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Concerto Köln – 30 Years on the Cutting Edge of Early Music
Cologne, december 2018
Passionate performance style and an insatiable appetite for venturing into uncharted territory are the trademarks of Concerto Köln. For over 30 years, the orchestra with the distinctive sound has ranked among the leading historically-informed performance practice ensembles. Maintaining deep roots in Cologne's own musical scene while making regular guest appearances in the great music capitals around the world and at renowned festivals, Concerto Köln is synonymous with outstanding interpretations of early music. Even though the focus remains on early music, the 2018/19 season will see the breadth of repertoire extend into the 19th century. Already launched in 2017, the musical-scientific project, “Wagner Readings” has caused quite a stir in the international music scene. The project involves examining Wagner's entire “Ring of the Nibelung” from an early music movement perspective and is the first attempt of its kind. In parallel and in addition to its focus on the baroque, the orchestra is dedicating two concert programs in the new season to works of the 19th century.
The kick-off to the 2018/19 season includes two new CD releases and corresponding concert tours that feature young singers: the album, “Caro Gemello” with the countertenor, Valer Sabadus, and “Bach” with the baritone, Benjamin Appl. Concerto Köln performs Bach's b-minor Mass at e.g. the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg and additional concerts with various programs in numerous concert halls throughout Germany and Europe. An excursion to St. Petersburg takes place in December before the ensemble travels to Japan in February of 2019 with the program, “Caro Gemello”. Major stopovers on the tour include Kyoto, Himeji, Musashino and Tokyo. Musical collaborations in the new season feature the violinist Giuliano Carmignola, the soprano Simone Kermes, the concert designer Folkert Uhde, the harpsichordist Jean Rondeau and the violist Nils Mönkemeyer as well as conductors Kent Nagano and Andrea Marcon. With the “Veedelkonzerte – Im Bienenstock” (Neighborhood Concerts – In the Beehive), Concerto Köln presents concerts for the youngest of listeners: from zero to two years. For young musicians, the ensemble offers courses in historical performance practice at the Landesakademie Ochsenhausen.
The multiannual research project, “Wagner Readings” that was launched in the 2017/18 season has received a great deal of international attention. This project, initiated and led by Concerto Köln together with Kent Nagano, will be an ongoing process in the years ahead and involves working through Richard Wagner's Tetralogy, “The Ring of the Nibelung”, from a historical performance perspective. The Kunststiftung NRW, the Strecker-Stiftung, the Province of North-Rhine Westphalia and MBL assist in supporting the ensemble with this artistic-scientific project. Two concerts in the Cologne Philharmonic Hall in Spring of 2019 will mark the first performances by Concerto Köln with 19th century repertoire.
Mayumi Hirasaki, Markus Hoffmann, Shunske Sato and Evgeny Sviridov as regular concertmasters assume the leading roles within the self-governed orchestra. With their choice of projects, the musicians manage to prove time and again that artistic standards and popular success are by no means a contradiction in terms.
Concerto Köln turns out gripping interpretations of standard repertoire as well, making familiar works sound as if they had never been heard before. Just recently, the album “Carl Heinrich Graun” with Julia Lezhneva (Decca) was the recipient of the newly-launched award, “Opus Klassik”. With “La Venezia di Anna Maria” together with the baroque violinist, Midori Seiler, Concerto Köln landed in the top ten of the German classical music charts in the early summer of 2018 and stayed there for several months. Since 2008, Concerto Köln maintains close ties with the label, Berlin Classics, but collaborates frequently with other labels as well. By now, the ensemble is able to boast a discography of over 75 recordings, the majority of which are distinguished with awards such as the ECHO Klassik, the Opus Klassik, the Grammy Award, the German Record Critics Award, the MIDEM Classic Award, the Choc du Monde de la Musique, the Diapason d’Année and the Diapason d’Or. Particularly noteworthy are the recordings of the Brandenburg Concertos as well as the brilliant, recently-recorded Four Seasons with Shunske Sato (both recordings under Berlin Classics). The latter was realized through a close collaboration with the high end specialists, MBL: In the quest to replicate a live experience, the concert was recorded without cuts and in the highest audio quality. A new album with MBL is planned for the 2018/19 season.
As a cultural ambassador of the European Union (2012), the orchestra acts as a musical figurehead for Cologne and its province, North Rhine-Westphalia. To help in the realization of its ideas, the ensemble is able to rely on the support of numerous partners: The Ministry of Science and Culture of the Province of North Rhine-Westphalia, the Kunststiftung NRW and the Goethe Institute help to support the ensemble in e.g. its research and realization of musical projects. The RheinEnergie Foundation for Culture and the Foundations of the Kreissparkasse Köln play significant supporting roles in the extensive and unique musical education project, “Die Hörpiraten”. TÜV Rheinland aids in supporting the concert series, AfterWorkClassix, in which Concerto Köln presents audiences with new programs of rediscovered works. In addition, a close partnership with the High End Audio specialists, MBL, was established in 2009, enabling the orchestra to intensively examine the sound and playback of its recordings.
Translation: Jennifer Smyth