The Chamber Orchestra of Europe (COE) was founded in 1981 by a group of young musicians who became acquainted as part of the European Community Youth Orchestra (now EUYO). There are now about 60 members of the COE, who pursue parallel careers as principals or section leaders of nationally-based orchestras, as eminent chamber musicians, and as tutors of music.
From the start, the COE’s identity was shaped by its partnerships with leading conductors and soloists. It was Claudio Abbado above all who served as an important mentor in the early years. He led the COE in staged works such as Rossini’s Il viaggio a Reims and Il barbiere di Siviglia and Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni and conducted numerous concerts featuring works by Schubert and Brahms in particular. Nikolaus Harnoncourt also had a major influence on the development of the COE through his performances and recordings of all of the Beethoven symphonies, as well as through opera productions at the Salzburg, Vienna, and Styriarte festivals.
Currently the Orchestra works closely with Sir András Schiff and Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who are both Honorary Members alongside Bernard Haitink and Nikolaus and Alice Harnoncourt.
The COE has strong links with many of the major festivals and concert halls in Europe including the Cologne Philharmonie, the Philharmonie Luxembourg, Paris Philharmonie, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and the Alte Oper in Frankfurt. In partnership with the Kronberg Academy, the COE becomes the first-ever Orchestra-in-residence at the Casals Forum in Kronberg from 2022. The Chamber Orchestra of Europe will also be Orchestra-in-residence at the Esterhazy Palace in Eisenstadt from 2022.
With more than 250 works in its discography, the COE’s CDs have won numerous international prizes, including two Grammys and three Gramophone Record of the Year Awards. Their most recent release is an archive recording of the Schubert Symphonies, performed at the Styriarte Festival in Graz in 1988 with Nikolaus Harnoncourt, released by ICA Classics. The 4-CD box-set has been enthusiastically received by the critics internationally and we are planning to release a second box-set of archive recordings with Nikolaus Harnoncourt in the Autumn.
In 2009, the COE Academy was created in order to give a select group of exceptional students the chance to study with the principal players of COE and, importantly, to give the students the opportunity to travel “on tour” with the orchestra.
The COE is a private orchestra which receives invaluable financial support from particularly the Gatsby Charitable Foundation and a further number of Friends including Dasha Shenkman, Sir Siegmund Warburg’s Voluntary Settlement, the Rupert Hughes Will Trust, the Underwood Trust, the 35th Anniversary Friends and American Friends.
Feature about the COE, ‘Continental drift’ by Simon Mundy, in Classical Music Magazine (April 2019)
Please click here to download the COE’s full biography.