Irish Chamber Orchestra 

Changing lives through Music

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The Story

The Irish Chamber Orchestra (ICO) is a world class orchestra, based in Limerick, renowned for its diversity, energy, its unique sound and outstanding musicianship. The orchestra was founded in 1963 by János Fürst and re-branded in 1970 as the New Irish Chamber Orchestra under Principal Conductor, André Prieur. In 1995 the Irish Chamber Orchestra re-located to the University of Limerick and reverted back to its original Irish Chamber Orchestra (ICO) brand. It uniquely owns a custom built studio, on campus at the University of Limerick. The orchestra is funded by The Arts Council of Ireland/An Chomhairle Ealaíon.

Under Katherine Hunka‘s leadership, the Irish Chamber Orchestra has made Limerick its successful home. The orchestra offers a concert season in Limerick and Dublin (September – April) as well as two national tours annually. The orchestra continues to attract the world’s finest musicians including Stephen Barlow, Peter Whelan, Ailish Tynan, Elisabeth Leonskaja, Thomas Zehetmair, Carolin Widmann, Mojca Erdmann, István Várdai, Jean-Christophe Spinosi, Igor Levit, Claron McFadden, Gilles Vonsattel, Gloria Rehm, Jochen Rieder, Sergeij Nakariakov, Tabea Zimmermann, Pekka Kuusisto, James Galway, Jonathan Cohen, Finghin Collins and Michael McHale.

Following a succession of illustrious artistic partners including Fionnuala Hunt, Nicholas McGegan, Anthony Marwood and Gábor Tákacs Nagy, the orchestra continues to work with clarinettist/composer Jörg Widmann (Principal Conductor/Artistic Partner) who shifts his focus from Mendelssohn to the music of Schubert and Schumann alongside some of his most innovative compositions.

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, Blue Hall, Antwerp. In 2013, they performed at the prestigious Konzerthaus, Berlin and at the Heidelberg Frühling Festival which has resulted in a three year residency beginning May 2016. Later that year, the orchestra 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 highlights included a successful collaboration with Irish Youth Opera and Northern Ireland Opera on Handel’s Agrippina which won Best Overall Production at the Tiger Fringe Festival, Dublin. Later that year, the orchestra undertook a very successful U.S. tour, with Gábor Tákacs-Nagy performing Haydn. Celebrated Hungarian cellist István Várdai 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 now 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 marked the first year of the ICO’s 3-year Residency at the Heidelberger-fruehling Festival, performing Mendelssohn and Mozart piano concerti with Igor Levit. From there to Cologne, Tabea Zimmermann performed Bruch’s seldom heard double concerto for clarinet and viola, dazzling an audience in excess of 2,000 people. The orchestra travelled to Wurzburg and made its debut at the Tonnhalle, Zurich to a very receptive audience. At home, the orchestra commenced another 3-year residency at Ireland’s long-established Kilkenny Arts Festival which saw them perform four concerts there.

In February 2017, the ICO undertook a very successful 4-day European tour to Blaibach, Neumarkt, Brussels and Freiburg with Principal Conductor Jörg Widmann . In March, Jörg Widmann’s re-introduced the electrifying Russian pianist Igor Levit with a feast of music by Mozart and Mendelssohn. This programme marked the ICO’s debut at the prestigious Vienna Konzerthaus and was first Irish orchestra to perform there. Following its 2nd year of residency at the Heidelberger-fruehling Festival with Widmann and Igor Levit, the ICO teamed up once more with Northern Ireland Opera to present the Irish premiere of Handel’s RADAMISTO to great acclaim.

The ICO returned to the Kilkenny Arts Festival for the 2nd year of its residency where it performs four concerts with Katherine Hunka, Jörg Widmann, Ailish Tynan and Stephen Rea as well as a number of ‘pop-up’ concerts to capacity houses. The orchestra’s next operatic collaboration was Benjamin Britten’s OWEN WINGRAVE, a co-production with Opera Collective Ireland in association with the Académie de l’Opéra national de Paris conducted by Stephen Barlowe.

Looking ahead to 2018 the ICO joins forces once more with aerial dance troupe Fidget Feet. Jörg Widmann brings the ICO to Leverkusen in February, to Essen with pianist, Oliver Triendl in March, returning to Heidelberg for the final year of its residency with the grande dame of piano, Elisabeth Leonskaja.


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