The Symphony Orchestra of the Karelia State Philharmonic was founded in 1933s. Over the years, the ensemble has on several occasions changed its director and has been known as the Orchestra of the Radio Committee, the Karelia Philharmonic, the Karelia Radio and TV Orchestra and the Orchestra of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Karelia. In 1997 the orchestra finally became part of the Karelia Philharmonic.
At different periods the orchestra has been directed by the conductors Leonid Teplitsky, Alexander Dmitriev, Edvard Tchivzhel, Oleg Soldatov and Marius Stravinsky. From the 2013–2014 season the orchestra’s Artistic Director and Principal Conductor has been the St Petersburg-based conductor Anatoly Rybalko. The ensemble currently has seventy-nine musicians, many of whom are graduates of the Ste Petersburg and Petrozavodsk State Conservatoires.
The Symphony Orchestra of the Karelia Philharmonic tours in concert throughout Russia, Germany, Poland, France, Spain, Italy and Switzerland. The musicians have particularly close relationships with Scandinavia. The orchestra took part in the Northern Lights festival (Norway, 2009), the I International Piano Festival Top of the World (Norway, 2009), the IV International Ballet Festival in Savonlinna (Finland, 2008), the Luosto Classic festival (Finland, 2010) and the Lapland International Festival (2011, Finland).
The ensemble regularly performs music by Karelian composers including Helmer Rayner Sinisalo, Ruvim Pergament, Roine Rautio, Eduard Patlaenko, Gennady Vavilov, Alexander Beloborodov, Boris Napreyev, Roman Zelensky, Viktoria Sergeyenko, Igor Subbotin, Olga Sedova, Anastasia Salo, Elena Savina and Polina Kryshen.
The orchestra has performed the Russian premieres of many works by Russian and international composers. These include Pyotr Tchaikovsky-Andrei Mikita’s Romeo and Juliet for cello and orchestra, Salomon Jadassohn’s Piano Concerto No 1, Ignaz Brüll’s Macbeth overture, Andreas Makris’ Viola Concerto and Lucas Jaramillo’s Gliese 581.
In the autumn of 2012 the Symphony Orchestra of the Karelia State Philharmonic took part in the II Symphony Music Forum of Russia and the Finnish-Russian Cultural Forum in Joensuu. In the 2013–2014 season the orchestra celebrated its eightieth anniversary and presented audiences with the first Anniversary series featuring the conductors Oleg Soldatov and Marius Stravinsky. In the 2014–2015 season the ensemble gave concerts at the Great Hall of the St Petersburg Philharmonic.