Irish Chamber Orchestra

Irish Chamber Orchestra

Chamber Orchestra

• Founded 1963


Versatile and equally at home as part of a rock concert or a contemporary music program, the Irish Chamber Orchestra is one of Ireland's most popular ensembles of any kind. The group has had an international orientation and a succession of non-Irish conductors from the beginning, and its reputation extends far beyond the shores of the Emerald Isle. The Irish Chamber Orchestra was founded in 1963 by Hungarian conductor János Fürst, who also later served as concertmaster and assistant conductor of the Ulster Orchestra. In 1970, under new principal conductor André Prieur, the group was rechristened the New Irish Chamber Orchestra, but it reverted to its original name in 1995 when it assumed its headquarters at the University of Limerick. An unusual feature of the orchestra is that it maintains its own state-of-the-art recording studio on that school's campus. Its music directors have included Fionnuala Hunt, Nicholas McGegan, and Anthony Marwood, and in the 2010s it has been led by an unusual partnership of principal artistic partner Gabor Tákacs-Nagy (another Hungarian) and principal guest conductor Jörg Widmann, also a prominent clarinetist. The Irish Chamber Orchestra presents a concert series each year in Limerick and Dublin, and it has an impressive record of foreign touring for a small orchestra from a small country: it has appeared on tour across Europe, Australia, South Korea, China, and North and South America, with Widmann's presence leading to frequent appearances in Germany especially. The Irish Chamber Orchestra is a reliable festival guest across Europe, beginning a three-year residency at Germany's Heidelberger-Frühling Festival in 2016, and it has appeared in a classic rock program at the Irish rock festival Feile-The Trip to Tipp. With Chamber Choir Ireland, it presented the Irish premiere of James MacMillan's Stabat Mater. The orchestra has been vigorous in its support of musicians in Limerick, providing free music teaching to some 300 children there, and teaching classes in the University of Limerick Music Department's strings program. The Irish Chamber Orchestra has recorded for Black Box Classics, Virgin Classics, Tayberry, Toccata Classics, and Orfeo, on which the group, under Widmann, released a cycle of Mendelssohn's symphonies that offered the Symphony No. 5 in D major, Op. 108 ("Reformation"), in 2017.