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Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra

Founded in 1959 by Leopold Sipe, the SPCO has attracted some of the biggest names in classical music as artistic partners, conductors and music directors for over five decades.

Sipe conducted the orchestra until 1971 and Dennis Russell Davies took over in 1972.  Davies took the SPCO on its first tour overseas and made a handful of recordings during his tenure.  One of them, Copland:  Appalachian Spring; Ives:  Three Places in New England, won a Grammy award in 1980.

In 1980, Pinchas Zukerman took the helm as conductor and solo violinist and stayed with them until 1987.  On his watch, the SPCO was even more prolific in its recording output. Their releases during this time include:   J.S. Bach and Vivaldi:  Concertos for Violin and Oboe, which paired Zukerman with fellow virtuoso, Isaac Stern; Mendelssohn:  Violin Concerto in E minor, Octet in E-flatTelemann and Heberle:  Works for Recorder, Viola and Violin, with Michala Petri; Vivaldi:  The Four Seasons; and, W.A. Mozart:  Piano Concertos, featuring Emanuel Ax at the keys.

Stanislaw Skrowaczewski filled in as Interim Music Advisor from 1987 to 1988, when the dynamic duo of Christopher Hogwood and Hugh Wolff became Music Director and Principal Conductor, respectively.  This twosome ran the ship until 1992, with John Adams serving as Creative Chair during the 1988-89 and 1989-90 seasons.  They continued to make sure the SPCO maintained a high profile in the recording industry, with CDs such as Christmas with Thomas Hampson – Traditional Christmas SelectionsDvorak:  Serenade in E, Op. 22; Serenade in D minor, Op. 44, and Ravel:  Ma mere l’oye, Pavane pour uneinfante defunte, Le Tombeau de Couperin.

After the departure of Adams and Hogwood, Wolff stayed with the orchestra until 2000.  His was a prolific tenure, with 20 CDs and twenty-six commissions of original works.  He started up a pair of educational programs, CONNECT and Musical “U”, and led the SPCO on tours of Europe and Asia.

Bobby McFerrin occupied the Creative Chair from 1994 to 1999.  He did double duty as conductor and violinist on the 1995 album, Paper Music:  Works by Bach, Boccherini, Faure, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky, and Vivaldi.  In 1999, Nicholas McGegan was hired as Baroque Series Director.

From 2001 to 2004, Andreas Delfs wielded the baton.  He accomplished much during his short time with the orchestra, getting them face time on Twin Cities Public Television, inaugurating a three-year Mozart celebration, and conducting all nine of Beethoven’s symphonies.

Changes were made during the 2004-2005 season.  The post of Music Director was eliminated and artistic duties were shifted to the musicians themselves and a quartet of Artistic Partners:  Joshua Bell, Douglas Boyd, Nicholas McGegan, and Stephen Prutsman.  More Artistic Partners followed:  Roberto Abbado, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, and Dawn Upshaw, Edo de Waart, Christopher Zacharias, and Thomas Zehetmair.

The orchestra expanded its audience by christening the SPCO Center and by starting up a new series of concerts at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater, Minnesota.  Other venues were added, such as Bethel University, the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, and Wayzata Community Church.

The SPCO launched the International Chamber Orchestra Festival in January 2008.  Orchestras featured during the four-week celebration included the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, the London Sinfonietta, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra.

They got a blast from the past on 24th April 2010, when Modern Survey sponsored a program entitled Dennis Russell Davies Conducts Mozart and Copland at the United Church of Christ.

It is hard to believe, but the SPCO is the only professional, full-time chamber orchestra in the United States.  It is not hard to believe that they are esteemed in the international community.  They have commissioned 127 original works, delivered forty-nine world premieres, issued sixty-seven recordings, and won fifteen awards from the American Society of Composers, Artists and Performers.  They continue to be one of the best tickets in town, and throughout the world.

Thomas Hampson recordings
Adeste Fidelis (Frederick Oakeley/John Francis Wade)
Teldec 9031-73135 (CD: Christmas with Thomas Hampson – Traditional Christmas Selections)
Arranger – Thomas Pasatieri
Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
Conductor – Hugo Wolff