Sapporo Symphony Orchestra


HistoryAbout SSO

Sapporo Symphony Orchestra

Sapporo Symphony Orchestra (Sakkyo) was founded in 1961 and is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2021. As the only professional orchestra in Hokkaido, with a nickname of “Sakkyo,” and its clear sound and powerful expression, the orchestra is gaining a high popularity that suits the vast land of Hokkaido. With the current Chief Conductor Matthias Bamert inaugurated in April 2018 and with the Honorary Music Director, Tadaaki Otaka, who has been the conductor of the orchestra for the past 22 years, Friendship Conductor, Junichi Hirokami and Resident Conductor, Kentaro Kawase, the orchestra searches for the further enrichment and development. With concertmasters, the orchestra holds 74 members as of April 2022, and its concerts count up to 120 annually within and outside Hokkaido. As for the oversea tours, the orchestra made the Europe Tour in 2011, celebrating its 50th anniversary; and visited 5 cities in Taiwan in 2015. Sapporo Symphony Orchestra aims to become the orchestra loved by the people of Hokkaido and will continue to express its musicianship towards the globe.

(as of April 2022)

Sapporo Symphony Orchestra © Photo by Yasuo Fujii

Originally founded as the Sapporo Citizen Symphony on July 1, 1961, it was renamed the Sapporo Symphony Orchestra in 1962. In 2009, the orchestra became the first public interest incorporated foundation in Hokkaido. The founding principal conductor is Masao Araya (1914-1996), and from 1961 to 1968, he worked to establish a firm basis of the orchestra. The very first Sapporo Symphony Orchestra concert was held on September 6, 1961, “First Subscription Concert” conducted by Araya. Sapporo Symphony Orchestra bestowed “Honorary Founding Conductor” to Araya in 1997. Peter Schwarz became the Second Principal Conductor from 1969 to 1975 and during his time, the orchestra sound was refined further. The orchestra’s first oversea tour was with Schwarz, visiting U.S.A. and Germany. Hiroyuki Iwaki (1932-2006) then became Resident Conductor from 1975, Music Director/Resident Conductor from 1978 and from 1988 to 2006, assumed Conductor Laureate. Iwaki put more emphasis on works by Japanese composers, namely Toru Takemitsu. His music “Ran” a film directed by Akira Kurosawa made the orchestra known as one of the best orchestras in Japan. After Iwaki, Kazuyoshi Akiyama was named Music Advisor/Principal Conductor from 1988 to 1998, and he expanded the orchestra’s repertoire. Ken Takaseki was the conductor from 1988, later became Resident Conductor (2003 to 2012 March). Takaseki supported further development of the orchestra.

Tadaaki Otaka who was the Music Director until March 2015 (Honorary Music Director from April 2015) assumed the position of Resident Conductor from 1981 to 1986, Music Advisor/Principal Conductor from 1998 and the Second Music Director from 2004. He was with the orchestra for years summed up to 22, till end of his tenure of the Music Director. There are many highlights with Otaka; the subscription concert became doubled; two consecutive concerts for one subscription, establishment of the exclusive Sakkyo Chorus (2005), the 500th celebrative subscription concert (June, 2007) presenting Mahler Symphony No. 2, and Britten’s opera “Peter Grimes” (concert version- September, 2008). Radomil Eliska(1931-2019), the maestro from Czech joined as the Guest Principal Conductor from April 2008, who became Honorary Conductor in April 2015.

The Sapporo Symphony Orchestra is making numbers of recordings in the Sapporo Concert Hall Kitara, one of the best acoustic halls admired internationally. With Otaka, the orchestra made recordings of Sibelius, Grieg, Dvorak, Elgar and Japanese composers, all drawing much attention. Following a recording of Beethoven Cycle, the orchestra and Otaka made 4 CDs of Sibelius Cycle starting from 2013 which took 3 years. Eliska’s popularity grew very rapidly nationwide and his CDs, especially on Czech music, were selected as the best album by music magazines. Max Pommer, Chief Conductor from 2015 to March 2018, made recordings of Mendelssohn’s “Lobgesang” and Bach Orchestral Suite, and his unique production gathered much attention.

With Otaka, the orchestra visited United Kingdom in 2001, South Korea in 2005, the 50th Anniversary Europe Tour to London (U.K.), Munich and Dusseldorf (Germany), Salerno and Milan (Italy), and Taiwan in 2015. The orchestra was highly praised with its European Tour in 2011. The orchestra took an active role in cultural exchange between Taiwan and Hokkaido by visiting Taiwan in 2015.

In April 2018, Swiss born conductor, Matthias Bamert inaugurated as the Chief Conductor. The Sapporo Symphony Orchestra seeks for another summit with Matthias Bamert, Chief Conductor, Tadaaki Otaka, Honorary Music Director, Junichi Hirokami, Friendship Conductor and Kentaro Kawase, Resident Conductor. With Bamert, the orchestra made the recording of a CD “The Waltz” in March 2022.

as of April 2022

Emblem and Character

With five S as a motif, music notation expesses musical rhythm and active orchestra. Its form is in a diamond shape, a land of Hokkaido. The colors, ocean blue leads to Hokkaido, orange to unity and red to passion.

Etupirka (in Ainu language:binominal Fratercula cirrhata) is a rare bird inhabit in Hokkaido. Pirika in Ainu means a beautiful beak, and the name Pricky came from this Pirika. We hope to be a beak of sending beautiful sound.
A volunteer group is named Pricky and assists the orchestra's activities in various ways, including directing and selling Pricky goods.