Irish Chamber Orchestra 

Changing lives through Music

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History

The Irish Chamber Orchestra (ICO) is a unique orchestra, known for its exciting performances, its diversity, energy, chemistry and risk-taking repertoire. The orchestra is dynamic and excels in creating extraordinary music experiences that change lives and empower communities through collaboration, innovation, education and its lust for artistic excellence.
Founded in 1963 by János Fürst, the orchestra was re-branded in 1970 as the New Irish Chamber Orchestra under Principal Conductor, André Prieur. In 1995, when the Irish Chamber Orchestra re-located to the University of Limerick, it reverted to its original Irish Chamber Orchestra (ICO) brand. Funded by the Arts Council of Ireland/An Chomhairle Ealaíon, the ICO uniquely owns a state-of-the-art studio, on campus at the University of Limerick.

The orchestra has had a strong succession of illustrious artistic partners including Fionnuala Hunt, Nicholas McGegan, Anthony Marwood and Gábor Tákacs Nagy. Clarinettist, composer and conductor Jörg Widmann (ICO Principal Conductor/Artistic Partner), has been at the forefront of the ICO’s artistic vision since 2012, presenting an unparalleled range of innovative partnerships during that time. His dazzling approach to music continues to attract some of the finest soloists to work with the ICO. Widmann has brought the orchestra on an exceptional journey, opening doors across Europe and beyond. Widmann and the ICO have explored the many facets of our greatest composers alongside some of his own imaginative compositions. His incredible synergy with the orchestra has won over audiences at home and abroad.

Katherine Hunka has successfully led the orchestra since 2002. Her intimate approach to her music has endeared her to her audiences countrywide especially in Limerick, the ICO’s hometown.

Virtuosic, creative and innovative with a big family feel, the ICO embraces its involvement in the community with a strong mission to change lives through music. Outside the concert hall, the ICO inspires and supports communities with a vitality unmatched by other ensembles. Its innovative Sing Out With Strings initiative, began in 2008. It provides free tuition in singing, song writing and string instruments to 300 children throughout Limerick city- developing not only musical but also key life skills.

The orchestra offers a concert season in Limerick and Dublin (September – April) as well as two national tours annually to far-flung pockets of Ireland. The ICO has toured with success across Europe, Australia, South Korea, China and the US and demand for the orchestra’s presence on the world stage has been altogether more fruitful, in recent times. International appearances for the ICO with Widmann began in Berlin in 2007 and since then he has been very influential in opening doors for the orchestra across Europe.

In 2011, the ICO appeared at De Singel, Antwerp. In 2013, it performed at the prestigious Konzerthaus, Berlin and at the Heidelberg Frühling Festival, which resulted in a three year residency there (2016-18). The orchestra also appeared at the Rheinghau and Lichfield Festivals and undertook a US-tour across 9 states, visiting 13 cities with flautist, Sir James Galway.

In 2014, Widmann and the Irish Chamber Orchestra performed at the Storioni Festival, the Heidelberg Spring International Music Festival and at the Mozartfest, Wurzburg as well as Christmas concerts in Bregenz and Wiesbaden with soprano, Ailish Tynan.

2015 marked a successful collaboration with Irish Youth Opera and Northern Ireland Opera on Handel’s Agrippina, winning Best Overall Production at the Tiger Fringe Festival, Dublin. The orchestra also undertook a very successful U.S. tour, with Gábor Tákacs-Nagy and Hungarian cellist István Várdai who blazed a trail performing Haydn’s long-lost C major Concerto to packed venues in California, Colorado and New Mexico. At home, the ICO stepped up its involvement with the University of Limerick’s MA in Classical String Performance as students receive intensive chamber music coaching, technique lessons and master-classes with ICO members. They also participate in Academos, an ensemble- in-residence at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, run by the orchestra.

