The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
is a world-renowned, Grammy Award-winning classical music chamber orchestra
based in New York City. It is known for its collaborative leadership style, in which the musicians, not a conductor, interpret the score.
Orpheus was founded in 1972, by cellist Julian Fifer and a group of fellow musicians who aspired to perform orchestral repertoire using chamber music ensemble tecnhiques. Central to its distinctive personality is its unique practice of sharing and rotating leadership roles. For every work, the members of the orchestra select the concertmaster and the principal players for each section. These players constitute the core group, whose role is to form the initial concept of the piece and to shape the rehearsal process. In the final rehearsals, all members of the orchestra participate in refining the interpretation and execution, with members taking turns listening from the hall for balance, blend, articulation, dynamic range and clarity of expression.
Recognized internationally as one of the world's great orchestras, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra has been playing to music lovers on four continents for 34 years. For the past twenty-six seasons, the centerpiece of each Orpheus season has been its celebrated concert series at New York's Carnegie Hall. Accompanying the critical acclaim for Orpheus' live appearances are numerous distinctions and awards, including a 2001 Grammy Award for Shadow Dances: Stravinsky Miniatures
, a 1998 Grammy nomination for its recording of Mozart piano concerti with Richard Goode, the 1998 "Ensemble of the Year" award by Musical America, as well as performances on Herbie Hancock's Grammy-winning Gershwin's World
Orpheus has collaborated with many of the great artists of our time including Isaac Stern, Gidon Kremer, Itzhak Perlman, Gil Shaham, Yo-Yo Ma, Mischa Maisky, Emanuel Ax, Richard Goode, Alica de Larrocha, Radu Lupu, Martha Argerich, Alfred Brendel, Murray Perahia, Peter Serkin, Mitsuko Uchida, Tatiana Troyanos, Maureen Forrester, Frederica von Stade, Peter Schreier, Anne Sophie von Otter, Dawn Upshaw, and Renee Fleming. Reflecting their commitment to expanding the chamber orchestra repertoire, Orpheus has premiered works by Elliott Carter, Jacob Druckman, Mario Davidovsky, Michael Gandolfi, William Bolcom, Osvaldo Golijov, Fred Lerdahl, Gunther Schuller, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Susan Botti, David Rakowski, Bruce Adolphe, Peter Lieberson, Elizabeth Brown and Han Yong.
Individual members of Orpheus have received recognition for solo, chamber music, and orchestral performances. Each brings a diversity of musical experience to the orchestra, which constantly enriches and nurtures the musical growth of the ensemble. Of the 30 players who comprise the basic membership of Orpheus, many also hold teaching positions at prominent conservatories and universities in the New York and New England areas, including Juilliard, Manhattan School of Music, New England Conservatory, Columbia, Yale, Mannes College of Music, Montclair State University, and the Hartt School. Orpheus musicians also hold posts with other orchestras such as the New York Philharmonic, American Composer's Orchestra, Met Opera Orchestra and New York City Opera Orchestra. Orpheus members serve on the administrative staff as well as on the Board of Directors.
Orpheus is known for visceral, thrilling performances of repertoire ranging from baroque masterworks to contemporary commissions. In addition to extensive national and international touring, the orchestra presents an annual concert series at Carnegie Hall
and appears regularly at major New York venues, including Lincoln Center
and the Metropolitan Museum of Art
. Its 2008-2009 series includes performances with pianists Jean-Yves Thibaudet
and Jonathan Biss
, sitarist Anoushka Shankar
, violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg
, and mezzo-soprano Susan Graham
. Each 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. The orchestra returns 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. In January the orchestra will premiere a new concerto for sitar and orchestra commissioned by Orpheus and composed by Ravi Shankar
. New works by Pulitzer Prize-winners Paul Moravec
and Melinda Wagner
will mark the next installments of Orpheus’ New Brandenburgs
commissioning project, a four-year project begun in 2006, with the goal of premiering six orchestral works modeled on J.S. Bach’s “Brandenburg” concerti. To conclude its Carnegie Hall season, in May 2009 the Orchestra will perform several newly composed, as well as several newly orchestrated, songs by Ned Rorem
, with Ms. Graham.
The Orpheus recording legacy consists of over 70 albums. Their extensive catalog for Deutsche Grammophon
includes Baroque masterworks of Handel, Corelli and Vivaldi, Haydn symphonies, Mozart symphonies and serenades, the complete Mozart wind concerti with Orpheus members as soloists, Romantic works by Dvorak, Grieg and Tchaikovsky and a number of twentieth-century classics by Bartók, Prokofiev, Fauré, Ravel, Schoenberg, Ives, Copland, and Stravinsky. Recent releases include a recording of English and America folk songs with countertenor Andreas Scholl (Decca); Creation
, a collection the jazz-inspired music from 1920's Paris with saxophonist Branford Marsalis (Sony Classical); a critically-acclaimed series of recordings of Mozart's greatest piano concerti with Richard Goode (Nonesuch); and a vigorous reading of The Four Seasons
with Sarah Chang (EMI Classics). A collection of Mozart piano concerti with Jonathan Biss is set for release in the fall of 2008, also on EMI Classics.
Orpheus has embarked on many extensive tours of the United States, Europe, South America, Asia, and Japan. In 1998, the orchestra performed in Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Brunei, Taipei, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore, and Hanoi. On this tour, Orpheus was the first American orchestra to perform in Vietnam since the end of the Vietnam War.
Orpheus’ 2007-2008 season saw collaborations with world-renowned artists, including pianists Yefim Bronfman
and Christian Zacharias
, soprano Dame Felicity Lott
, and violinists Nikolaj Znaider
, Sarah Chang
, and Ryu Goto
. The Orchestra premiered commissioned works by Tania León
, Charles Wuorinen
, and Christopher Theofanidis
and performed concerts in Japan and South Korea, in addition to extensive domestic touring.
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, and audience engagement through the Orpheus Unwrapped
pre-concert lecture series.
Orpheus as a Democratic Workplace
In March 2007, Orpheus became one of the first winners of the Worldwide Award for the Most Democratic Workplaces sponsored by WorldBlu, Inc.
, a Washington, DC-based organization specializing in organizational democracy.