Irish Chamber Orchestra 

Changing lives through Music

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The Story

The Irish Chamber Orchestra 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.

Following a succession of illustrious Artistic Directors including Fionnuala Hunt, Nicholas McGegan and Anthony Marwood, the orchestra appointed two artistic partners – Hungarian conductor Gábor Tákacs Nagy (Principal Artistic Partner) and clarinettist/composer Jörg Widmann (Principal Guest Conductor/Artistic Partner. With different styles, Gábor Tákacs Nagy (Principal Artistic Partner) closes out his Haydn cycle which visited land-mark chapters in the composer’s life and some of his most influential symphonies. Jörg Widmann (Principal Conductor/Artistic Partner) continues his personal journey performing all the Mendelssohn symphonies 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, Holland, at the Heidelberg Spring International Music Festival and at the Mozartfest, Wurzburg in Germany. The ICO undertakes two Christmas concerts in Bregenz, Austria and Wiesbaden, Germany with Ailish Tynan. In 2015, we collaborated for the first time Irish Youth Opera and Northern Ireland Opera in association with the Lime Tree Theatre for Agrippina, Handel’s opera, scintillatingly set to music. Agrippina went on to win 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.

The ICO stepped up its involvement with UL’s MA in Classical String Performance. Students now receive instrumental lessons, intensive chamber music coaching and technique lessons every week with ICO members. They also participate in Academos, the Irish Chamber Orchestra run ensemble in residence at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance.

The ICO began the first of its 3-year Residency in Heidelberg, performing Mendelssohn and Mozart piano concerti with Igor Levit. From there to Cologne, Widmann continued his Mendelssohn journey. Tabea Zimmermann, one of the great viola players of this century performed Bruch’s seldom heard double concerto for clarinet and viola. With Widmann and the ICO, they dazzled an audience in excess of 2,000 people. So successful was the Cologne performance that the ICO have been invited back to perform there in 2018 & again in 2019. In June the orchestra travelled to Wurzburg performing to a capacity house which resulted in an invitation back there in 2018. The orchestra also made its debut at the Tonnhalle, Zurich to a very receptive audience.

In addition to its Heidelberg Residency in April, the orchestra performed in Cologne in June 2016. The ICO directed by Widmann return to the Mozartfest, Wurzburg with acclaimed violist, Tabea Zimmerman in June 2016. July marked the ICO’s Swiss debut in Zurich with Widmann.
In August 2016, the ICO began a 3-year residency at the long-established Kilkenny Arts Festival in August performing four concerts there before commencing its usual busy season which featured concerts with Gábor Tákacs Nagy (Principal Artistic Partner), Katherine Hunka and Carolin Widmann.

In September, Gábor Tákacs Nagy introduced ICONS as Tchaikovsky and Schubert, rock icons of their era, rubbed shoulders with twentieth century rock icons, Jimmy Hendrix and the Rolling Stones in a season opener that oozed diversity. This was followed by The Magic of the Movies tour directed by Katherine Hunka in October. Jörg Widmann (Principal Conductor/Artistic Partner introduced his sister, the violinist Carolin Widmann with another Mendelssohn feast. December brought another new energy in the exciting Corsican-born musician Jean-Christophe Spinosi who took the baton for War and Peace, a delightful programme of contrasts.

In February 2017, the ICO undertook a very successful 4-day European tour to Blaibach, Neumarkt, Brussels and Freiburg with Principal Conductor Jörg Widmann . Back on terra firma, the orchestra collaborated with Chamber Choir Ireland, presenting a work by, composer Tarik O’Regan. In March, Jörg Widmann’s REFORMATION re-introduced the electrifying Russian pianist Igor Levit with a feast of music by Mozart and Mendelssohn. This programme travelled to the prestigious Vienna Konzerthaus and the Heidelberger-fruehling for the 2nd year of the ICO’s residency there. Austrian conductor, Thomas Zehetmair made an impressive debut with the orchestra in April. The ICO joined forces with Northern Ireland Opera to present an Irish premiere of Handel’s RADAMISTO which was very well received. Iconic American works featured in a nationwide summer tour in June, directed by Katherine Hunka.

The ICO returns to Kilkenny for the second year of its residency at the Kilkenny Arts Festival where it performs four concerts with Katherine Hunka, Jörg Widmann, Ailish Tynan and Stephen Rea.

The 2017/18 season (9-16 September) opens with an operatic collaboration of 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. Later in September, Gábor Tákacs Nagy presents WORLD PREMIERE, a new work by Sam Perkin written for percussionist Alex Petcu. 365 Variations on a Gesture is inspired by a lifelong fascination with waves, one of the world’s most important and fundamental phenomena. BACH ON TOUR takes the ICO back on the road in October with a 4 day-tour ( Ennis, Monkstown, Sligo 19-22 October). Peter Whelan champions music of the Baroque era in his ICO debut. November sees the return of Jörg Widmann who re-introduces his sister, the violinst, Carolin Widmann with another MOSTLY MENDELSSOHN programme. The ICO performs THE BEST OF CHRISTMAS in Limerick and Mullingar (15+16 December) featuring much-loved highlights from the last three performances by soprano Ailish Tynan.

On the recording front, the ICO released the two Mendelssohn CDS on the prestigious Orfeo label in 2016 and 2017. Katherine Hunka has just released a refreshing CD of music by Astor Piazzolla in June.

This hectic calendar of events could not have happened without the generous support of our funders The Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon. Additionally we would like to thank Culture Ireland, our Patrons, Corporate Sponsors, Friends of the ICO and of course, our audience.


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Charity Number 8789

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