The Grammy® Award-winning Orpheus Chamber Orchestra has invigorated international audiences and critics alike with its superior artistry, energy, and distinctive approach to music-making. Orpheus is committed to illuminating both traditional orchestral repertoire as well as new works by contemporary composers in a unique and liberating manner. Throughout its history, Orpheus has built a legacy with its acclaimed recordings, performances, and collaborations with the world's most esteemed and dynamic soloists. In addition to the Orchestra's extensive national and international touring schedule, the ensemble presents an annual concert series at Carnegie Hall and appears regularly at many major New York venues, including Lincoln Center and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Orpheus was founded in 1972 by cellist Julian Fifer and a group of fellow musicians who aspired to perform diverse orchestral repertoire using chamber music ensemble techniques. One of the few self-governing ensembles playing today, Orpheus continues this philosophy, performing without a conductor and rotating musical leadership roles for each work. The Orchestra strives to empower its musicians by integrating them into virtually every facet of the organization, literally changing the way the world thinks about musicians, conductors, and orchestras.
The Orchestra’s annual concert series at Carnegie Hall includes performances with violinists Janine Jansen and Ryu Goto, oboist Albrecht Mayer, pianist Angela Hewitt, and cellist Truls Mørk. Through the generous support of the MetLife Foundation, some of these concerts will be broadcast live on WNYC and re-broadcast on American Public Media affiliate stations nationwide, as well as made available for free on-line streaming through the WNYC program archives. This season, two new commissions by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and Aaron Jay Kernis will mark the last two installments of The New Brandenburgs commissioning project. Begun in 2006, the four year project has commissioned works by a variety of contemporary composers in the style of J.S. Bach's "Brandenburg" concerti.
Orpheus' 2008-2009 season featured collaborations with celebrated musicians including pianists Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Jonathan Biss, sitarist Anoushka Shankar, violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, and mezzo-soprano Susan Graham. The Orchestra also presented new works by Melinda Wagner, Paul Moravec, and Ned Rorem. In addition to touring domestically, Orpheus returned to Europe in February 2009 for an extensive tour with pianist Jonathan Biss, performing in world-renowned venues such as the Konzerthaus Berlin and the Musikverein.
Orpheus' recording legacy today consists of over 70 albums, including the Grammy® Award-winning Shadow Dances: Stravinsky Miniatures. Their extensive catalog for Deutsche Grammophon includes the Baroque classics, works by Haydn, Mozart, Dvorák, Grieg and Tchaikovsky, as well as a number of 20th-century masterpieces. Orpheus began a new relationship with EMI Classics in 2007 with their recording of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons featuring violinist Sarah Chang. A collection of Mozart piano concerti with Jonathan Biss was released in October 2008, also on EMI Classics.
In addition to performing, Orpheus is committed to providing diverse audiences with opportunities to engage in music. In 2003, Orpheus launched the Orpheus Institute, through which Orpheus musicians share their unique artist-centered philosophy, methodology and skills with college-aged musicians. Orpheus also provides hands-on music learning opportunities for hundreds of New York City public school students through the Access Orpheus programs, which include workshops, open rehearsals and concerts while also engaging audiences through the Orpheus Unwrapped pre-concert lecture series.
In March 2007, Orpheus became one of the first winners of the Worldwide Award for the Most Democratic Workplaces sponsored by WorldBlu, Inc., an Austin, Texas-based organization specializing in organizational democracy. Orpheus has maintained its presence on the WorldBlu list in all subsequent years.
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