Happy 40th birthday COE!
Dear friends, followers, listeners, supporters & fans!
On 18th May 2021, we celebrated a very significant anniversary for the COE – 40 years of wonderful music-making since that first launch concert at the Merchant Taylor’s Hall in London!
To commemorate this, every day for the 40 days before our birthday we have shared highlights and memories on our social media pages, in roughly chronological order, of our journey from a crazy idea to becoming the incredible orchestra we all know and love today. It was our “Countdown To Forty” and we have now published all the content on our website as well, since it is such a wonderful collection of memories.
We start with three images from our very first concert on the 18th of May 1981; two images of the concert programme, and one of an invitation card.
Many of the group of young and excited musicians you see here, none of whom could possibly imagine what the future had in store for the COE, were members for many years and some still are today.
Please listen to the first episode of our COE@40 special podcast series, presented by Simon Mundy here: The COE’s Genesis.
The text on this page has been entirely written by the COE’s bass trombonist, Nick Eastop.
Later in 1981, we performed in London’s brand new Barbican Hall months before its official opening! The event was officially an acoustical soundcheck for the benefit of the hall’s engineers and was made possible by the Barbican’s then managing director Henry Wrong’s friendship with COE Chairman Peter Readman (much more on this extraordinary man in coming posts!). We were allowed to invite a few friends to listen, and Peter made the most of the opportunity and invited 2000 friends, including many wealthy donors and influential figures in the arts! The performance was an important part of our kick-off campaign.
We leave our first year, 1981, with a quick mention of a great friend of the orchestra – Maurizio Pollini. In September he took us to the Rossini Opera Festival’s production of La Donna Del Lago, our first opera performance and first engagement outside of the UK. He performed regularly with us during our first years.
The biggest highlight of 1982 was our first major European tour with Claudio Abbado. Claudio was already one of the most sought- after conductors of the day, and by insisting to agents and concert-hall managers that if they wanted him then they were having us too, he put us on the map!
The images are of the Orchestra before the Merchant Taylors’ Hall concert, and of various concert programmes from that year.
In 1983 we toured Australia for the first time and appeared at the Edinburgh Festival with Alexander Schneider. His passion and total commitment to music made a great and lasting impression on us. We returned to Pesaro to perform & record La Donna Del Lago with Maurizio Pollini and we were also, according to our newsletter, struck by several blackouts in Cremona!
Already by 1984, it was clear that the “impossible” dream of establishing a new orchestra was becoming a reality. Exciting offers of wonderful tours and recording projects with the best conductors and soloists of the day were pouring in, and our reputation grew and grew.
No history of the COE would be complete without mentioning the man who enabled literally everything. The man who conceived a business structure that could work, put it in place, made it flourish, and allowed us to thrive until today. That man is Peter Readman, our Executive Chairman and much-loved guiding spirit. He keeps a low profile and works like a kind of “secret agent” (he even looks like one being the perfect combination of Sean Connery and Roger Moore!!) and it is no exaggeration to say that the COE would not have existed without him, even though he was initially reluctant to get involved but his wife Victoria persuaded him to give it a go.
From our 1984 newsletter:
“It hardly seems possible that 1984 is already drawing to a close; this has been a very active year in which the Orchestra has travelled widely, in particular throughout England and Italy, but with memorable visits to France, Germany, and Austria, and an unforgettable trip behind the iron curtain [Budapest]. We have been conducted by Claudio Abbado, Lorin Maazel, Sir Georg Solti, Alexander “Sascha” Schneider & James Judd. We have performed with Salvatore Accardo, James Galway and Maurizio Pollini. We have made recordings for ASV, CBS, Decca, EMI, RCA and Deutsche Grammophon.”
An especially important event for us in 1984, although we weren’t really aware of just how significant it would be until later, was the performances and recordings of Rossini’s Viaggio A Reims at the Rossini Opera Festival with Claudio.
The whole project was an utter joy from beginning to end! To start with, we were back in Pesaro, a town we’d become quite familiar with during earlier projects, perfectly situated on the Adriatic. Time off was spent on the beach, swimming, snorkeling, wind-surfing and having pedalo parties! We explored the surrounding countryside and absorbed the culture of such amazing places as Urbino, Ravenna, San Marino & Gubbio.
What really made this project so exceptional though, was Claudio Abbado. He was simply glorious! There was an aura surrounding him and we were all enthralled! It was obviously a happy time for him that he enjoyed a lot, he was relaxed & very social, spending a lot of his free time with us. But it was on the podium he became truly magical. His instinctive connection with the energy in the music, his exquisite control of those never-ending Rossini crescendi and accelerandi, his one-ness with both the singers and us was a masterful display of brilliantness delivered with ease, fun, warmth, yet with great authority over the days and days and days of rehearsals, performances and recordings.
Many of the images here were shared by members of the orchestra from their private archives, many thanks to them for that!
1985 was a big and incredibly exciting year! We were becoming a team, growing together and cultivating the total trust and appreciation of each other that we have on the platform – the COE sound was emerging!
We toured the USA – 13 concerts with Claudio Abbado, James Judd, and Alexander Schneider, we filmed a Rossini anniversary spectacular gala concert in Versailles with Montserrat Caballe, Marylin Horne and Samuel Ramey (we were dressed in period costume which made for a lot of fun photos!), we performed Mozart’s C minor Mass in the Alte Oper Frankfurt with Sir Georg Solti, Frederica von Stade and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, we had a series of concerts at the Lichfield Festival with Sir András Schiff, George Malcolm, Sándor Végh and Heinz Holliger, we toured Italy with Salvatore Accardo and wrapped up the year in all the finest European venues with Claudio Abbado, Rudolf Serkin and Margaret Price.
In 1986 we won our first Gramophone “Record of the Year” award, for our recording of Rossini’s Viaggio a Reims with Claudio Abbado & Deutsche Grammophon – DG. If you haven’t heard it, give it a listen! It is a stunning recording & you can hear that everyone involved is just having the time of their lives, it radiates carefree fun, and the joy is intoxicating!
Our relationship with Claudio was deepening and intensifying. We made our Salzburg Festival debut with him and Jessye Norman, performed with him and Sir András Schiff at the BBC Proms and the Edinburgh Festival, and in concert after concert we wowed not only the audience but ourselves: how did he/we do that?!! One of Claudio’s many talents was allowing the Orchestra great musical freedom during concerts, though very much still within his concept. His technique was so flawless that he could spontaneously react to a new impulse, magnify it, reflect it back into the Orchestra then beam it out to the transfixed audience – simply breathtaking skills! We loved every second of every performance!
