The COE in the new millennium

Since 2000 the Orchestra has been able to build on its successes in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and over the last decade it has developed extremely important new relationships with a number of eminent conductors including Bernard Haitink, Vladimir Jurowski, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Sir Antonio Pappano and Robin Ticciati.


Bernard Haitink

In 2008 Bernard Haitink began a Beethoven cycle with the COE at the Lucerne Festival which went on to be repeated in Amsterdam and Paris. They then embarked on a major Brahms cycle in Lucerne, with further performances in Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt. In 2015, they also undertook an extensive Schumann cycle in Amsterdam, Lugano and Vienna. Following acclaimed all-Dvorak concerts at the Lucerne Summer Festival in 2016, Bernard Haitink the COE reconvened in Amsterdam in January 2017 for two performances with Kristian Bezuidenhout and Alina Ibragimova. At the end of 2017, the COE, Bernard Haitink and singers Anna-Lucia Richter, Eva-Maria Westbroek and Hanno Müller-Brachmann performed works by Mozart, Mahler and Wagner at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and at the Philharmonie Luxembourg. The COE’s relationship with Bernard Haitink is very special and, in his words: “with the COE, I feel I am not a conductor anymore. I feel like a musician who can make music with them” and “this Orchestra is the greatest gift in the later stages of my career.”

Bernard Haitink talks about his special relationship with the COE


Yannick Nézet-Séguin

At the same time as the development of this significant relationship with Bernard Haitink, the Orchestra had the good fortune to work with Yannick Nézet-Séguin in Lisbon in 2008, and since then major projects have been undertaken with him throughout Europe and in New York, including recordings for Deutsche Grammophon of Cosi fan tutte, Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Le Nozze di Figaro and La Clemenza di Tito in Baden-Baden as well as Schumann and Mendelssohn symphony cycles in Paris.

2008 may have marked the COE and Yannick’s first engagement together – at the Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon – but in fact Yannick’s love of the Orchestra developed many years earlier, devouring COE recordings conducted by Abbado, Harnoncourt and others. Then when Yannick came from Canada to Europe to study with Carlo Maria Giulini, he got to know the COE as a result of Giulini’s concerts with the Orchestra in Ferrara.

So by the time of Yannick’s debut with the COE in 2008, in his words “it felt like we had already known each other for a long time”. He remembers his first ever rehearsal with the Orchestra as if it were yesterday – “the light in the room, where everyone sat, every second of it”. From the intensity of that first rehearsal, which was immediately so rewarding musically, developed a “deeper and deeper connection”.

Yannick believes that the key to the partnership is “keeping things fresh, by being truly in the moment. To be able to do this, you need the absolute best musicians in the world… The COE’s members totally embrace that kind of freedom, and that is very inspiring to me because I can then truly express all my ideas about the music without any limitations”.

We have had so many exciting projects with Yannick to date, including many marathon performances and recordings for Deutsche Grammophon, such as the 2012 cycle of Schumann symphonies and 2016 cycle of Mendelssohn symphonies. The Mozart late opera series is ongoing, with the latest opera La Clemenza di Tito just recorded in Baden-Baden.

The COE’s principal double-bass Enno Senft said: “It is only a natural progression of our friendship with Yannick to welcome him as Honorary Member. His unfailing musical intuition, infectious energy and depth of understanding just bring out the best of the COE spirit. Not to mention his sense of humour! Simply listen to our latest recording of Mendelssohn Symphony No.1 for proof. Yannick and the COE, we speak the same language.”

Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the COE: on the importance of being "in the moment"


New collaborations

In addition to these exciting achievements, great tours have been undertaken with Vladimir Jurowski, Sir Antonio Pappano and Robin Ticciati while in April 2012 the Orchestra celebrated 25 years of glorious music-making with another great friend, Sir András Schiff who joined Nikolaus † and Alice Harnoncourt and Bernard Haitink as Honorary Member of the Orchestra. In July 2017, we were thrilled that Yannick Nézet-Séguin also became a COE Honorary Member.

Now in its fourth decade, the COE is very fortunate to have such eminent and important musical friends, but the reality is that none of this could have been achieved without the additional support of so many people behind the scenes. The Sainsbury family’s Gatsby Charitable Foundation, the Clark family’s Underwood Trust, the American Friends and more recently the Rupert Hughes Will Trust, Dasha Shenkman, Sir Siegmund Warburg’s Voluntary Settlement and The 35th Anniversary Friends continue to provide a vital financial lifeline for the Orchestra and while it has their support and continues to enjoy their friendship and that of so many others, the COE is able to look forward to the future with a high degree of confidence.

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