It was Nazib Zhiganov, Chairman of the Composers Union of Tatarstan and Rector of the Kazan Conservatory, who first conceived the idea of creating an orchestra in Tatarstan (TASSR, or the former Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic).
The need for an orchestra in Tatarstan was negotiated since 50s. However, it seemed almost unreal for an autonomous republic to get this kind of a musical ensemble. Nevertheless, the decree of the RSFSR Council of Ministers issued in 1966 made it possible to create a symphony orchestra in Tatarstan. But the most important is that, it was the RSFSR Government to be in charge of its financial backing.
Then, Natan Rakhlin, the well-known conductor, received an invitation to work in Kazan (the capital of the former TASSR and the present Republic of Tatarstan) at the initiative of Nazib Zhiganov and the first secretary of the Communist Party committee – Fikryat Tabeev.
As Zhiganov wrote to his wife in 1966, "…Today I saw the Philharmonic’s jury, with Rakhlin as a Chairman, carrying out orchestral audition. All musicians look excited. Rakhlin patiently auditions and then interviews everyone. …By now he’s auditioned solely those who come from Kazan. I find quite many of them good… Rakhlin wants to recruit sophisticated players for the orchestra. But it won’t work - they will have problems with finding accommodation. Even though I disagree with the attitude of our employers to the orchestra, I think, there is nothing bad if it is generally composed of the Conservatory graduates from Kazan. Anyway, Rakhlin will be able to form them into whatever shape he wants. It seemed today, he was most likely to do it."
In April 10, 1967 the Symphony Orchestra of the Gabdulla Tukay Philharmonic of the TASSR under Natan Rakhlin gave its first concert, performing works by Bach, Shostakovich and Prokofiev. Soon they built a Concert Hall (commonly named as a "Glass Hall"), that became the main stage for concerts and rehearsals of the newly founded Orchestra.
The first thirteen years made the brightest pages in the history of the Orchestra from Tatarstan. It successfully debuted in Moscow, toured around all big cities in the USSR. But in Tatarstan the Orchestra's popularity was incredible.
After Rakhlin’s death, the Orchestra developed under Ravil Martynov, Renat Salavatov, Sergey Kalagin, and Imant Kotsinsh. In 1985, the position of Artistic Director and Principal Conductor was offered to Fuat Mansurov, People’s Artist of Russia, People’s Artist of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic, who had already had appointments with the Kazakhstan National Symphony Orchestra, the Opera and Ballet Theatres in Kazakhstan and Tatarstan, the Bolshoi Theatre and the Moscow Conservatory. He held his position with the Tatarstan National Symphony Orchestra for 25 years. Fuat Mansurov being seriously ill, the season 2009 – 2010 turned the most difficult for the Orchestra.
In 2010, after Fuat Mansurov’s death, the title of Artistic Director and Principal Conductor was taken up by Alexander Sladkovsky, People’s Artist of Russia, who opened the 45th season with the TNSO. This new appointment opened a new page in the Orchestra’s history.
Four international festivals – the Rakhlin Seasons, the White Lilac, the Kazan Autumn and the Concordia – eestablished by the TNSO under Alexander Sladkovsky are among the most notable public events in cultural life of Tatarstan and Russia. The Orchestra also launched the Republic’s Heritage project for gifted music school children and Conservatory students, and the Music Lessons with the Orchestra educational project for children in Kazan, as well as started the Musical Healing cycle for disabled and gravely ill children. Thus, in 2011, the Orchestra became the winner of the Philanthropist of the Year contest established by the President of the Republic of Tatarstan. At the end of each concert season the Orchestra presents charitable provincial tours along the cities of Tatarstan.
The 46th season witnessed the Orchestra's concert with Denis Matsuev at the Lomonosov Moscow University within the subscriptions of the Lomonosov Moscow University Rector Invites You cycle, performing at the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall and the Moscow International Performing Arts Center, as well as in concert tours around in Russia (the cities of Perm and Berezniki) within the framework of the Russian Symphony Orchestras Festival, in Ashgabat (Turkmenistan), and at the Orenburg Seasons by Denis Matsuev (Orenburg, Russia) - where the Orchestra gave two concerts with Denis Matsuev, Alexander Knyazev and Hibla Gerzmava. In the 47th season the TNSO performed again in Perm and Moscow.
In 2012, the Tatarstan National Symphony Orchestra took part in the International Worthersee Classics Festival in Klagenfurt (Austria). Highlights of the season 2012-2013 included release of the Anthology of Music by Composers of the Republic of Tatarstan with SONY MUSIC and RED SEAL labels. The TNSO under A. Sladkovsky held presentation of this large project on January 23, 2013 in Kazan. The Enlightenment album was also released with the participation of SONY MUSIC and RCA Red Seal Records. The concert presentation of this unique project took place in Kazan on May 26, 2013. Since 2013 Alexander Sladkovsky and the Tatarstan National Symphony Orchestra are Sony Musi? Entertainment Russia artists.
Over the years the orchestra made appearances with world-known musicians including Galina Vishnevskaya, Irina Arkhipova, Olga Borodina, Lyubov Kazarnovskaya, Hibla Gerzmava, Albina Shagimuratova, Sumi Jo, Tatyana Serzhan, Anna Bonitatibus, Dinara Alieva, Roberto Alagna, Zurab Sotkilava, Dmitry Hvorostovsky, Vasily Gerello, Ildar Abdrazakov, Vladimir Spivakov, Viktor Tretiakov, Igor Oistrakh, Vadim Repin, Sergei Krylov, Gidon Kremer, Alyona Baeva, Yuri Bashmet, Mstislav Rostropovich, Daniil Shafran, David Geringas, Sergey Roldugin, Mikhail Pletnev, Nikolai Petrov, Vladimir Krainev, Vladimir Viardo, Lazar Berman, Denis Matsuev, Boris Berezovsky, Barry Douglas, Nikolai Lugansky, Ekaterina Mechetina, Ramzi Yassa, Ksenia Bashmet, Igor Butman, Sergei Nakaryakov, as well as with choirs under G. Ernesaks, V. Minin, A. Yurlov Russian State Academic Choir, and the M. Glinka Choir.