1986 was also the year we had our first project with another giant in the Orchestra’s history: we performed Beethoven’s 5th and 6th symphonies in the Wiener Konzerthaus with Nikolaus Harnoncourt. We were immediately impressed by the depth of Nikolaus’s knowledge. He appeared to know all there was to know about Beethoven and his works, and every musical idea was somehow a reflection of the composer’s life or writings. We were utterly, utterly enthralled and we made it very clear that we wanted more. We got what we wanted!
In 1987 we were invited by Nikolaus Harnoncourt to perform at the Styriarte Festival in Graz for the first time. The all-Haydn program was a great success and kicked off a chain of appearances that continued for a further 29 seasons, collaborating with Nikolaus in everything from Schubert masses to Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess.
We toured Europe with Gidon Kremer performing Schnittke, Pärt, and all of Mozart’s violin concertos, this included a performance in Cologne’s newly opened Philharmonie, another venue we have returned to many, many times over the years.
Lorin Maazel conducted our second tour of the USA. We played Beethoven symphonies in New York’s Carnegie Hall, in the Boston Concert hall and many other venues down the east coast. On one evening, bad luck struck the oboe section. Dougie Boyd was sick and Mark Pledger our second oboe had to move up to fill the chair – a very stressful evening for poor Mark, who did a fabulous job. There was a party after, Lorin Maazel held a speech and praised Mark: “the void of Boyd was filled with Pledger!”.
Our dear friend Alexander Schneider took us on a tour of Italy with Mstislav Rostropovich and Erich Leindorf performed and recorded Strauss’ Couperin Suite and Bourgeois Gentilhomme with us in the Wiener Konzerthaus. We played in Finland with Paavo Berglund and Kyung-Wha Chung.
We also returned to the Salzburg Festival with Claudio Abbado and Alfred Brendel.
We did it again! 🍾 In 1988 we won our second Gramophone ‘Record of the Year’ award for our Schubert symphony cycle with Claudio Abbado for Deutsche Grammophon! By this time, of course, we knew Claudio incredibly well, his already verbally minimalistic rehearsal technique (why would Claudio need words when he could literally show everything he was thinking with his hands?) became even more pared-down allowing even more freedom and creativity. He appeared to enjoy making these recordings every bit as much as we did!
We also had a lovely period with him in Vienna, where Claudio was now music director of the Vienna State Opera, doing a fully staged performance of Schubert’s rarely performed opera Fierrabras in the Theater An der Wien. It was also recorded by DG. A parade of glorious melodies with a confusing and highly forgettable story, Fierrabras was a very happy time for us with Claudio on top form. Definitely worth a listen!
We visited Hong Kong for the first time, with Douglas Boyd and Oscar Shumsky, we returned to the USA with Sir András Schiff and toured Japan with Claudio and Maurizio Pollini. Tokyo was hit by a fairly powerful earthquake the night we were there and some of us woke up hitting the floor as we were rolled out of bed – others didn’t even notice!
That year’s Styriarte Festival programme, back in Graz with Nikolaus Harnoncourt, was a Schumann symphony cycle. Something clicked between the three of us and Harnoncourt/COE/Schumann tours were a frequent luxury for us after this.
Nikolaus came to Berlin with us later in the year, and along with Gidon Kremer we inaugurated our residency in the Kammermusiksaal der Philharmonie – a relationship that lasted until 2002.
The realisation came to us that, having had so many opportunities for practice, we were getting pretty good at parties!
1989. We now had a well-established and regular, heavy workload and were beginning to realise what kind of life we’d let ourselves in for – touring is tough (though we absolutely loved it!). We became keen to establish more residencies, temporary homes, where we could plonk ourselves down and do a series of concert programmes without the daily stress of airports, new hotels, delayed trains & small frustrations such as closed restaurants and “jobsworth” parking attendants who despite a whole busload of tired and irate musicians dismounting to plead, would not allow us to back into his parking lot to turn around costing us precious warm-up minutes! Imagine our excitement then, when the stunningly beautiful city of Ferrara in northern Italy invited us to become their first resident orchestra! Fittingly, our opening concert in the Teatro Comunale was with Claudio and Maria João Pires. What became the “Ferrara years”, were deeply satisfying for us – we had time to develop repertoire, establish new artist relationships, and even get to know each other better in a relaxed and harmonious environment. The COE was happy!
We undertook a major Bach project: performing and recording all of Bach’s keyboard concertos with Sir András Schiff.
Rudolf Barshai conducted performances and recordings (on DG) of his arrangements of the Shostakovich chamber symphonies.
The Harnoncourt/Graz concerts this year were a mass of Mozart 😉 symphonies (Nos. 29, 32, 34, 35, 36 and 38!) Nikolaus also conducted us at the BBC Proms with our very own Jonathan Williams as soloist in Mozart’s 4th horn concerto.
We ended the year with another extensive European tour with Claudio and Martha Argerich. The concerts often included Ravel’s piano concerto. Martha and Claudio seemed to be competing in who could scare each other the most with the fastest tempo, we would all come off the platform laughing in disbelief at the completely impossible speeds we’d just experienced!
In 1990 it was our Fierrabras recording’s turn to win a few prizes! It took home the Diapason d’Or 1990 and later the Prix Caecilia Brussels 1991, Orphée d’Or 1991, Internationaler Schallplattenpreis Frankfurt 1991 & Stella d’Oro 1991!
We’d dreamt for many years of performing and recording J.S Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, but we’d kept putting it off out of respect for the enormity of the task. This year though we had the courage to go ahead, with soloists from the Orchestra: Marieke Blankestijn, Thierry Fischer and Douglas Boyd. Deutsche Grammophon recorded it.
Our first performances with Sir Roger Norrington were in Berlin then London, including Haydn’s Creation, subsequently released by the recording label Profil.
Another enormous and somewhat intimidating task – recording all the Beethoven symphonies – was a project we started this year in Graz under the inspired guidance of Nikolaus Harnoncourt. All rehearsals with Nikolaus are informative, amusing and enlightening, but these were that multiplied by 100! That year in Graz Nikolaus was on fire! He was passionate, intense, crazily funny, extremely demanding, deeply respectful and grateful, and totally wonderful in just about every way! None of us involved in that project will ever forget those days and the following performances recorded live. It was a brilliant musical highlight in all our lives.
We were back at the Salzburg Festival this year, this time with Michael Tilson-Thomas, and once again with soloists from the Orchestra: Matthew Wilkie in Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto and Douglas Boyd in Strauss’s Oboe Concerto.
We had concerts in Berlin with Sandor Végh and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau singing Mozart’s songs.
Another highlight of this year came near the end, a live recording and TV broadcast of choral pieces by Schubert, Schumann and Bruckner with Claudio Abbado at the Musikverein in Vienna.
