Chamber Orchestra Of Europe

Chamber Orchestra Of Europe

Chamber Orchestra

• Founded 1981

Editor's Choice

Regarded as one of the world’s most consistently impressive small orchestras, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe can trace its history to 1981 and a group of young graduates of the European Union Youth Orchestra who wanted to continue making music together. In the early years, they counted Claudio Abbado as their chief advocate; he became particularly associated with the orchestra throughout the 1980s and 90s. No longer a youth-oriented orchestra, the COE now draws its membership from leading soloists and orchestral musicians, who come together for performances every year. By the start of the 21st Century, alongside an impressive roster of soloists, the orchestra toured frequently with conductors Bernard Haitink and the late Nikolaus Harnoncourt, and has recently made a series of recordings with the Canadian conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin, including this set of Mendelssohn symphonies, which shows off the lithe and transparent sound you’d expect from the finest chamber orchestras.


The Chamber Orchestra of Europe, although it maintains headquarters in London, lives up to its name: its roughly 60 members come from all over the European continent as well as Britain. Cultivating relationships with many conductors and venues, the group is especially noteworthy for its recording catalog, which includes more than 250 items. The Chamber Orchestra of Europe was founded in 1981 by a group of young players who had aged out of the European Community Youth Orchestra and wanted to continue making music together. One of the initial movers was Douglas Boyd, who remained the orchestra's lead oboist for many years, and many other founding members have remained with the group.

The idea of forming a smaller orchestra oriented toward Baroque and Classical repertory was common at the time; less common was the orchestra's democratic structure, which involved a small directorate elected annually by the players. There is no permanent conductor, but the COE quickly began to catch the attention of some of the biggest names on the podium; just two years after their formation, they were tapped by Claudio Abbado for a Deutsche Grammophon recording of Rossini's Il viaggio a Reims. The group has worked with conductors Bernard Haitink, Sakari Oramo, Paavo Berglund, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, and many others, and has performed or recorded with top-caliber soloists including Janine Jansen, Emanuel Ax, Joshua Bell, Murray Perahia, and Renaud and Gautier Capuçon.

Accordingly, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe tours all over Europe (and sometimes in North America), with no identification with a particular city. These connections have resulted in an unusually deep collection of recordings: since the late 1980s, multiple Chamber Orchestra of Europe recordings have appeared in almost every year, and 2006 alone saw seven COE releases. Many of their recordings feature Baroque or Classical repertory (especially Mozart), but not all; in 2018 the group released Visions of Prokofiev on Deutsche Grammophon. The Chamber Orchestra of Europe is a nonprofit organization and a registered charity in Britain.