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.