BIOGRAPHY In its 15 years of existence, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra (MCO) has developed into one of the most artistically interesting and successful ensembles on the international classical music scene. A travelling orchestra with no fixed home location, the MCO is on the move about 200 days each year. In the 2012/13 season, the orchestra performs in 13 countries in Europe as well as in Japan and Australia, making appearances in most of Europe's capital cities and at important festivals such as Musikfest Berlin, Prague Spring, and Mozartwoche Salzburg. The orchestra's life is also shaped by regular longer visits to its three residences in Ferrara (Italy), in North Rhine-Westphalia (a combination residence in the German cities of Dortmund, Essen, and Cologne) and at the LUCERNE FESTIVAL, where the MCO forms the core of the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA each summer. In spring 2011, the MCO was named Cultural Ambassador of the European Union. With the MCO Academy and the education and outreach programme MCO Landings, the orchestra is increasingly involved in teaching and community work.
The Mahler Chamber Orchestra was founded in 1997 by former members of the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra who wished to continue making music together. With support from Claudio Abbado, they created their own ensemble and began to pursue their vision of an independent international orchestra that plays at the highest level. The ensemble had its breakthrough in the summer of 1998, only a few months after its founding, with a production of Mozart's Don Giovanni under the direction of Claudio Abbado at the opera festival in Aix-en-Provence. When the MCO gave its debut at the Teatro Real in Madrid in 2008 with Fidelio under Abbado's direction, Le Monde called it "the best orchestra in the world".
The 45 core members of the MCO come from 20 different countries and live all over Europe. The orchestra also works with a carefully selected and maintained network of excellent musicians who join the orchestra according to the needs of each project. The orchestra's central repertoire consists of symphonic works and operas of the Viennese classical and early Romantic periods. The ensemble's flexible structure makes it possible for the MCO to perform a very wide range of repertoire, including everything from chamber music to large symphonies and operas, from baroque to world premieres of contemporary works.
The orchestra's name refers to the ensemble's roots in the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra. 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 Mahler Chamber Orchestra is not supported by a government funding structure, and it is financed primarily by concert revenues, with help from donations and sponsors. The MCO is managed cooperatively by orchestra management and orchestra board and decisions are made democratically with the participation of all members. The MCO's management is located in Berlin.
Daniel Harding is, alongside founder Claudio Abbado, the conductor who has played the most significant role in the orchestra's history: in 1998 at the age of 22, he was named Principal Guest Conductor; in 2003 the orchestra chose him as their Music Director, and in 2008 he became Principal Conductor. In summer 2011, the musicians voted unanimously to give Daniel Harding the permanent title of Conductor Laureate. Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes is also a significant figure and became the orchestra's official "Artistic Partner" in 2012. Under the label "The Beethoven Journey", Andsnes and the MCO carry out a Beethoven cycle in the years 2012- 2015, with Andsnes leading the orchestra from the piano. Beethoven's five piano concertos and the Choral Fantasy will be performed in more than 60 concerts in over 10 countries and will also be released by Sony Classical on CD.
The MCO has made 24 CD recordings, among them several award-winners, with labels such as Virgin Classics, harmonia mundi, Decca, and Deutsche Grammophon. Most recently, in 2012, a recording of the opera Don Giovanni from Baden-Baden was released on the Deutsche Grammophon label, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin in concert version and featuring Ildebrando D'Arcangelo, Diana Damrau, Joyce DiDonato, Mojca Erdmann and Rolando Villazón in the main roles. In September 2012, Sony Classical released the first part of the "Beethoven Journey" with Leif Ove Andsnes with the Piano Concertos 1 & 3.