2016 was the first year of the ICO’s three-year Residency at the Heidelberger-fruehling Festival, with Igor Levit. From there to Cologne, Tabea Zimmermann performed Bruch’s seldom heard double concerto dazzling an audience in excess of 2,000 people. The orchestra travelled to Wurzburg and made its debut at the Tonnhalle, Zurich to a rapturous audience. At home, the orchestra began a 3-year residency at Ireland’s long-established Kilkenny Arts Festival performing four concerts there. The orchestra released its first album of Mendelssohn Symphonies 1&4 on the prestigious Orfeo label.

A busy tour to Blaibach, Neumarkt, Brussels and Freiburg with Jörg Widmann kick-started 2017. The orchestra made its debut at the prestigious Vienna Konzerthaus, closely followed by its second year residency at the Heidelberger-fruehling Festival with Widmann and Igor Levit. The ICO teamed up with Northern Ireland Opera to present the Irish premiere of Handel’s RADAMISTO to great acclaim. The orchestra returned to the Kilkenny Arts Festival for the 2nd year performing four concerts with Katherine Hunka, Jörg Widmann, Ailish Tynan and Stephen Rea as well as a number of ‘pop-up’ concerts to capacity houses. Britten’s OWEN WINGRAVE, an ICO co-production with Opera Collective Ireland, in association with the Académie de l’Opéra national de Paris, was conducted by Stephen Barlowe. Gábor Tákacs Nagy presented a new work by Sam Perkin written for percussionist Alex Petcu. Peter Whelan championed baroque giants on his ICO debut. Widmann re-introduced his sister Carolin who enchanted audiences performing Mendelssohn’s lyrical Violin Concerto Op. 64. Soprano Ailish Tynan presented THE BEST OF CHRISTMAS in Limerick and Mullingar. The orchestra released two CDs, their 2nd on the Orfeo label Reformation directed by Jörg Widmann alongside Astor Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires directed by Katherine Hunka.

2018 began on a high note with TRAPEZE, featuring aerial dance troupe, Fidget Feet. The ICO performed its first ever dance club gig with leading Irish producer, DJ and composer Kormac as part of Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Festival to great success. Limerick audiences previewed the ICO’s final offering at the Heidelberger Frühling festival at UCH, Limerick. This concert, marked the end of the ICO’s residency, as Jörg Widmann introduced acclaimed Russian pianist, Elisabeth Leonskaja performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23. The ICO made its debut at the Philharmonie Essen, one of the most technically advanced concert halls in Europe. Back home, the orchestra joined forces with the newly formed Irish National Opera (INO) for Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro in Wexford and Dublin (April). Peter Whelan conducted Patrick Mason’s acclaimed production, which dazzled audiences and featured the cream of Irish singers. The ICO toured Death and the Maiden in May visiting Limerick, Kilkee, Newport and Monaghan.

Over the coming season, the flamboyant Jean-Christophe Spinosi delves into the heart of Beethoven’s C Symphonies. From the concert hall to a sports stadium, see the ICO in a new guise performing classic hits with some of Ireland’s finest rock bands at one of the country’s iconic music festivals Feile -The Trip to Tipp. Thomas Zhetmair performs Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3. We look forward to working with Chamber Choir Ireland on the Irish premiere of James MacMillan’s Stabat Mater, followed by second collaboration with them for Mendelssohn’s jewel in the crown, his iconic, Lobgesang. This mammoth undertaking will bring Widmann’s extraordinary journey with Mendelssohn to a climactic conclusion. Sam Perkin and Sebastian Adams present two new ICO commissions, while jazz flautist Michael Buckley tours with the ICO performing a recent concerto Pipe Dreams by composer, Ronan Guillfoyle. Irish singers Sharon Carty and Anna Devin also feature in the season.

The orchestra will tour South America in June 2019 with Jörg Widmann with a further tour planned to the U.S. The orchestra continues to record with great success. The ICO’s third CD with Widmann on the Orfeo label has garnered much acclaim.

 
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