Since it was founded in 1998 Oxford’s professional symphony orchestra has become one of the leading orchestras in the UK. Praised as ‘excellent’ by Gramophone Magazine and ‘thoroughly impressive’ by BBC Music Magazine, Oxford Philomusica’s reputation is based on the uncompromising artistic standards of its Founder and Music Director, Marios Papadopoulos, and maintained by some of the very best orchestral musicians in London, Oxford and the Thames Valley. In October 2002 the Philomusica was appointed the first-ever Orchestra in Residence at the University of Oxford, a Residency which has recently been renewed until 2017.
From the start Oxford Philomusica has enjoyed endorsement of its mission from a remarkable roster of distinguished artists. In their 2011/12 season alone the Orchestra collaborated with musicians such as András Schiff, Hélène Grimaud, John Lill, Stephen Kovacevich, Julian Lloyd Webber, Natalie Clein, Craig Ogden, Benjamin Grosvenor, Mahan Esfahani, Menahem Pressler and Lang Lang. Notable collaborations in 2012/13 season include David Greilsammer, Roderick Williams and Tasmin Little.
Amongst the Orchestra’s achievements are its year-round programme of concerts at the Sheldonian Theatre, which attract consistent critical praise and loyal public support; an outstanding recording of Haydn’s Creation with New College Choir, which was the CD of the Month in BBC Music Magazine; major celebrations of Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn; and its annual International Piano Festival and Summer Academy. To these successes should be added the establishment of the hugely popular FUNomusica Family Concerts and the Orchestra’s annual Summer Baroque Season. The Orchestra’s recording of the Handel/Mendelssohn Acis and Galatea with Christ Church Cathedral Choir will be released in Autumn 2012.
2012 saw the introduction of the Orchestra’s hugely successful Chamber Music Series at the Maison Française D’Oxford, showcasing what The Times recognised as the Orchestra’s ‘glorious individual players’. These superb principal players of Oxford Philomusica have become a tight-knit family of like-minded musicians, enjoying an exceptional degree of rapport which lies at the heart of chamber music-making.
Since its inception the Orchestra has been firmly committed to education and community work, bringing music to the widest possible range of audiences – often outside the traditional concert venue – to schools, hospitals, community centres and retirement homes. As part of its University Residency, the Orchestra collaborates with the Faculty of Music in educational programmes for the student community. The Orchestra’s partnerships with Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council provide performance opportunities and tuition to hundreds of talented young musicians, particularly through ‘Young Musical Talent in Oxford’ schemes and an annual Youth Concerto Competition.
Oxford Philomusica enthusiastically embraces its role of filling what Arts Council England defined as ‘an identifiable regional need’ for a professional symphony orchestra based in the area between Birmingham and Bournemouth. The Philomusica has been appointed Orchestra in Association at the new Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, and its Thames Valley presence is being further consolidated by new ventures in Reading, Bristol, Cheltenham, Basingstoke, Bath and Malvern. Beyond its home region, the Orchestra is rapidly developing a national and international profile with regular appearances in London and an international touring programme with appearances in France, Switzerland, Greece, Denmark, Belgium and Sweden.
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|Exceptional Britten and Dvořák from Maxim Vengerov and the Oxford Philomusica|
|Just a few weeks after the announcement that Oxford would be hosting the UK’s first major Stradivari exhibition this June, Maxim Vengerov gave a phenomenal performance on one of the Italian craftsman’s instruments. Performing on the ex-Kreutzer instrument made in 1727, Vengerov’s performance with the Oxford Philomusica was unforgettable.
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|Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich and a world première from the Oxford Philomusica|
|Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre was nearly full for the concert on Thursday night. Billed “Russian Greats”, the programme mixed the familiar fare of Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich with a world première by the Oxford-based composer Chris Garrard. There was a tangible sense of anticipation before the concert began, and the audience’s encouragement throughout the evening surely encouraged the Oxford Philomusica to give such a spirited performance.
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|Bruckner and Mozart from the Oxford Philomusica|
|The level of anticipation for Saturday’s Oxford Philomusica concert was high, although not necessarily for the reasons you might expect: several minutes passed after tuning before the concertmaster emerged from the wings of Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre. Although the Sheldonian may be somewhat lacking acoustically, the building’s grandeur more than makes up for it. The main feature of the interior is undoubtedly Robert Streater’s painted ceiling (depicting “Truth descending upon the Arts and Sciences to expel Ignorance from the University”).|
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|Oxford Philomusica with Menahem Pressler: Mendelssohn and Mozart|
|The Oxford International Piano Festival comprises a two-week long series of workshops and concerts, hosted by Oxford Philomusica and featuring pianists of international esteem, among them Andreas Haefliger and Sergei Babayan. It was Menahem Pressler, now in his 88th year, who gave the closing piano masterclasses and performed in the closing concert at the Sheldonian Theatre. The concert began and ended with orchestral works by Mendelssohn, with Mozart's Piano Concerto no. 27 in the middle.|
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