The Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra (in Dutch: Radio Filharmonisch Orkest, or RFO) primarily serves a domestic radio and concert market; its website is exclusively in the Dutch language. The orchestra, however, has served as a career stop for some of the world's top conductors, and it has embarked on high-profile international recording projects.
The Netherlands Radio Philharmonic was founded in 1945 by Albert van Raalte, a veteran Dutch conductor who had been fired from his posts after the Nazi takeover of the Netherlands. Later conductors included Paul van Kempen, future Concertgebouw Orchestra conductor Bernard Haitink, Jean Fournet, Willem van Otterloo, Hans Vonk, Sergiu Comissiona, future Milwaukee Symphony music director Edo de Waart, and future New York Philharmonic music director Jaap van Zweden. Since 2012 the orchestra's chief conductor has been Markus Stenz; American conductor James Gaffigan has been principal guest conductor since 2011.
The orchestra has been headquartered in Hilversum, where most Dutch broadcasting operations are situated. In 2010 the orchestra, along with the other arts activities of Radio Netherlands, was threatened with defunding by the Dutch government; some funding was restored after public protests and strong advocacy from Haitink, who has been named the orchestra's patron. The orchestra remains under the umbrella of the Netherlands' public broadcasting system, offering such regular series as the NTR Saturday Matinee. A unique feature of the orchestra's management is the strong input of the radio network's Broadcasting Music Center into programming. It also participates in operatic performances.
The orchestra is noted for its advocacy of contemporary music, with a number of world premieres to its credit. Under van Zweden, the orchestra made its debut at the BBC Proms in 2012. In the 1970s and 1980s the orchestra made internationally popular recordings for Decca under Leopold Stokowski and Antal Dorati. Recent recording projects have included a cycle of Shostakovich symphonies under conductor Mark Wigglesworth and one of the symphonies of Bruckner, led by van Zweden and released on the Netherlands' Challenge Records label.