Orchestras

Mahler Chamber Orchestra

Introduction

The Mahler Chamber Orchestra (MCO) was founded in 1997 based on the shared vision of being a free and international ensemble and under the nurturing hand of Claudio Abbado, they became an independent international orchestra of the highest calibre. With 45 members spanning 20 different countries at its core, the MCO works as a nomadic collective of passionate musicians uniting for specific tours in Europe and across the world. The word “chamber” refers less to the ensemble’s size than to the chamber music approach that characterizes the MCO musicians’ style of ensemble playing.

The orchestra received its most significant artistic impulses from its founding mentor, Claudio Abbado, and from Conductor Laureate Daniel Harding. Further significant artistic partnerships include the Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, Pianist Mitsuko Uchida and composer George Benjamin. In 2013 the recording of George Benjamin’s opera Written on Skin was released; the piece was premiered by the MCO at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence in 2012 under the direction of the composer and honoured with the International Opera Award 2013.

Following this, Askonas Holt organised a European tour of Written on Skin in March 2016 for MCO together with George Benjamin, in which they gave sell-out concert performances to huge critical acclaim in Barcelona, Madrid and London.

With extensive touring throughout the world and regular residences, the orchestra has performed in 36 countries on four continents thus far.


Introduction

The Mahler Chamber Orchestra (MCO) was founded in 1997 based on the shared vision of being a free and international ensemble and under the nurturing hand of Claudio Abbado, they became an independent international orchestra of the highest calibre. With 45 members spanning 20 different countries at its core, the MCO works as a nomadic collective of passionate musicians uniting for specific tours in Europe and across the world. The word “chamber” refers less to the ensemble’s size than to the chamber music approach that characterizes the MCO musicians’ style of ensemble playing.

The orchestra received its most significant artistic impulses from its founding mentor, Claudio Abbado, and from Conductor Laureate Daniel Harding. Further significant artistic partnerships include the Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, Pianist Mitsuko Uchida and composer George Benjamin. In 2013 the recording of George Benjamin’s opera Written on Skin was released; the piece was premiered by the MCO at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence in 2012 under the direction of the composer and honoured with the International Opera Award 2013.

Following this, Askonas Holt organised a European tour of Written on Skin in March 2016 for MCO together with George Benjamin, in which they gave sell-out concert performances to huge critical acclaim in Barcelona, Madrid and London.

With extensive touring throughout the world and regular residences, the orchestra has performed in 36 countries on four continents thus far.

Press

 
  • 19 Mar 16 George Benjamin Written on Skin
    Barbican Centre
    More info  

    “…If Written on Skin doesn’t end up a modern classic, I’ll eat my hat. This flawless concert performance demonstrated an extraordinary collaboration between composer and librettist in which every sonority, every flicker, every word registers with electric clarity and force…

    “…Here Benjamin himself conducted the Mahler Chamber Orchestra in a performance of staggering virtuosity – the sheer accuracy of the playing was almost incredible. A magnificent cast of five addresses the drama with absolute dedication: Victoria Simmonds and Robert Murray as the Angels, Christopher Purves as the anguished Protector, Barbara Hannigan as the wife, Tim Mead as the artist….”
    Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph 

    “…The score is masterful in its tension and compression, its spareness of detail, both vocal and instrumental, speaking volumes. The MCO played it with an almost queasy beauty, and the singing was flawless. Christopher Purves and Barbara Hannigan, who also created the roles of the Protector and Agnès, are remarkable vocal actors, and their interpretations intensify with time. Tim Mead captured the Boy’s androgynous sexuality with astonishing beauty, while Victoria Simmonds and Robert Murray were wonderfully enigmatic as his rumour-mongering fellow angels…”
    Tim Ashley, The Guardian

    “…George Benjamin’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, was acclaimed as a masterpiece in Aix-en-Provence, and again in 2013 at the Royal Opera House. So alluring and exact was the relationship between Benjamin’s music, Martin Crimp’s poetry and Katie Mitchell’s staging that it seemed definitive. Yet Saturday’s concert performance, the centrepiece of Benjamin at the Barbican, had even greater intensity. Four years on, with Benjamin conducting, Barbara Hannigan (Agnès), Christopher Purves (the Protector) and the musicians of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra have Written on Skin under their skin.

    “Crimp’s story of adultery, murder and suicide in 13th-century France unfolds as though in a sequence of illuminated texts, translated for modern ears by two Angels (Victoria Simmonds and Robert Murray). A third Angel (Tim Mead) is the Boy, an artist hired by the Protector to create a book to celebrate his power and virtue. The refinement and sensuality of Benjamin’s orchestration was made visible here: an alchemy of subtle percussion (the dry click of stones), flecked strings, howling brass, shrieking wind, and instruments associated with 17th-century tombeaux (viola da gamba) and the shuddering ecstasies of bel canto mad scenes (glass harmonica)…”
    Anna Picard, The Times