegie Hall and Kennedy Center with among others Vladimir Ashkenazy, Daníel Bjarnason and Víkingur Ólafsson.

Last year’s UK tour with the ISO’s current Chief Conductor Eva Ollikainen resulted in rave reviews, with The Herald stating “It seemed things could not get more thrilling, but the vivacity and charm with which the orchestra played Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony proved us wrong. By the time we spilled out into a chilly Edinburgh evening, it was as if we had fleetingly been allowed into another world.” 

Upcoming highlights of Barbara Hannigan
On May 24th, Barbara Hannigan and Bertrand Chamayou will release their recording of Olivier Messiaen’s Poèmes pour Mi, Chants de terre et de ciel and La Mort du nombre on Alpha Classics. 

This summer, she is a featured artist at the Spoleto Festival dei Due Mondi where she will headline a special concert at the Teatro Romano of works of John Zorn with acclaimed jazz and classical artists, as well as conduct the final gala concert of the festival with the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. She will also return to her home province of Nova Scotia, Canada, for a week of workshops and a concert as part of her Equilibrium Young Artists mentoring initiative. 

Barbara will then spend the autumn with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Belcea Quartet, Musikkollegium Winterthur and Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, and finish 2024 with a North American recital tour performing works of Messiaen, Scriabin and Zorn with pianist Bertrand Chamayou.

Upcoming highlights of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra
Season 2024/25 marks the ISO’s 75th anniversary and some of the artists celebrating this extra festive season with the ISO are pianists Víkingur Ólafsson, Lise de la Salle, Sunwook Kim and Jan Lisiecki; conductors Osmo Vänskä and Bertrand de Billy; violinist Ava Bahari; cellist Yo-Yo Ma; and of course Barbara Hannigan. 

The ISO will announce its complete 2024/25 season on their website on May 31st, 2024. 

Next collaboration 
Barbara Hannigan and the Iceland Symphony Orchestra will give their next concert together in June 2025 in the Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavík, Iceland.

JUNE 5, 2025 – Programme
Copland: Music for the Theatre
Haydn: Symphony No. 90
Offenbach: Selection from La Gaîté Parisienne (arr. Manuel Rosenthal)
Kurt Weill: Youkali & Lost in the Stars (arr. Bill Elliot)