Creative Director and Chief Conductor – Aleksei Utkin.
The New York Times wrote: “What we heard was the peak of perfection <…> our expectations were so far exceeded that one was left open-mouthed in admiration.“
The “dynamic Moscow Chamber Orchestra” (New York Times) is one of the world’s great ensembles. First called “the greatest chamber orchestra in the world” by Dmitri Shostakovich, The State Academic Chamber Orchestra of Russia (Moscow Chamber Orchestra) is currently celebrating its 60th anniversary.
The orchestra was created by famous violist, violinist, and founding member of the Borodin Quartet, Rudolf Barshai. Barshai gathered young talented musicians from Moscow and formed the first chamber orchestra in the USSR based on European models (in particular, the chamber orchestra from the FRG under the leadership of Wilhelm Stross which toured around Moscow in September 1955).
The official debut of the Moscow Chamber Orchestra (that’s what the orchestra was called at first) took place on 5 March, 1956 in the Small Hall of the Moscow Conservatory. The orchestra immediately won recognition from the public in Russia and abroad. Soon it was accepted as a part of the Moscow Philharmonic Society.
“The chamber orchestra presents an amazing perfection of music and performance. Unity of history and contemporaneity is distinctive for musicians of the Moscow Chamber Orchestra: without distorting the text and spirit of early music, players make it modern and youthful for our listener,” – wrote Dmitri Schostakowitsch.
The orchestra was characterized as one of the outstanding chamber orchestras by MCO conductor, professor of the Moscow Conservatory Leo Ginzburg: “Listening to the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, you perceive genuine creation by great musicians, united into one artistic direction…”
From 1950-1960 famous soloists such as: violinists Boris Shulgin (first concertmaster of the MCO), Lev Markiz, Vladimir Rabei, Andrei Abramenkov, violist Heinrich Talalyan, cellists Alla Vasilieva and Boris Dobrohotov, bassist Leopold Andreyev, flautists Alexandr Korneyev and Naum Zaidel, oboist Albert Zayontz, horn player Boris Afanasiev, and organist/cembalist Sergei Dijur played in the orchestra under the leadership of R. Barshai.
Besides performing and recording numerous pieces of European Baroque music, Russian and Western classics, works by foreign composers of the XX century (some of compositions were first played in the USSR), the orchestra actively promoted music of contemporary local composers: Nikolai Rakov, Yuri Levitin, Georgi Sviridov, Kara Karaev, Mieczysław Weinberg, Alexandr Lokshin, German Galynin, Revol Bunin, Boris Tchaikovsky, Edison Denisov, Vytautas Barkauskas, Jaan Rääts, Alfred Schnittke, and others. Many of them created music specially for the Moscow Chamber Orchestra. For example, D. Schostakowitsch dedicated to the MCO his 14th Symphony, the premiere of which was played by the orchestra under the leadership of R. Barshai on 29 September, 1969 in Leningrad.
In 1983, it was renamed the State Chamber Orchestra of the USSR, and in 1994 was awarded the title of “Academic.”
After the emigration of Rudolf Barshai in 1979 the orchestra was led by Igor Bezrodny (1977-1981), Eugeny Nepalo (1981-1983), Viktor Tretyakov (1983-1990), Andrey Korsakov (1990-1991), and then Konstantin Orbelyan (1991-2009).
In January 2010, famous oboist and conductor Aleksei Utkin was appointed as Creative Director and Chief Conductor of the orchestra. During the time that he has led, the orchestra has significantly widened its stylistic and genre range. Affiches of the orchestra feature Bach’s St Matthew Passions, masses by Haydn and Vivaldi, symphonies and concertos of Mozart and Boccherini; these are joined by compositions on themes of the rock-band Led Zeppelin, music in ethnic styles, and soundtracks to movies.
Today the orchestra is one of the leading chamber orchestras in Russia. Its extensive repertoire includes works of all epochs and styles. The orchestra has performed in Great Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, France, Switzerland, the USA, Canada, Japan, the Republic of South Africa, the countries of Scandinavia and South-Eastern Asia. Concerts have taken place on prestigious stages such as the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Alte Oper in Frankfurt, the Schauspielhaus in Berlin, the Queen Elisabeth Hall in London, the Salle Pleyel in Paris, Carnegie Hall in NY, Davis Hall in San Francisco, and Suntori Hall in Tokyo. The orchestra represented Russia at an important International Festival in honor of the 50 year anniversary of the foundation of the UN (1995) and at the International Economical Forum in Davos (1998).