It was with some considerable shock that we realised ten years had passed, and the COE was still going strong! It was extraordinary to realise that the COE had gone from something we thought we’d do for fun once in a while, to become our main source of work!
That year the International Mozart Festival commemorated the 200th anniversary of the composer’s death. The festival launched with a series of COE concerts conducted by Sir Georg Solti. We performed The Marriage of Figaro in London, Paris, Frankfurt and Vienna.
We were honoured to be chosen to perform Mozart’s last three symphonies (39, 40 and 41) at the Musikverein in Vienna on the very anniversary of his death. Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducted and they were recorded by Teldec.
We rounded up our Beethoven symphony cycle with live recordings of performances of Symphony No. 9 at the Barbican Centre in London and in Graz. Then the engineers headed off into the editing room to prepare what would become the most significant recording of the COE to date: the boxed set of Beethoven symphonies with Nikolaus Harnoncourt literally took the world by storm, selling over a million copies, and is still the benchmark that all new recordings of those works are compared to.
Plenty of time in Ferrara meant that we had time to train our football team into a formidable opponent for the local teams, they had no answer to our secret weapon: Iris Juda! Also in Ferrara we performed and recorded Mendelssohn’s symphonies with Harnoncourt.
A six-part documentary series about us was broadcast on UK television (Channel 4).
We returned to Japan with a Schubert symphony cycle with Claudio and Murray Perahia as soloist in all the Beethoven Piano Concertos. After the last concert in Tokyo, we were relaxing in the hotel bar when Claudio popped in on his way to the airport. As he was leaving he handed over the key to his room and suggested that, as he wasn’t using it any more, we move from the crowded bar up to his spacious top-floor suite with grand piano, jacuzzi and terrace! A few minutes later half the Orchestra was having a great time, enjoying the luxurious suite and settling in for a long party. Just as we were getting into the swing of things, the door open and a team of cleaners arrived – the room was only booked until midnight!! Claudio was almost certainly unaware of this – he probably didn’t book his own hotel rooms!
Our Beethoven symphony cycle recordings with Nikolaus Harnoncourt were released this year to universal critical acclaim! It was voted Gramophone Magazine’s ‘1992 Record of the Year’ and went on to win every other major international award.
Nikolaus’s main aspiration with these performance/recordings, was not “authenticity”, but to somehow provoke the same amazement and shock in the audience that he believed the audience at the first performances would have experienced. To achieve this he pushed the envelope of what we thought possible in these works in every way, with cataclysmic energy, intensity, and dynamic range. Another favourite technique he would often use (in all repertoire) was to lift underlying dance rhythms up to the surface – who would have thought one could dance a jig to Ode To Joy?! He demonstrated in rehearsal that it works very well!!
It was Rossini’s bi-centenary year. Together with Claudio we were invited to launch the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro with a re-run of our mega-success Viaggio a Reims!
We also performed Viaggio in Ferrara that year, along with The Barber of Seville with Placido Domingo. DG recorded it.
We opened that year’s Salzburg Festival with Nikolaus, and Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis. For Nikolaus personally, this concert and live recording was a hugely important event and he put everything he had into the crafting of a sensational performance – he was meticulous with every detail, and we learned a lot. For example, the importance of knowing, and “playing”, the texts of choral works on our instruments. The emotional impact on the audience was clearly noticeable, not least on Claudio Abbado who sat in the public and was moved to tears.
In 1993 we performed and recorded Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with our Leader Marieke Blankestijn.
Claudio Abbado conducted works by Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Haydn with soloists Radu Lupu and Maria João Pires. DG recorded them.
Back in Graz, we record live performances of all four Schumann symphonies with Nikolaus Harnoncourt.
We toured all the premiere venues of Europe with Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Gidon Kremer.
As we were spending so much time in Ferrara, somebody came up with the surprising idea that the deconsecrated and empty convent of Santo Spirito, a stone’s throw from the theatre, could be converted into flats for the Orchestra to live in! It sounded like a dream come true and we were told the flats would be permanently at our disposal! The building work was done and we arrived in the city excited to move into our new homes. It was winter and very damp and cold. The stone floors, walls, bathrooms, while lovely to look at, were also very, very cold. The building had incredibly lively acoustics as well – the merest whisper uttered in one room seemed to get magically amplified and spread into all the other rooms! The quadrangle was however a serene oasis and we loved the place. Economic reality set in not long after though, the city realised the absurdity of having the building unused for much of the time and the flats were repurposed into student accommodation.
Marieke Blankestijn’s recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with the COE is announced as Gramophone Magazine’s ‘first choice’.
Everyone wanted to hear us perform Beethoven symphonies with Harnoncourt. The Salzburg festival couldn’t get enough, so this year we did the entire cycle there twice! The concerts are acclaimed as ‘superlative’, ‘impeccable’ and ‘unparalleled’ – and that is pretty much how we’d describe Nikolaus’s work with these programs! It was a huge privilege to work with such an authority and our admiration for Nikolaus’s interpretations grew and grew. There was, however, a “danger” in performing with Nikolaus – his reasonings for why the music should be just “so”, were so convincing and supported by such thorough research, that it always felt like you just made the definitive performance of that work! He was a hard act to follow!
Back “home” in Ferrara with Claudio again, we performed The Marriage of Figaro.
Another Mozart opera takes us to London, Cologne, Stuttgart and Paris: Cosi Fan Tutte, with Sir Georg Solti, Anne-Sophie Von Otter and Renee Fleming. Anne-Sophie and Renee’s duets gripped our hearts – truly magical moments never to be forgotten.
It was hot in Graz this year. Very hot indeed, and the Stefaniensaal’s air-conditioning was no match for the soaring temperatures. It was understandable then that both audience and Orchestra struggled to stifle laughter when Leonore declared in one of the dungeon scenes of Beethoven’s Fidelio – “it’s so cold”!!
In 1995, the 75th anniversary season of the Salzburg Festival opens with the COE performing Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt. He chose, and adamantly defended, some rather controversial tempos – the overture causing particular comment by being exceptionally slow!
The Orchestra’s recording of Cosi fan Tutte with Sir Georg Solti is released, and described in The Times as ‘eclipsing all other recent versions’.
We perform The Barber of Seville with Claudio Abbado in Ferrara. Also in Ferrara, soloists from the Orchestra perform Bach’s Brandenburg concertos and the concerto for violin and oboe.
At the Styriarte Festival in Graz, with Nikolaus Harnoncourt, we perform Schumann’s symphonies and Schubert’s Masses in Eb and Ab. They were recorded by Teldec.
