According to the orchestra’s website, “Joy of learning and discovery of new horizons are the traits that best describe the Grammy-winning State Chamber Orchestra Sinfonietta Rīga.” Normunds Šnē has been the artistic director and conductor of the orchestra since its founding in 2006 and has stated that “Latvia has never had an ensemble like Sinfonietta Rīga; our repertoire is being created today, and this is a responsible and strategic mission.”
Sinfonietta Rīga’s repertoire consists of music from the Baroque, Classical and Romantic eras as well as the 20th and 21st centuries, including much Latvian music. In its desire to promote the development of the chamber symphony genre in Latvian music, each year the orchestra commissions a new score from two Latvian composers. Defining the chamber symphony as a genre in which a small orchestra can convey important ideas, Sinfonietta Rīga has premiered chamber symphonies by Andris Dzenītis, Anitra Tumševica, Linda Leimane, Santa Ratniece, Nic Gotham, Kristaps Pētersons, Santa Bušs and Oskars Herliņš. It has developed a close creative collaboration with the Latvian Radio Choir and its conductor Sigvards Kļava, staging several concert programmes each year, including premieres of new Latvian sacred music.
Sinfonietta Rīga has received the Latvian Grand Music Award four times (2007, 2008, 2015, 2018) and won a Grammy Award for its participation in the recording of Arvo Pärt’s Adam’s Lament (ECM).
Sinfonietta Rīga regularly and with great pleasure collaborates with guest conductors Paavo Järvi, Heinz Holliger, John Storgårds, Christoph Poppen, Olari Elts, Juha Kangas, Tõnu Kaljuste and others.
Among the brilliant soloists who have performed together with Sinfonietta Rīga are singers Julia Lezhneva and Inga Kalna; pianists Kristian Bezuidenhout, Nelson Goerner and Yevgeny Sudbin; organist Iveta Apkalna; violinists Isabelle Faust, Kolja Blacher, Baiba Skride, Pekka Kuusisto and Thomas Zehetmair; cellists Sol Gabetta, Jean-Guihen Queyras and Matthew Barley; violinist Vineta Sareika and violist Gregor Sigl of the Artemis Quartet; and Ukrainian violist Maxim Rysanov. The orchestra has also enjoyed collaborations with clarinetist and composer Jörg Widmann; trombonist Christian Lindberg; percussionists Martin Grubinger, Evelyn Glennie and Peter Erskine; accordionist Ksenija Sidorova; Argentinian bandoneon player Marcelo Nisinman; oboist Alexei Ogrintchouk; and early music experts Andrew Lawrence-King and Enrico Onofri.
Sinfonietta Rīga performs not only in Latvia but throughout the Baltic states. It has also performed at the Elbphilharmonie and the Laeiszhalle in Hamburg, the Kölner Philharmonie, the Herkulessaal in Munich, the Alte Oper in Frankfurt, the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic and Lincoln Center in New York City. The orchestra has performed several times in the Netherlands, including at the Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam and De Doelen in Rotterdam. As a part of Latvia’s centenary celebrations in 2018, it played at concert halls in Budapest, Malmö, Gothenburg and Örebro.
Sinfonietta Rīga has participated in festivals of various size in Latvia and abroad, including the Pärnu Music Festival, the Baltic Sea Festival in Stockholm, Lux Aeterna in Hamburg, Kissinger Sommer in Germany, the Café Budapest Festival and others.
The orchestra regularly collaborates with the Wergo and Ondine labels to record the music of Pēteris Vasks. Its performances can also be heard on albums released by BIS, Edition Records, Challenge Records, Signum Records and Hyperion. In collaboration with the Latvian national recording label Skani, it has released an album of music by Jānis Ivanovs as well as the Chamber Symphonies album featuring music by Andris Dzenītis, Anitra Tumševica and Linda Leimane.