During its many years of activity, the orchestra has frequently gone on tours in USSR and Russian cities to popularize classical music.
Throughout its 60 year history the orchestra has performed with great musicians such as: pianists Sviatoslav Richter, Emil Gilels, Lev Oborin, Maria Grinberg, Nikolai Petrov, Vladimir Krainev, Vladimir Viardo, Eliso Virsaladze, Mikhail Pletnev, Boris Berezovsky, Frederick Kempf, John Lill, Stefan Vladar, Christian Zacharias, Igor Chetuev, Lucas Debargue, David Fray; violinists David Oistrakh, Igor Oistrakh, Yehudi Menuhin, Leonid Kogan, Oleg Kagan, Vladimir Spivakov, Viktor Tretyakov, Igor Gringoltz, Boris Garlitsky, Andres Mustonen, and Jean-Christophe Spinosi; violist Yuri Bashmet; cellists Mstislav Rostropovitch, Natalia Gutman, Boris Pergamenschikow, Gaspar Cassado, Antonio Meneses, and Alexandr Kniazev; bassist Georg Hörtnagel; harp player Olga Erdeli; singers Nina Dorliak, Zara Dolukhanova, Irina Arkhipova, Eugeny Nesterenko, Galina Pisarenko, Alexandr Vedernikov, Makvala Kasrashvili, Nikolai Gedda, Renee Fleming, Inga Kalna, Sandrin Piau, Vivica Genaux, Roberto Alagna, and Dmitrii Hvorostovski; flautists Jean-Pierre Rampal, Patrick Gallois, and Sir James Holloway; saxophonist Federico Mondelci; trumpetist Timofei Dokschitzer, and many other famous soloists; the Kopelman-quartet; performers of jazz and ethno music, the Munich Bach choir, conductors F. M. Sardelli, S. Montanari, and F. Bernius.
The orchestra has created an impressive collection of musical recordings from the radio and on CDs, comprising a wide repertoire – from early arias and baroque music to works of Russian and foreign composers of the XX century. The recordings were made by “Melodiya records”, Chandos, Philips, and others. For the 50th anniversary of the orchestra the studio Delos released a series of CDs, consisting of almost 30 albums.
New ideas and creative searches by the orchestra and its leader have been reflected in the series of concerts during recent years, where different epochs, styles, and tendencies were boldly combined. One of these concerts was “From Baroque to jazz-rock”, performed during the last season in Moscow and on a tour in Crimea.
In 2011 and 2015, the orchestra, under the leadership of A. Utkin, accompanied the participants of the second round of the XIV and XV International Tchaikovsky Competitions (piano section).
In 2016 Aleksei Utkin was awarded the Moscow Award in Literature and the Arts in the category of “Musical Art” for his contribution to the development of Russian music and the popularization of classical music at concert platforms in Moscow.
For the 2016-2017 season the State Chamber Orchestra of Russia, besides performing traditional concerts in the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall, the Great Conservatory Hall, the “Philharmonic-2” Hall, the Chamber Philharmonic Hall, and the Gnesin Concert Hall, will take part in a series of concerts entitled “Stars of world opera in Moscow”, and the Russian premiere of the opera “Teseo” by G.F. Handel.
The orchestra will again present several original concert programs: “From Bach to Beatles”, where works of Bach “meet” works of Gershwin, Penderecki, and V. Grokhovski (“Philharmonic-2” Hall); and a concert with A. Mustonen including works of Pärt, Schubert, Mozart, and G. Kancheli (Tchaikovsky Concert Hall).
A concert for the 60th anniversary of the orchestra will be performed in the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall featuring Sinfonietta by N. Myaskovsky and Piano Concerto №24 by Mozart.
Together with the State Chamber Orchestra of Russia on stage in the 2016-2017 season will appear: the conductor and violinist Andres Mustonen; conductor Federico Maria Sardelli; soloists-pianists Vyacheslav Kiselev, Valeriy Grokhovski, Eliso Virsaladze, Frederic Kempf, Dmitriy Masleyev, and Mikhail Turpanov; violinist Elena Semenova; flautist Maria Chepurina; clarinetist Eugeny Petrov; horn player Stanislav Davydov; and singers Ann Hallenberg, Catharina Casper (soprano), Olivia Fermoilen (mezzo-soprano), Konstantin Derri, and Iestyn Davies (countertenor).
In February 2017, the orchestra is going to “MustonenFest” in Estonia, where it will perform two concert programs in Tallinn and Jõhvi.