We travel to Finland again for concerts and recording of the Sibelius symphonies with Paavo Berglund for Finlandia and make our first major European tour with Herbert Blomstedt.
The extraordinary success of our Beethoven symphony recordings with Nikolaus Harnoncourt, lead to great demand for live performances. In 1996 we visited New York to perform the cycle in the Carnegie Hall – to standing ovations.
We recorded Haydn’s cello concerto and sinfonia concertante with Steven Isserlis and Sir Roger Norrington.
We toured northern Italy with Claudio Abbado and Luciano Pavarotti.
Harnoncourt’s Marriage of Figaro was such a success at the Salzburg Festival, that we went back this year to do it again!
At both the Salzburg and Berlin festivals, we perform cycles of Schubert symphonies and a selection of his songs. Claudio Abbado conducted soloists Anne-Sofie von Otter, Thomas Quasthoff and Bryn Terfel.
At the Vienna Festival, we perform and record Schubert’s opera, Alfonso & Estrella, with Nikolaus Harnoncourt.
This year’s project in Graz for the Styriarte Festival is a double-cycle of the Brahms symphonies with Nikolaus, to celebrate the centenary of Brahms’ death.
A tour to London, Frankfurt, Brussels, Paris and Amsterdam kicked off our long and fruitful relationship with Bernard Haitink.
We toured Italy with Carlo Maria Giulini playing Schubert’s “Great” C major symphony.
Emmanuel Krivine conducted and Martha Argerich was the soloist on a tour of Japan.
In Ferrara, we had a fabulous time performing and recording Mozart’s Don Giovanni with Claudio Abbado, Simon Keenlyside and Bryn Terfel.
We had a bit of a party, as we often do during longer projects. In those days that meant somebody would perform something. This evening it seemed like half the Orchestra was involved in the entertainment, there was jazz, song, dance – and then the main event: a short parody of Don Giovanni! In our bizarre version, the story was mostly concerned with the problems associated with excessive smoking! The dramatic climax was to have been when Martin Walch was wheeled in on a serving trolley, covered by a blanket and miming to Bryn Terfel, who would sing the Commendatore’s statue aria from behind a curtain. It all made perfect sense at the time… In the heat of the moment though, Bryn’s stage instincts kicked in and he burst out onto the stage and unsurprisingly, completely stole the show! As you can imagine, this created a certain ambiguity about Martin’s role, but he took it very well as you can see in the photos. Another incredible moment was Howard Penny’s “Queen of the Night” aria, a truly stunning performance that left an indelible impression on all of us who witnessed it!
In 1998 the release of our “glorious, inspirational, phenomenal, wholly magisterial” recordings of the Sibelius symphonies with Paavo Berglund coincides with performances at the Helsinki and Edinburgh International Festivals.
Early summer was as usual spent in Graz with Nikolaus Harnoncourt, this year we performed Schumann’s Paradies und die Peri.
Our collaboration with Paavo continues later in the year with tours of both the Sibelius and Brahms symphonies. We loved Paavo! His was a very genuine and deeply felt musicianship, communicated to us with great humanity, warmth and subtle humour – which was often a relief because, to be honest, he could look a bit scary!!
In 1999 we toured Europe with Herbert Blomstedt and Christian Tetzlaff and a programme of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.
Sir András Schiff played and directed programs of Mozart with us in Edinburgh and Zurich.
In Graz we performed Brahms, Schumann, Mendelssohn and Wagner. Nikolaus would often conjure up odd images to illustrate how he wanted particular passages to sound. We had to think long and hard though, on what he meant exactly when he said to the violas – “can you take a one-ton chewing gum out of the mouth of a hippopotamus?”!!🤪
Nikolaus Harnoncourt was 70 this year. He celebrated with us on a long European tour, ending on his actual birthday in the Musikverein in Vienna.
In the year 2000, the Daily Telegraph writes that the COE provides audiences with a ‘breathtaking display of European harmony’.
We toured Europe with Paavo Berglund performing all four Brahms symphonies which we then recorded. The tour went well. We and our audiences loved Paavo’s Brahms as well as the regular encore of Sibelius’ Valse Triste that Paavo performed with such subtlety that it almost hurt – when we arrived in Palma De Mallorca for our concert there, it didn’t take us long to spot that the date on the posters for our concert was a day late! That night we performed (complete with encore!) to an audience considerably smaller than the Orchestra!!
For some of us, this year’s project in Graz was one of our all-time COE highlights! We performed and recorded Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances with Nikolaus Harnoncourt. We were already well aware that he was verging on being obsessed by dance rhythms, so naturally, this repertoire, firmly rooted in the musical environment he grew up in was something he reveled in! His connection to the dance, his instinctive feel for the melody, a clear fascination with syncopations and limitless energy, made these concerts some of the most thrilling we ever did with him!
We tour Japan again with Emmanuel Krivine, Martha Argerich, Mischa Maisky and Akiko Suwanai.
In 2001 we celebrated twenty years of COE by releasing our Brahms symphony recordings with Paavo Berglund!
We also helped Alfred Brendel celebrate his 70th birthday with concerts in Brussels, Cologne, Frankfurt and Freiburg.
The Wigmore Hall had its 100th birthday this year and we performed there with Sir András Schiff to celebrate!
This year’s appearance at the Styriarte in Graz with Nikolaus Harnoncourt was a programme of Dvorak, Bartok and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto no.2 with Pierre-Laurent Aimard.
Later in the year, we toured Europe with Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Cecilia Bartoli with a Mozart and Beethoven programme.
In 2002 our recordings of Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances with Nikolaus Harnoncourt, are shortlisted by Gramophone magazine as ‘Orchestral Record of the Year 2002’.
A Financial Times review declares that ‘the COE deserves to be renamed The Best Orchestra in Europe’.
Sir András Schiff plays and directs the Schumann piano concerto and Janacek’s Capriccio in Santander, at the BBC Proms in London and at both the Edinburgh & Lucerne festivals.
We were all deeply moved when Claudio Abbado, battling with his illness, came to Paris with us to perform Schubert’s Great C Major symphony, the “Unfinished” and a selection of his songs with Anne-Sofie von Otter and Thomas Quasthoff. Claudio’s intense emotional connection to the music was stronger than ever, and these extraordinarily powerful performances gripped our hearts. We were unaware at the time that these filmed concerts, recorded by Deutsche Grammophon, would be our last ever meeting with our beloved Claudio – a man who meant so much to all of us.
This year’s “Graz”: two programmes of Beethoven and Schubert (the Great C major again!) with Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Pierre-Laurent Aimard.
Later in the year we toured in Europe with Sir Charles Mackerras and Magdalena Kozena, and made our first visit to Vilnius with Paavo Berglund.
