Notice of Online Archive

  • This page is no longer being updated and remains online for informational and historical purposes only. The information is accurate as of the last page update.

    For questions about page contents, contact the Communications Division.

Recognized internationally as one of the world’s great chamber orchestras, Grammy Award-winning Orpheus is celebrating its 32nd season with concert activity spanning three continents, including appearances in major cities of North America, Europe, and Asia.

The “conductorless” orchestra will make another of its frequent stops to the Williams Center for the Arts 3 p.m. Sunday, when it performs two of Felix Mendelssohn’s most genial works: the sunny, ebullient Symphony No. 4 (“The Italian Symphony”) and Piano Concerto No. 2 in D minor. “The Italian Symphony” is joyous music, filled with rich coloration and picturesque landscapes of sound; to interpret the nobility and elegance of the Concerto, Orpheus teams up with heralded young pianist Jonathan Biss.

Completing the program are works by pioneering Estonian master Erkki-Sven Tüür and protean Swiss-born composer Daniel Schnyder, who will give a free pre-performance talk one hour before the performance in Williams Center room 108.

The performance is this year’s J. Mahlon and Grace Buck Concert. Tickets cost $27 and can be purchased by calling the box office at 610-330-5009.

Orpheus will return to Lafayette for a third time this season when it premieres a commissioned work for clarinetist David Singer 8 p.m. Thursday, April 7.

Williams Center audiences enjoy Orpheus’ final polishing of its award-winning recording projects, major international tours, and numerous Carnegie Hall programs. Its Lafayette series has included many guest appearances by musicians later showcased by Orpheus at Carnegie Hall, from countertenor Andreas Scholl and bassist Edgar Meyer to saxophonist Branford Marsalis and violinist Gil Shaham. Local audiences have been treated to musicians unlikely to be heard in other roles: pianists Jeffrey Kahane, Andre Watts, Cecile Licad, and Olli Mustonen; violinists Shaham and Elmar Oliveira; vocalists Scholl, Nathalie Stutzman, Milagro Vargas, and Carmen Pelton; and bassist Meyer.

In Biss, Orpheus is collaborating with a musician who has earned an international reputation through his orchestral and recital performances in North America and Europe. Last year, EMI Classics released his recording debut, a CD comprising Schumann’s Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6 and two works by Ludwig van Beethoven, Fantasy in G minor, Op. 77 and Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57 (Appassionata).

The Los Angeles Times has called Biss “a serious, accomplished artist who puts the composer before the player.” The San Francisco Chronicle said his debut CD is “brilliant” and the Cleveland Plain Dealer remarked that this “recording is a clear signal that a master is emerging.”

Biss has performed with most major U.S. orchestras, including the Atlanta Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Boston Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Dallas Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, Milwaukee Symphony, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, National Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, and Seattle Symphony.

He participated in the Jerusalem Chamber Music Festival last summer and has numerous chamber music performances in his 2004-05 schedule, including several with the Mendelssohn String Quartet and duo recitals with violinist Miriam Fried in Washington, St. Paul, and in New York at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Mr. He will give recitals in Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Hannover, and Perugia in Europe and throughout the U.S. in cities that include Detroit, Philadelphia, Seattle, and New York at Zankel Hall.

Biss was an artist-in-residence on NPR’s “Performance Today” and has been recognized with numerous awards, including the 2002 Gilmore Young Artist Award, Wolf Trap’s Shouse Debut Artist Award, Lincoln Center’s Martin E. Segal Award, an Avery Fisher Career Grant, the Andrew Wolf Memorial Chamber Music Award, and the 2003 Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award. He is the only American to participate in the BBC’s New Generation Artist program.

Orpheus also has received numerous distinctions and awards, including a 2001 Grammy Award for Shadow Dances: Stravinsky Miniatures, three 1999 Grammy Awards for its jazz-inspired Ravel and Gershwin collaboration with Herbie Hancock, a 1998 Grammy nomination for its recording of Mozart piano concertos with Richard Goode, and the 1998 “Ensemble of the Year” award by Musical America.

Orpheus was founded in 1972 by cellist Julian Fifer and a group of fellow musicians who aspired to perform chamber orchestral repertory as chamber music through their own close collaborative efforts, and without a conductor. Orpheus developed its approach to the study and performance of this repertory by bringing to the orchestral setting the chamber music principles of personal involvement and mutual respect. Orpheus is a self-governing organization, making the repertory and interpretive decisions ordinarily assumed by a conductor. Holt/NY Times Books published a book about Orpheus and its management model, Leadership Ensemble: Lessons in Collaborative Management from the World’s Only Conductorless Orchestra, written by former Orpheus executive director Harvey Seifter and business writer Peter Economy.

Members of Orpheus have received recognition for solo, chamber music, and orchestral performances. Of the 18 string and 10 wind players who comprise the basic membership of Orpheus, many also hold teaching positions at prominent conservatories and universities in the New York and New England areas, including Juilliard, Manhattan School of Music, New England Conservatory, Montclair State University, Mannes College of Music, and Columbia and Yale Universities.

The Orpheus recording legacy consists of nearly 70 albums. Included in the catalogue of over 50 recordings for Deutsche Grammophon are Baroque masterworks of Handel, Corelli, and Vivaldi, Haydn symphonies, Mozart symphonies and serenades, the complete Mozart wind concerti with Orpheus members as soloists, Romantic works by Dvorák, Grieg, and Tchaikovsky, and a number of 20th-century classics by Bartók, Prokofiev, Fauré, Ravel, Schoenberg, Ives, Copland and Stravinsky. Recent collaborations include a recording of English and American folk songs with countertenor Andreas Scholl (Decca); Creation, a jazz-inspired CD of classics from 1920s Paris with saxophonist Branford Marsalis (SONY Classical); and a critically acclaimed series of recordings of Mozart piano concertos with Richard Goode (Nonesuch).

During the 2003-04 season, Orpheus performed with some of the world’s finest soloists in concerts at Carnegie Hall and on tour in the United States and Europe: Watts, Meyer, Jennifer Larmore, Sarah Chang, and Zhang Qiang. Orpheus also presented the New York premieres of works by Meyer and Tan Dun. It continued its series of concerts at Trinity Church and its educational programs at Baruch College/CUNY and in New York City elementary, middle, and high schools. The season marked the launch of a major new multimedia outreach program, 3 Places, designed to bring composers together with diverse communities throughout New York City.

The nationally recognized Performance Series at Lafayette attracts more than 10,000 people each season. It has been cited for performing excellence by the National Endowment for the Arts, National Dance Project, Chamber Music America, Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Fund, Pennsylvania Arts and Humanities Councils, and Association of Performing Arts Presenters.

The 2004-05 Performance Series at Lafayette is supported in part by gifts from Friends of the Williams Center for the Arts; by the F.M. Kirby Foundation; by provisions of the Alan and Wendy Pesky Artist-in-Residence Program, J. Mahlon and Grace Buck Foundation, and Croasdale Fund; and by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

Categorized in: News and Features