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 following in the footsteps of Bernard Haitink and Nikolaus Harnoncourt.

The COE has strong links with many of the major festivals and concert halls in Europe including the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, the Kammermusiksaal der Philharmonie in Berlin, the Cologne, Luxembourg and Paris Philharmonies, 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 has also been Orchestra-in-residence at the Esterhazy Palace in Eisenstadt since 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 have now released a second box-set of archive recordings with Nikolaus Harnoncourt, featuring works by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms. In January 2022, we also released all of the Sibelius Symphonies on DVD and BluRay, conducted by Paavo Berglund at the Helsinki Festival in 1998. In February 2023, the recording of the Clara Wieck-Schumann and Robert Schumann’s Piano Concertos with Beatrice Rana and Yannick Nézet-Séguin is released to international acclaim.

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.

To find out more about the COE and its members, you can listen to our podcast presented by Simon Mundy.

Feature about the COE, ‘Continental drift’ by Simon Mundy, in Classical Music Magazine (April 2019)

Read more about our relationships with Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Bernard Haitink and Claudio Abbado.

For a year-by-year chronology of the COE odyssey, as told by our bass trombonist Nick Eastop, please visit our #COE40 page.

Please click here to download the COE’s full biography.



The History of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe

Please click on the chapters below to discover the unique story of the creation of the COE and to find out how the Orchestra has evolved since 1981.

Harmony on a honeymoon – or listen to the story of the COE’s genesis on our podcast here.

The 1980’s and 1990’s

The COE in the new millennium

For a year-by-year chronology of the COE odyssey, as told by our bass trombonist Nick Eastop, please visit our #COE40 page.


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  • Honorary Members
    Bernard Haitink †
    Nikolaus † and Alice Harnoncourt
    Yannick Nézet-Séguin
    Sir András Schiff
  • Violin
    Lorenza Borrani, Leader
    Lucy Gould, Principal Second Violin
    Maia Cabeza, Principal Second Violin
    Sophie Besançon, Violin
    Fiona Brett, Violin
    Christian Eisenberger, Violin
    Benjamin Gilmore, Violin
    Matilda Kaul, Violin
    Hans Liviabella, Violin
    Stefano Mollo, Violin
    Fredrik Paulsson, Violin
    Joe Rappaport, Violin
    Håkan Rudner, Violin
    Henriette Scheytt, Violin
    Martin Walch, Violin
    Elizabeth Wexler, Violin
    Marieke Blankestijn, Associate Leader
    Ulrika Jansson, Violin (Associate)
    Iris Juda, Violin (Associate)
    Maria Kubizek, Violin (Associate)
    Mats Zetterqvist, Violin (Associate)
  • Viola
    Pascal Siffert, Principal Viola
    Nimrod Guez, Principal Viola
    Claudia Hofert, Viola
    Riikka Repo, Viola
    Dorle Sommer, Viola
    Wouter Raubenheimer, Viola
    Ida Grøn, Viola (Associate)
    Simone von Rahden, Viola (Associate)
    Stephen Wright, Viola (Associate)
  • Cello
    William Conway, Principal Cello
    Richard Lester, Principal Cello
    Luise Buchberger, Cello
    Kate Gould, Cello
    Tomas Djupsjöbacka, Cello
    Henrik Brendstrup, Cello (Associate)
    Kim Bak Dinitzen, Cello (Associate)
    Sally-Jane Pendlebury, Cello (Associate)
    Howard Penny, Cello (Associate)
  • Double Bass
    Enno Senft, Principal Double Bass
    Dane Roberts, Double Bass
    Håkan Ehrén, Double Bass (Associate)
  • Flute
    Clara Andrada de la Calle, Principal Flute
    Josine Buter, Flute
  • Oboe
    Philippe Tondre, Principal Oboe
    Rachel Frost, Oboe and Cor Anglais
  • Clarinet
    Romain Guyot, Principal Clarinet
    Marie Lloyd, Clarinet
  • Bassoon
    Matthew Wilkie, Principal Bassoon
    Christopher Gunia, Bassoon
  • Horn
    Jasper de Waal, Principal Horn
    Beth Randell, Horn
    Jan Harshagen, Horn (Associate)
    Peter Richards, Horn (Associate)
  • Trumpet
    Neil Brough, Principal Trumpet
    Julian Poore, Trumpet
  • Trombone
    Håkan Björkman, Principal Trombone (Associate)
    Helen Vollam, Trombone (Associate)
  • Bass Trombone
    Nicholas Eastop, Bass Trombone
  • Tuba
    Jens Bjørn-Larsen, Tuba (Associate)
  • Timpani
    John Chimes, Timpani
  • Management
    Peter Readman, Executive Chairman
    Simon Fletcher, General Manager
    Patrick McEntee, Tour and Stage Manager
    Coralia Galtier, Business Development Manager
    Giovanni Quaglia, Finance and Project Manager
    Norman Thomas, Accountant
  • Trustees
    Peter Readman, COE Executive Chairman
    James Judd, Conductor
    Michael Hoare, C.Hoare & Co
  • Advisers
    Stephen Wright, International Adviser, SWM
    Caroline Harding-Gelbard, Digital Strategy Adviser (Paperless Post)
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