2003. We received a Grammy award for our Schubert Songs CD, recorded live in Paris the previous year with Claudio Abbado, Anne-Sofie von Otter and Thomas Quasthoff.
This year’s “Graz” included concert performances of Beethoven’s Rondo for piano and orchestra with Pierre-Laurent Aimard, the choral fantasy in C for choir (the Arnold Schoenberg Chor), piano and orchestra, as well as a fully staged production of Offenbach’s delightfully bonkers operetta La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein (for which we were all dressed up in military uniform!). It was also the year of Nikolaus and Alice’s golden wedding anniversary – and this seems like an appropriate moment to mention what an exceptional team they were! Alice was present for literally every single rehearsal (and performance!) we ever had with Nikolaus and particularly in the early days, he would frequently turn around to her in the hall to ask her opinion about what she’d just heard. He often mentioned his “extra ears” in the hall during rehearsals and the love & respect between them was clearly enormous. On the actual day of their anniversary, there was to be a service in the church (lead by Nikolaus’s brother Philipp) then a private reception for the family. As there was a great deal of affection for Nikolaus and Alice in the Orchestra, quite a large group of us decided to go to the service to show our respect. Afterwards, Nikolaus caught sight of us in the congregation and his eyes nearly popped out of his head! He came over, and clearly very emotional with tears in his eyes said that he was amazed and extremely moved to see us there on our day-off, and insisted that we all come to the family party! It was a lovely day!
We made our first tours to Paris, Cologne and London with Mitsuko Uchida and also toured Europe with Murray Perahia.
In 2004 the COE became the first resident orchestra at the Salzburg Mozartwoche with conductors Philippe Jordan and Adam Fischer.
We toured Europe with Sir András Schiff performing both Mendelssohn’s Piano Concertos.
We performed in London & Utrecht with Mitsuko Uchida and a programme of Mozart and Dvorak.
This year’s “Graz” programmes were the Beethoven triple concerto with Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Thomas Zehetmair and Clemens Hagen, and Schubert’s An Schwager Kronos, Memnon & Rosamunde, all conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt. Rehearsals with Nikolaus were a marvellous combination of intense concentration and creativity – and amusement at his stories and surreal illustrative metaphors. Very occasionally his non-native English would provoke a giggle, and he would always ask for an explanation. He made us all raise an eyebrow one morning when he announced “I wish to give you afternoon joy!”, his way of telling us the afternoon rehearsal was cancelled!
In the autumn we visited the USA again, performing Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto no.5, Mendelssohn’s piano concerto and symphony no.5 in the Carnegie Hall and the Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco with Sir András Schiff.
In 2005 we were all a bit star-struck when meeting Kenneth Branagh and Stephen Fry during the recording sessions for the soundtrack to their film of Mozart’s Magic Flute! James Conlon conducted.
We played the world premiere of Thomas Adès’ violin concerto with the composer conducting and Anthony Marwood as soloist.
We toured Japan, our fifth trip there, with Akiko Suwanai and François Leleux, playing Bach’s Concertos, following their recording of Bach’s works for oboe and violin earlier in the year.
Sir András Schiff played and directed an all Haydn programme in Budapest, Mitsuko Uchida played and directed a Mozart/Schoenberg programme in London, Cologne and Amsterdam.
This year’s “Graz” – a fully-staged performance of Carmen! Nikolaus explained to the choir how they should make a hurried, yet nuanced entrance to the stage thus: “make haste, make haste, and bring whatever you have under your shirt!”. We also recorded Mozart piano concertos with Pierre-Laurent Aimard.
In 2006 the COE is twenty-five years old and we can hardly believe that the time has passed so quickly or that we’d survived so long! Our 25th-anniversary concert at the Queen Elisabeth Hall (Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique) and Cadogan Hall with Douglas Boyd and Marieke Blankestijn (The Lark Ascending and Beethoven’s 5th Symphony) are broadcast by BBC Radio 3.
The Daily Telegraph headlines us as the “The best chamber orchestra in the world”– a comment repeated in many articles during the year.
We play the opening concert of the Salzburg Festival with Marc Minkowski, celebrating the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth.
We performed at Lisbon’s Gulbenkian Foundation with Sir András Schiff, the starting point of a 3-year residency.
This year’s “Graz” – performances of Schumann’s Scenes from Faust with Nikolaus Harnoncourt and special COE birthday concert featuring Douglas Boyd and François Leleux.
In 2007 the COE is appointed as a Cultural Ambassador for the European Union, and we are invited to perform at the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome in a special concert in the Luxemburg Philharmonie.
Sir András Schiff, Heinz Holliger and Thomas Zehetmair are the soloists in Mozart’s Gran Partita and Heinz conducts the Berg Kammerkonzert when we return to the Salzburg Mozartwoche.
This year’s Graz: performances and DVD recording of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 and Mass in C with Nikolaus Harnoncourt. Wanting once again to make Beethoven’s 5th symphony hit the public with the same guttural impact as he believed the first-ever performance did, Nikolaus pushed the intensity of the performance off the radar! He urged us to give all the energy we could and to do so entirely without caution. He loved the edgy riskiness, the ecstatic terror of being on the limit of what was possible, “the greatest beauty is found on the edge of catastrophe” he would say. The concerts were relayed live on screens in public places all over Austria.
In 2008 our residency at the Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon kicked off with a Haydn, Bach Mozart programme with sparks flying in all directions when we played with Yannick Nézet-Séguin for the first time!
At the Lucerne Festival, we began a Beethoven symphony cycle with Bernard Haitink. Bernard has described this music-making with us as the greatest gift of the late stage of his career, and from then on until his retirement he returned to us frequently for many wonderful projects!
We receive the 2008 MIDEM Classical Download award.
This year’s Graz: Mozart piano concertos and a programme of Carter, Boulez and Messiaen with soloist and director Pierre-Laurent Aimard.
Vladimir Ashkenazy conducts and Valeriy Sokolov is the soloist in DVD recordings of works by Sibelius and Schumann.
We perform Schumann’s 2nd symphony and the Mendelssohn piano concert with Sir András Schiff in Budapest and Dublin.
We end the year with a tour of Spain with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Janine Jansen. This was a wonderful trip! Janine swept us all up with her astonishing power and we felt a very nice vibe indeed from the amazingly energetic, mercurial and totally lovable Yannick!
In 2009, the first of two visits to the USA this year was for concerts with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Douglas Boyd conducting, in a bitingly icy -30° Minnesota! We warmed up together with Dougie again, in balmy Lisbon with Haydn’s Creation.
