Premiere: Sunday, 15.11.2009 - 19:00 Uhr
Founded in 1984 by graduates of various Swiss conservatories, the Basel Chamber Orchestra now ranks among Europe’s most highly acclaimed chamber orchestras. The BCO is committed to cultivating the chamber orchestra tradition bequeathed on Basel by Paul Sacher, one of the most important music patrons of the twentieth century; central to this tradition is music-making of the very highest standard and the development of a repertoire that combines music both ancient and modern.
With ever more guest appearances and contributions to music festivals of international standing such as the Schwetzinger Festspiele, Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, Menuhin Festival Gstaad, Mozart Festival Würzburg, Festa della Musica Lisbon, Istanbul Festival, Folle Journée Nantes, Festival Radio France Montpellier, Handel Festspiele Halle and Wiener Festwochen as well as performances at concert halls of renown as the Barbican London, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Philharmonie Cologne, Tonhalle Zurich, KKL Lucerne, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées Paris, Cité de la Musique Paris, Musikverein of Vienna, Palau Valencia and many more besides, the BCO has become firmly established in recent years. The orchestra now plays between 60 and 90 concerts a year, most of them in Europe and Switzerland, its own concert series in Basel being an important part of its calendar and frequently the overture to an extended concert tour.
Seven years ago, the BCO together with Christopher Hogwood and the ARTE NOVA label launched a project aimed at shedding new light on the music of Classical Modernism. The first five CDs in this series including compositions by Stravinsky, Martinu, Honegger, Tippett, Bizet, Richard Strauss and Britten, among others, met with an enthusiastic response among music critics.
Another recent highlight was a concert performance of Handel’s Lotario in June 2004 both in Basel, under the baton of Paul Goodwin, and at the Handel Festspiele in Halle, this being the first ever full-length performance of the opera on the continent. The premiering of Handel operas in the new Halle Handel Edition continued in 2007 with a rendering of Riccardo primo in Basel, followed by further performances in Paris, Halle and Geneva. The BCO has further sharpened its profile as a Baroque ensemble both through a number of highly acclaimed tours, including with stars of the calibre of Magdalena Kozena, Cecilia Bartoli, David Daniels, Andreas Scholl and Giuliano Carmignola, and through its CD recordings with Angelika Kirchschlager, Marijana Mijanovic and the Handel opera Riccardo primo for Sony BMG. One BCO concert had the music critic of the London Times in raptures: "What a revelation the BCO is!" while the Wiener Standart ruefully remarked that "The Swiss revealed a Baroque style of music-making… of a quality such as has never before been heard here in Vienna.”
September 2005 saw the release of the orchestra’s first CD recording of Beethoven's symphonies No 1 & 2 conducted by Giovanni Antonini: “Can wholeheartedly declare it to be my recording of the year!” wrote Attila Csampai for FonoForum, while Benjamin G. Cohr, writing for klassik-heute, was convinced that “not since Roger Norrington and the London Classical Players 20 years ago have I heard an historical performance of Beethoven as exciting as this one.” Stereoplay went even further, claiming that
“one would have to go back to the ruggedness of Toscanini to find a recording anywhere near as explosive as this one; everything that has been done since then now sounds classicistically bland by comparison.”
2007 saw the continuation of the Beethoven project under the auspices of Sony BMG.
In addition to Christopher Hogwood, the orchestra has cooperated closely with the conductors Giovanni Antonini, David Stern, Paul McCreesh, Kristjan Järvi and Paul Goodwin, while its concerts with famous conductors and soloists such as Philippe Herreweghe, Attilio Cremonesi, Ton Koopman, Heinz Holliger, Cecilia Bartoli, Magdalena Kozena, Emma Kirkby, Andreas Scholl, Christian Tetzlaff, Julia Fischer, Daniel Hope, Matthias Goerne, Angelika Kirchschlager, Tabea Zimmermann, Renaud Capuçon, Pieter Wispelwey, Steven Isserlis, Thomas Zehetmair, Giuliano Carmignola, Christophe Coin, Robert Levin, Andreas Staier, Bobby McFerrin, Alexander Lonquich, Maurice Steger, Emmanuel Pahud, Sabine Meyer, Wolfgang Meyer and Reinhold Friedrich have been enthusiastically received by press and public alike.
“A very bold troupe of young musicians,” is how Christopher Hogwood, one of the pioneers of historical performance practice, once described the Basel Chamber Orchestra. The musicians themselves, meanwhile, like to think of themselves as travellers between the epochs, whose goal is to bring compositions to life in a way that is as refreshing as it is dynamically rich, irrespective of style. Ancient music sounds different when played on historical instruments – on violins with strings made of gut and on trumpets and horns without valves. But the orchestra does far more than approximate the variously faceted tonal world of the Baroque era; it is also committed to promoting new music and so has been active in commissioning new compositions as well. In recent years, for example, it has premiered works by Andrea Scartazzini, Uri Caine, Valentin Silvestrov and Tigran Mansurian, to mention but a few. After premiering Thomas Adè’s Three Studies from Couperin in April 2006, the BCO is to premiere an orchestral work by the young Swiss composer, Martin Jaggi, in April 2007.
At Theater an der Wien at last they performed Haydn’s L’anima del filosofo and will return in January 2010 for Offenbach’s La grande duchesse du Gerolstein.