The Prague Chamber Orchestra are a world-renowned ensemble, operating without a conductor since its establishment in 1951. Famed for their sensitivity, cohesion and attention to the smallest detail, the ensemble continue to expand on their sixty-year reputation as one of the most sought-after chamber ensembles in the world.
The PKO-Prague Chamber Orchestra (PKO) is one of the four oldest chamber orchestras in Europe. It was founded in 1951 and its history has never been interrupted since then. It stands out as an orchestra of the so-called Mozart cast (34 musicians), which is able to perform without a conductor. At the beginning of its existence, it focused mainly on interpretations of earlier Czech music, the music of Classicism and Early Romanticism. Later, it included in its repertoire also compositions of the 20th century and subsequently began to perform also entirely new work of contemporary composers. Currently, the PKO has a number of premieres to its credit.
PKO quickly took its place among the musical bodies most in demand in the country and already one year after its foundation was a guest of the (then only a few years old) festival Prague Spring. In the more than 60 years of its existence, it has performed many thousands of concerts, of which precisely 2,223 have taken place abroad as of December 2014. The travel history of the PKO is very rich: with the exception of the Antarctic it has performed on all of the continents – a total of 64 countries. Other than its European tours (in which it has visited all of the states except Albania), it has completed ten tours of South America, sixteen in the USA and Canada and nine in Japan.
The orchestra has cooperated with a number of artistic personalities with renowned names. The conductors include, for instance, Sir Charles Mackerras, Václav Neumann, Gerd Albrecht and Trevor Pinnock. The list of the soloists has among others Emil Gilels, Arturo Benedetti-Michelangeli, Rudolf Buchbinder, Henryk Szeryng, Maxim Vengerov, Jessye Norman, Barbara Hendricks, Mischa Maisky, Beaux Arts Trio, Ivan Moravec or Alice Sara Ott.
PKO has recorded countless title for the companies Supraphon, Denon, BMG, Decca, Telarc and others. In its extensive discography, it is not lacking a number of significant awards like the “Gold Record of Supraphon” in 1987 for one million gramophone records sold, “Wiener Flötenuhr” or the “Grand Prix du Disque” from the Académie Charles Cros.
UC Berkeley Zellerbach Hall, San Francisco, 2003
“The Prague Chamber Orchestra clearly demonstrated the benefits of maintaining their tradition in Friday’s performance…their offering, an all-Beethoven concert, was quite simply among some of the finest orchestral playing to grace a Bay Area stage.”
“The orchestra’s approach was a revelation.”
“The winds seemed to emerge seamlessly from string textures, and achieved an uncanny balance between blending and standing in relief. The attention given to the minutest details was astonishing, but most compelling were the clear sense of direction, the appreciation of expressive gestures, and the sense of confident vision that they manage to project. This is all the more impressive as they perform without conductor.”
John Lutterman, San Francisco Classical Voice, 24/10/03
Lobero Theatre, Santa Barbara, 2003
“The concert was an evening full of polished musical energy and contrasting materials”
“The Prague Chamber Orchestra is a committed and workable democracy…their prevision and all-for-one ensemble voice was evident from the first measures of the concert-opener, Beethoven’s festive Coriolan Overture”
“The orchestra’s string forces eloquently delivered the music’s mournful beauty, a radical departure from the vibrant Beethoven concerto.”
Josef Woodward, Santa Barbara News Press, 28/10/03
Cultural Centre Concert Hall, Hong Kong Arts Festival, 2004
“There was an exquisite charm about the Prague Chamber Orchestra’s concert”
“The orchestra seemed to have brought to Hong Kong the glade, the stream, the dancing of light and shadows and the birds’ chirping from the ancient Bohemian woods.”
“The winds, especially the flute, were a joy to hear
Vincent Mak, South China Morning Post, 02/03/04
Music Hall, Kansas City, USA, 2003
“The 35 members of this superb group…betwitched the audience with a tradition that continues to distinguish the best European groups from similar ensembles in the New World”
Paul Horsley, The Kansas City Star, 04/11/03
Worcester, USA, 2003
“Indeed, the playing was so vibrant and the musical ambience so inviting that even the stuffiest listeners could hardly stop themselves from clapping. It’s a wonder they saved their standing ovation for the end.”
“The orchestra’s playing was world-class.”
Frank Magiera, Telegram & Gazette, 12/11/03
Concert Hall, Perth, 2004
“the Prague visitors played Dvorak’s marvellously probing score as if it belonged to them”
Neville Cohn, Australia Today, 23/02/04