Our first tour with Vladimir Jurowski included concerts at the Cité de la musique and DVD recording of Strauss’s Bourgeois Gentilhomme Suite and Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G with Hélène Grimaud.
At the Lucerne Festival, we continued our Beethoven symphony cycle with Bernard Haitink. Bernard and his wife Patricia started the popular and highly appreciated tradition of inviting the entire orchestra back to their house for a dinner party during the festival!
This year’s Graz: in an unexpected and brilliant leap out of his “comfort zone”, Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducted five performances and a recording of Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess. The performances fulfilled a dream he’d had since hearing his father play the score (sent from America by his brother who was friends with Gershwin) on the piano at home when Nikolaus was 5 years old!
Back in the USA, we performed at New York’s Mostly Mozart Festival for the first time. Pierre-Laurent Aimard directed programs of Haydn, Ligeti, Stockhausen, Mozart. A major European tour based on the same repertoire followed.
We were invited to perform at a private ceremony in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the European Central Bank at the Alte Oper in Frankfurt. The audience included José Manuel Barroso & Angela Merkel.
A lovely way to end the year was welcoming Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Lisa Batiashvili back to perform Beethoven’s violin concerto and Mendelssohn’s 5th Symphony in Toulouse and Basel.
In 2010 we did our first online streamed concerts on the Cité de la Musique’s, Arte TV’s and Radio France’s websites.
We returned to the Gulbenkian Foundation for a Brahms/Schumann programme with Sir András Schiff, and performances and DVD recording of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis with John Nelson.
We released three DVDs: Harnoncourt and the COE playing Beethoven at the 2007 Styriarte Festival, Jurowski/Grimaud/COE playing Strauss and Ravel and Ashkenazy/Sokolov/COE playing Schumann and Sibelius.
We tour the USA and appear in New York’s Mostly Mozart Festival again with Pierre-Laurent Aimard.
We played Schumann and Prokofiev with Lisa Batiashvili & Sakari Oramo.
This year’s Graz: performances and DVD recording of Smetana’s Má Vlast with Nikolaus Harnoncourt.
We toured Europe with Yannick Nézet-Séguin with a Schubert, Brahms, Schumann program, and having finished our Beethoven symphony cycle with Bernard Haitink at the Lucerne Festival, we move on to the next chapter: a Brahms symphony cycle!
We end the year in Ferrara, Turin and Paris with Joshua Bell and Vladimir Jurowski performing Tchaikovsky and Schubert.
We got started early in 2011: on the 1st of January we were in Budapest to perform Haydn’s Creation with Adam Fischer.
We celebrated the COE’s 30th anniversary with a private concert for all our Friends, sponsors and supporters in St John Smith’s Square, London.
We toured Europe with Vladimir Ashkenazy and François Leleux with Strauss’ Oboe Concerto and Schumann Symphony No. 4
We appeared at the BBC Proms performing Brahms’s 3rd and 4th symphonies and 1st & 2nd Piano Concertos with Bernard Haitink and Emanuel Ax. BBC Two Television broadcast one of the concerts & described the COE as “the finest chamber orchestra in the world”.
At the Lucerne Festival, we rounded off our Brahms cycle with Bernard Haitink and moved on to a Beethoven symphony cycle in Amsterdam and Paris. By now our relationship with Bernard had deepened into a very warm, trusting and creative partnership. For many of us who grew up going to Bernard’s concerts and listening to his recordings, working with him was a dream come true! We continually marveled at the economy of his technique – with the slightest gesture, a moment of eye contact, a tiny wave of a finger, he made it perfectly clear what he was thinking. His aim was always to be the enabler, to be in control yes, but to give us everything we needed to feel the freedom, security, and contact necessary to let the magic happen!
This year’s Graz: a semi-staged production and DVD recording of Smetana’s opera Die Verkaufte Braut. Pierre-Laurent Aimard directed Mozart programs and Lorenza directed a performance of Saint-Saëns Carnival of the Animals. The DVD of Smetana’s Má Vlast with Nikolaus Harnoncourt recorded the previous year was released.
In 2012, Ades, Sibelius and Berlioz were on the program at Lisbon’s Gulbenkian Foundation, conducted by Thomas Ades.
We completed our Beethoven Cycle in Amsterdam and Paris with Bernard Haitink.
András Schiff lead us on another European tour playing Haydn, Schubert & Schumann.
This year’s “Graz!”: Dvorak’s Stabat Mater with Nikolaus Harnoncourt. The DVD’s of Smetana’s Bartered Bride with Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis with John Nelson were released.
Deutsche Grammophon recorded two of this year’s projects with Yannick Nézet-Séguin: Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte in Baden-Baden and Schumann’s Symphonies in Paris.
Yannick also met us in New York, along with Lisa Batiashvili performing Mozart, Beethoven & Mendelssohn at the Mostly Mozart Festival.
Jean-Yves Thibaudet was the soloist in concerts of Ravel and Mozart at the Lucerne Piano Festival with Bernard Haitink.
Together with Herbert Blomstedt, we toured Europe with a Beethoven programme and Leonidas Kavakos conducted Schubert’s Great C major symphony in Dijon.
In 2013, Gérard Korsten conducted a fully-staged production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni at the Opéra de Dijon.
We performed all 4 Brahms symphonies in Frankfurt’s Alte Oper with Bernard Haitink.
We celebrated Britten’s centenary with Ryan Wigglesworth and Ian Bostridge in Cologne.
It was Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw’s jubilee year and Bernard Haitink celebrated with us in a concert there with Janine Jansen, Renaud and Gautier Capuçon.
The CDs of Mozart’s Cosi fan Tutte with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto and Quintet with Romain Guyot (COE principal clarinet) were released.
We appeared in two concerts at the Edinburgh Festival with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and soloists from the Orchestra.
This year’s Graz: a semi-staged production of Offenbach’s Bluebeard and concerts with Pierre-Laurent Aimard. During the frequently hilarious rehearsals for Bluebeard, Nikolaus Harnoncourt tried to inject a little trepidation into our playing by informing us that “he has dead bodies in his cellar – and that is not unusual!!”. He reveled in the dance-like swing of the music and appeared obsessed with getting just the right feeling in the many oom-pah sections. “The oom should be long, and the PAH! like a rat biting your nose!” Tragically these typically colourful words were among the last he ever said to us. Nikolaus became ill, and there was no Graz the following year. A group of us visited him at his home to work on the Beethoven Septet in 2014, and a Graz period was indeed planned for 2015, but Nikolaus was too ill and cancelled.
We loved Nikolaus, he was a wonderful friend, and he changed the COE forever. We totally absorbed everything he told us and his way became the COE way.
