The Chamber Orchestra of Europe (= COE) is a European chamber orchestra, established in 1981 and administratively based in London. The orchestra members represents 15 nationalities amongst its 50 members, and thus has no single home resident hall. The players pursue parallel careers as international soloists, members of eminent chamber groups, and as tutors and professors of music. The orchestra operates without public subsidy, and without a chief conductor or music director.
The idea for the COE came from musicians in the European Community Youth Orchestra, from members who were past the age limit for the ECYO and who wanted to continue working together in a chamber orchestra context. The founding members included the oboist Douglas Boyd, who served as the COE's principal oboist from 1981 to 2002. It was their ambition to continue working together at the highest possible professional level, and of that original group, 18 remain in the current core membership of 50. It is the players’ wealth of cultural backgrounds and shared love of music-making which remain at the heart of their inspired performances. Conductors Claudio Abbado and Nikolaus Harnoncourt were particularly important in the early history of the orchestra for establishing its profile.. Both Nikolaus Harnoncourt and his wife Alice Harnoncourt are honorary members of the COE.
The CEO is acknowledged today as one of the finest orchestras in the world. From the beginning, the Orchestra has appeared with the world’s leading conductors and soloists, and over the years has developed especially close relationships with Claudio Abbado, Bernard Haitink and Nikolaus Harnoncourt. The COE works frequently with Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Iván Fischer, Thomas Hengelbrock, Vladimir Jurowski, Jannick Nezet-Seguin, András Schiff and Mitsuko Uchida.
The COE performs regularly in the major cities of Europe, with occasional visits to the USA, Hong Kong, Japan and Australia. The COE has strong links with the Deutsche Ensemble Akademie and Alte Oper in Frankfurt and the Styriarte Festival in Graz, as well as the Philharmonie in Cologne, the Cité de la Musique in Paris, and the Berlin, Bremen and Salzburg Festivals.
The CEO has made commercial recordings for several labels with various conductors, including Claudio Abbado, Paavo Berglund, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, and Thomas Hengelbrock.
In addition to engagements across Europe during 2009 the Orchestra also travelled to Minnesota for the St. Paul International Chamber Orchestra Festival, and to New York for the Mostly Mozart Festival. Performances were given with Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Emanuel Ax, Lisa Batiashvili, Douglas Boyd, Semyon Bychkov, James Conlon, Hélène Grimaud, Bernard Haitink, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Thomas Hengelbrock, Daniel Hope, Vladimir Jurowski, Denis Matsuev, Yannick Nezet-Seguin, Maria-João Pires and Osmo Vanska.
Just to mention two out of many special occasions which took place last year, the Lucerne Easter Festival saw the completion of a major year-long L.v. Beethoven series conducted by Bernard Haitink, culminating in two Piano Concertos with Maria-João Pires, and a stunning performance of the Ninth Symphony; while at the Styriarte Festival in Graz Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducted the Orchestra in five unforgettable performances of Porgy & Bess. The CD set of this production was then released in December to great critical acclaim.
Indeed, renowned not only for its remarkable live performances, the COE is recognised for the quality of its many recordings, and has won numerous international recording prizes. It is especially proud of its three Gramophone “Record of the Year” awards - for Rossini’s Viaggio à Reims opera and Schubert symphony cycle conducted by Claudio Abbado, and for the complete L.v. Beethoven symphony cycle conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt. It has also won a Grammy, and the MIDEM “Classical Download” Award. Most recent downloads include the Ades Violin Concerto conducted by Thomas Ades with Anthony Marwood, and Mozart Piano Concertos performed by Pierre-Laurent Aimard. Other recent CD releases include Antonio Vivaldi, J.S. Bach and Felix Mendelssohn violin concertos (nominated for another Grammy award) with Daniel Hope, Marieke Blankestijn and Lorenza Borrani, and Haydn’s The Creation, Symphony No. 96 and The Seasons conducted by Sir Roger Norrington, as well as Igor Stravinsky’s Apollon Musagète and Pulcinella Suite under the direction of violinist Alexander Janiczek. Latest DVD recordings to be made available are Mozart’s The Magic Flute directed by Kenneth Brannagh, and Schubert’s Alfonso & Estrella recorded live at the Vienna Festival conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt.
Now approaching its 30th year, the Orchestra continues to enjoy many exciting challenges, performing again in 2010 with Thomas Ades, Lisa Batiashvili, Joshua Bell, Iván Fischer, Daniel Hope, Janine Jansen, Vladimir Jurowski, Anthony Marwood, Yannick Nezet-Seguin, Maria-João Pires and András Schiff. The COE will return to the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York with Pierre-Laurent Aimard, perform at the Styriarte Festival in Graz with Nikolaus Harnoncourt, and at the Lucerne Piano Festival with Bernard Haitink and Emanuel Ax. And for the first time, the COE is working this year with Julia Fischer, Rolf Hind, John Nelson, Sakari Oramo and Trevor Pinnock.
The COE is a European Union “Cultural Ambassador”, and therefore benefits from invaluable EU support. In recent years the Orchestra has also received significant financial support from The Gatsby Charitable Foundation.