Founded at the beginning of the 19th century, its past music directors have included André Cluytens (beginning in 1932) and Georges Prêtre (1951–1955). The Orchestre du Capitole rose to prominence during Michel Plasson's tenure as music director, from 1968 to 2003. Under his baton, its symphonic vocation expanded considerably.
The Orchestre National du Capitole acts both as a symphony orchestra whose main residence is Toulouse's Halle aux Grains, and the permanent orchestra of the Théâtre du Capitole in Toulouse. It regularly appears as guest at many festivals (2007/2008 : Piano aux Jacobins, Chorégies d’Orange, Nuits de Fourvière, Présences de Radio France…), and its numerous international tours have made its name worldwide.
The Orchestre National du Capitole has recorded many albums with prestigious artists. Among them, recordings with Michel Plasson, Carmen, with Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna, widely acclaimed by the public and the critics. In 2004, it was awarded the 'Enregistrement classique de l’année' prize of the French Victoire de la Musique Classique.
Russian conductor Tugan Sokhiev has been, since 2005, first guest conductor and musical advisor of the Orchestre National du Capitole. Since september 2008, he has been musical director of the orchestra.
Tugan Sokhiev and the Orchestre National du Capitole have signed an exclusive agreement with label Naïve classique. Four discs have already been released: Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 (2006), Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances and Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2 (2010). In 2011, a Tchaikovsky / Shostakovich album came out.
In February 2008, the Orchestre received a "Victoire d'honneur" award during the 15th edition of the French Victoires de la musique classique, held at the Halle aux Grains in Toulouse.