In 2014 we toured Europe with Vladimir Jurowski and Christian Tetzlaff, performing works by Schubert, Webern, and Beethoven.
We visited Aix-en-Provence to play at the Festival de Pâques with Martha Argerich.
We played three concerts at the Aldeburgh Festival with conductors and soloists including Oliver Knussen, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, and Thomas Zehetmair.
We celebrated Bernard Haitink’s 85th birthday at every chance we had this year, and there were many! We performed a Schumann symphony cycle with him in Lucerne, there was more Schumann at two special concerts in London with Isabelle Faust and Jean-Yves Thibaudet, then Brahms programmes with Emanuel Ax in Amsterdam and Paris.
Our recordings of the Schumann Symphony Cycle with Yannick Nézet-Séguin by Deutsche Grammophon are released on CD. EMI released recordings of works by Bach and Vasks with the COE and Renaud Capuçon.
We spent a wonderful couple of weeks in lovely Baden-Baden performing and recording Mozart’s Entführung aus dem Serail with Yannick Nézet-Séguin. There was a fancy dress party…
Janine Jansen was the soloist and Lorenza Borrani lead and directed a program of Schnittke, Ravel and Mozart in Germany, France and Holland.
In 2015 we were back at the Salzburg Mozartwoche with Pierre-Laurent Aimard for concerts of Mozart and Carter. We dropped in on old friends in Ferrara, along with Emmanuel Krivine, Schumann’s 2nd Symphony and Joshua Bell who played the Brahms violin concerto – a programme we then took to Paris for our first visit to the newly opened Philharmonie.
Sir András Schiff directed the Bartok piano concert No.3 on a tour of Italy.
Vladimir Jurowski and Radu Lupu were with us in a program of Mozart, Martinu and Janacek on our first performance in Bordeaux’s newly opened Auditorium!
The summer was Yannick’s: we toured Germany and then landed in Baden-Baden for another Mozart opera project: The Marriage of Figaro – live performances and a recording for DG. DG released the previous year’s recording of Entführung aus dem Serail to critical acclaim.
This year’s Graz: Dvorak’s Symphony No.8 and his symphonic poem The Golden Spinning Wheel. We hoped right up until the last minute that Nikolaus Harnoncourt would be well enough to join us, sadly he cancelled at the last minute. But… he was replaced with Karina Canellakis so we had a lovely time anyway!
The Last Sausage. Part of our life in Graz for many years were late-night meetings at the Wurstelstand (Sausage Stall) in the main square. We suspected this year would be our last chance, so we made the most of it on our last evening there!
In August we teamed up with Sakari Oramo in Turku for a Sibelius symphony cycle, then headed off to the Lucerne Festival and the BBC Proms with Bernard Haitink and Maria João Pires playing Mozart’s piano concerto No.23 and Schubert’s Great C major symphony.
We visited Oviedo and Lisbon’s Gulbenkian Foundation with Leonidas Kavakos playing the Beethoven violin concerto and conducting the Eroica Symphony.
We finished the year with Bernard Haitink in Amsterdam, Lugano and Vienna with a Schumann symphony cycle and Schumann concertos with Gautier Capuçon and Murray Perahia as soloists.
2016 started with a major Yannick Nézet-Séguin/Mendelssohn project: a symphony cycle with performances in Ferrara, Dortmund, Luxemburg and live recordings in the Philharmonie de Paris.
We toured Italy with Sir Antonio Pappano and François Leleux.
Vladimir Jurowski returned, and with Patricia Kopatchinskaya as soloist, we performed a programme of Weinberg, Prokofiev and Beethoven in Brescia, Bergamo, Bologna, Bordeaux and some other cities that didn’t start with the letter B.
We celebrated our 35th birthday with one of our closest friends, Sir András Schiff, with a private concert of Mendelssohn at St. John, Smith’s Square London, and then toured Europe with the same programme.
Yannick joined us again at the Salzburg Festival where we performed Haydn’s Creation.
Back at the Lucerne Festival with Bernard Haitink, we played two programmes of Dvorak including the cello concerto with Alicia Weilerstein, symphonies 9 & 7, and the violin concerto with Isabelle Faust. We also performed a Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven programme with Leonidas Kavakos and Raminta Serksnyte’s De Profundis and Beethoven’s 6th with Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla.
Sir Roger Norrington took us to Locarno and Schloss Esterházy with a Beethoven/Haydn programme.
After an education project and a concert at the Singapore International Festival of Music, we toured Japan with pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii playing Mozart concertos directed by Lorenza Borrani.
We ended the year in Treviso and Paris with Vladimir Jurowski and Piotr Anderszewski.
2017 started in Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, with programmes of Mozart and Schubert with Bernard Haitink, Kristian Bezuidenhout (Mozart piano concerto No.23) and Alina Ibragimova (Mozart violin concerto No.3).
At the Salzburg Mozartwoche, Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducted Beethoven’s 1st symphony and Jean-Guihen Queyras was the soloist in Haydn’s 1st cello concerto.
One of our closest old friends, Sir András Schiff, who has been with us almost right from the start (the first time was in 1985!) joined us at the Festival de Pâques in Aix-en-Provence for a programme of Bach, Bartok and Brahms.
We made our first appearance at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, featuring Renaud Capuçon and soloists from the COE.
With Lorenza directing and Piotr Anderszewski at the piano, we perform Bartók, Mozart, Janácek & Beethoven in Budapest, Frankfurt, Bregenz, Ferrara and at Schloss Esterhazy.
Readers will no doubt have noticed our developing relationship with Yannick Nézet-Séguin – he joined us once again in Baden-Baden this year and continued our Mozart opera series with performances and a recording for DG of La Clemenza di Tito. Yannick’s contribution to the Orchestra had become so substantial, and our friendship so dear, that we invited him to join Nikolaus & Alice Harnoncourt, Sir András Schiff and Bernard Haitink as an Honorary Member of The Chamber Orchestra of Europe!
Our CD box-set of the Mendelssohn symphonies with Yannick, recorded at the Philharmonie de Paris in February 2016 is released.
Performing at the Proms in London is always special, but it’s particularly nice when a Proms favourite, Bernard Haitink, enters the platform and the roof lifts off before we even play a note! This year we played Schumann’s 2nd symphony, Mozart’s 38th, and the violin concerto No.3 with Isabelle Faust.
At the Lucerne Festival, we perform Mahler’s Rückert Lieder & Des Knaben Wunderhorn with Anna Lucia Richter, Christian Gerhaher and Bernard Haitink.
The heat of Dubai made a welcome change to Europe’s November weather when we arrived there with Robin Ticciati and Christian Tetzlaff for an all-Beethoven programme and our first concerts in the new Dubai Opera.
