Gulbenkian Symphony Orchestra
It was in 1962 that the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation decided to establish a permanent orchestral group, initially made up of only twelve members (strings and basso continuo), originally called the Gulbenkian Chamber Orchestra. This ensemble became progressively larger, the Gulbenkian Orchestra (as it has been known since 1971) having today 66 permanent members, which number may be expanded according to the needs of the programmes presented.
This structure, unusual nowadays and situated between chamber and symphonic dimensions, enables the Gulbenkian Orchestra to perform a substantial repertoire, including the entire classical period, a significant part of the orchestral literature of the 19th century, and a great deal of 20th century music. Works belonging to the repertoires of traditional symphony orchestras, such as the orchestral output of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn and Schumann, may thus be given by the Gulbenkian Orchestra in versions closer to the orchestral ensembles for which they were originally conceived, in terms of their internal sound structure.
In each season, the Orchestra gives a regular concert series in the Large Auditorium at the Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, within which context it has had occasion to collaborate with some of the best-known names in the world of music (conductors and soloists), also performing in other areas of Portugal, thereby contributing significantly to decentralization.
In addition, the Orchestra has gradually increased its international activity, having toured in Europe, Asia, Africa and America. During the current season, a tour to Spain is planned, with the mezzo-soprano Angelika Kirchschlager (March 2010), the performance in Paris of the opera The Flowering Tree (2006), by the American composer (20 March 2010), and a return visit to the Bad Kissingen Festival, in Germany (July 2010). In the following season, the Gulbenkian Orchestra will return to Paris, for a concert in the Salle Pleyel with the pianist Aldo Ciccolini (18 October 2010), to which plans other projects will be added.
In terms of recordings, the name of the Gulbenkian Orchestra is associated with, amongst others, the Philips, Deutsche Grammophon, Hyperion, Teldec, Erato, Adès, Nimbus and Lyrinx labels, and has won a number of prestigious international prizes.
Among its most recent recording projects should be mentioned the collaboration with Lise de La Salle, in a recording of the first piano concertos by Liszt, Shostakovich and Prokofiev (Naïf), and with Sa Chen, in a recording of the two piano concertos by Chopin (Pentatone), both projects under the directions of Lawrence Foster. More recently, the Gulbenkian Orchestra, under the baton of Joana Carneiro, has recorded a disc entirely of music by Tchaikovsky, which will shortly be commercially available. New recording projects include, in November 2009, two discs, again for Pentatone: the first will be Salieri's Requiem (a world première), and the second will contain works by Ligeti, Kodály e Bartók. Since the 2002-2003 season, Lawrence Foster has been the artistic director of the orchestra, also being Titular Conductor. Claudio Scimone, who occupied this position between 1979 and 1986, was in 1987 appointed Honorary Conductor, while Simone Young and Joana Carneiro have been Principal Guest Conductor and Guest Conductor since the 2007-2008 and 2006-2007 seasons, respectively.
currently holds the positions of music director of Orchestre et Opéra National de Montpellier and artistic director and chief conductor of the Gulbenkian Orchestra. Lawrence Foster has appeared in major opera houses throughout the world. He works regularly at Hamburgische Staatsoper, with recent productions having included Pélléas et Mélisande, Der Freischütz and Carmen. Future plans in Hamburg include Pique Dame in 2011/12 and The Cunning Little Vixen in 2013/14. In 2011 he returns to Opéra de Marseille for Wozzeck and will also conduct the world première of Die Marquise von O by René Koering for Opéra de Monte Carlo. He will make his debut with Oper Frankfurt with a production of Khovanschina in 2012/13.
Orchestral highlights of this season include appearances with NDR Sinfonieorchester Hamburg, NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover, the Residentie Orkest, Ensemble Orchestral de Paris and Tivoli Symphony Orchestra. He also has an ongoing relationship with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra; appearances with them in 2011 include the Kissinger Sommer Festival and touring in 2012.
Future highlights include concerts with MDR Sinfonieorchester Leipzig, Helsinki Philharmonic, Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne and Orquesta y Coro Nacionales de Espana. He will also appear at the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival and will take the Gulbenkian Orchestra to the Enescu Festival in September 2011.