We performed the Mahler program with Bernard again, this time in Amsterdam and Luxembourg, before moving on to Paris and Toulouse with Renaud Capuçon, Nicholas Collon and a program of Shostakovich, Beethoven and Bernstein.
In 2018 we toured with Yuja Wang for the first time. She played and directed Beethoven’s piano concerto No.1 on a tour of Italy and Spain. To say that Yuja and the Orchestra “clicked” would be something of an understatement! We admired her sensitive musicianship and her clear and deep-rooted interpretations, she was a lot of fun to hang out with too and we became very close. By the end of the tour it was clear that a strong bond had formed!
We made our first appearance at the Musica-Musika Festival in Bilbao with conductor Matthias Pintscher and Clara Andrada de la Calle as a soloist in Nielsen’s Flute Concerto.
We visited South Korea for the first time, had a great time exploring the exciting city of Seoul and played two concerts at the recently opened Lotte Hall with Leonidas Kavakos.
Sir Antonio Pappano, Lisa Batiashvili and Veronika Eberle toured Italy, Switzerland and France with us and a program of Ligeti and Brahms.
Pierre-Laurent Aimard joined us again at the Musica Viva Festival in Munich, performing works by Elliott Carter, George Benjamin, Enno Poppe and Gyorgy Ligeti.
Brahms’ 3rd symphony with Yannick Nézet-Séguin (concerts in Oviedo, Toulouse, Dortmund & Cologne) was so sensational that both he and we were left hungry for more: watch this space!
This year’s Baden-Baden: performances and a recording for DG of Mozart’s Magic Flute with Yannick and an all-star cast of soloists. A joyful period playing joyful music with a joyful conductor!
The Lucerne Festival provided us with a real treat this year – two of our dearest friends on the platform together with us: Sir András Schiff and Bernard Haitink in a Beethoven programme.
We launched our partnership with the Kronberg Academy at their 25th-anniversary concert with Gidon Kremer, Vilde Frang, Christian Tetzlaff, Istvan Vardai and Yuri Bashmet.
In 2019 we were once again at the Salzburg Mozartwoche. This time with Robin Ticciati, Louise Alder and Magdalen Kozena.
We made our first appearance at the Klara Festival in Belgium with Pierre-Laurent Aimard, David Afkham and Vilde Frang.
We toured Italy, France and Switzerland with Leonidas Kavakos playing and conducting Mozart’s violin concerto no.3, “Paris” symphony, and Beethoven’s Eroica.
Bernard Haitink was 90 this year and announced that it would be his final season. Having celebrated him with a series of special concerts, our last ever concert with Bernard – a very emotional event for all of us – was in Lucerne in August. Bernard once said about us “Of all the ensembles I work with, they are on top. It is a group of wonderful musicians… the COE has influenced me enormously and therefore it is sort of a healing retreat for me. I love making music together”. We loved it too Bernard! More than we’ll ever be able to tell you! Thank you.
Janine Jansen played the Szymanowski violin concerto no.1 with us and Sir Antonio Pappano on a tour of the Netherlands, Italy and Germany. We also played Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll and one of our all-time favourites – Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances!
We started our Beethoven piano concerto cycle with Rudolf Buchbinder at the Grafenegg Festival and were featured at the Settimane Musicali Festival in Italy with Francesco Piemontesi and Joshua Weilerstein.
We did the second project of our partnership with the Kronberg Academy, followed by concerts with Sir Andràs Schiff in Berlin, Milan and Verona.
We were excited about our first project with Daniel Harding – Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances and Brahms’ symphony no.2 in Bordeaux, Andermatt, Udine, Mantova and Modena – and right from the very first bar of the first rehearsal, it felt like we were old friends! Welcome to the COE family Daniel!
2020 started well, with a visit to the Salzburg Mozartwoche with Andrew Manze and COE’s former principal oboe Francois Leleux in an all-Mozart programme. Lorenza directed concerts in Budapest, Antwerp and Groningen, and we toured Italy and Belgium with Matthias Pintscher, Emanuel Ax, Kate Royal, Benoit Rameau and Otto Katzameier in a program of Fauré, Mozart, Chopin and Stravinsky.
In the string of cancellations that followed, a particularly painful loss was our hugely anticipated celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday project. We were to have performed and recorded for DG all 9 symphonies in Luxembourg and Paris with Yannick Nézet-Séguin. We were all heartbroken, and the situation only got worse as more and more tours were cancelled.
Astonishingly, and only achievable after superhuman efforts by our administration team, we managed to visit Berlin in October for our first ever concerts with Sir Simon Rattle: a dream come true and a ray of hope for us in an otherwise dark time. Apart from that short and happy period, and the pride and thankfulness we feel in having managed to build the COE into such a secure entity over the years that it has been able to support us all through the entire pandemic, the year was full of nothing but worry, longing and emptiness.
But it was not all doom and gloom for the COE as we released an archive recording of all Schubert Symphonies, recorded with Nikolaus Harnoncourt in Graz in 1988, with ICA Classics. The recording was acclaimed by the critics all over the world, receiving many accolades. Reviews of the box-set can be found here.
We also launched Interlude, the COE podcast, in October and have released just under 10 episodes so far. You can find out all about it and listen to episodes here.
On 18th May 2021, we celebrate our 40th anniversary and the future looks bright, despite the incredible disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic!
We are very much looking forward to returning to the platform in July as we plan to perform and record all of the Beethoven symphonies with Yannick Nezet-Seguin and the Accentus Choir at the Baden-Baden Festspielhaus and as we prepare for our debut at the Rheingau Musik Festival with six concerts featuring some of the Kronberg Academy soloists.
From 2022, the COE will be the first Orchestra-in-residence at the Kronberg Academy’s newly built Casals Forum as we further develop our partnership with this world-class Academy whose tutors include some of the COE’s partners Sir Andras Schiff, Christian Tetzlaff and Tabea Zimmermann. In 2022, the COE will also start a 3-year residency at the Schloss Esterhazy in Eisenstadt, which will entail four projects a year in the context of the HERBSTGOLD and classic.esterhazy concert series. For more information, please click here.
In the Autumn 2021, following the success of the Schubert Symphonies box-set, we will also release a second box-set of archive recordings featuring the COE and Nikolaus Harnoncourt in works by Mozart, Haydn, Brahms and Beethoven.
We are also looking at releasing a DVD/Blu-ray set of all Sibelius Symphonies, which the COE performed at the Helsinki Festival with our dear friend Paavo Berglund, and which were filmed by the Finnish TV back in 1998,.
Here’s to another 40 years! Happy birthday COE!