Founded in 1960 by Prof. Saulius Sondeckis (Artistic Director and Chief Conductor, 1960–2004) the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra (LCO) is recognised as one of the finest and most internationally acclaimed Lithuanian orchestras. On the 23rd of April, 1960, the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra (LCO) began rehearsing as a new formation and invited to its first public concert on the 30th of October the same year to gain instant recognition among the audiences and critics both at home and away.
Early on the LCO became the first Lithuanian orchestra to receive an official permission to tour outside the Soviet Union: in 1966, it gave two concerts in the then German Democratic Republic. The young and energetic group of Lithuania’s finest string players was instantly noticed both by musical professionals and audiences alike. Yet more intense advance towards the international music scene began a decade later, in 1976, when the LCO appeared at the Echternach festival in Luxembourg to great critical acclaim. This success led to numerous engagements to perform at the world’s most prestigious concert halls and festivals.
Over the years its tour itineraries have covered the length and breadth of Europe, reached both Americas, Cuba, Egypt, the Republic of South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, China, and Japan (six times!). The LCO has become a favourite at the Festival International Echternach where it appeared seven times and was awarded the festival’s Grand Lion medal. It has been many times applauded at many major European halls such as the Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna’s Musikverein, London’s Royal Festival Hall, Rome’s Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Salle Pleyel in Paris and Leipzig’s Gewandhaus. Four times it has appeared at the reputable Salzburg and Schleswig-Holstein festivals, and several times returned to the Bachwoche Ansbach, “December Nights of Sviatoslav Richter” at the Pushkin State Museum in Moscow, Rheingau Music Festival, Ivo Pogorelich Festival, Menuhin Festival Gstaad, Salzburg Festival, Lucerne Festival, Berlin Festspiele, Ludwigsburg Festival and many others.
Among the many world celebrated masters of the baton who stood at the helm of the LCO on its numerous tours, the legendary Sir Yehudi Menuhin stands out for his special affinity and generosity towards this group of Lithuanian musicians. From the first rehearsals with the LCO in Spain in 1992 to his death in 1999, he conducted almost 60 concerts on the orchestra’s annual tours – from Bergen to Cairo. Some of these performances were committed to disc such as Handel’sMessiah, Haydn’s Die Schöpfung and Schubert’s Mass No. 4 and Mass No. 5 (together with the Kaunas State Choir and a team of international soloists; all released on Apex). A great number of distinguished soloists of various countries and generations have joined the orchestra in concerts, including violinists Gidon Kremer, Tatiana Grindenko, Igor Oistrakh, Sergei Stadler, Oleg Kagan, Vladimir Spivakov, Gil Shaham, Daniel Hope, Julian Rachlin, Vadim Repin, Sasha Rozhdestvensky, Sarah Chang, Tamaki Kawakubo, Arabella Steinbacher, and Janine Jansen; violists Yuri Bashmet and Maxim Rysanov; cellists Mstislav Rostropovich, Natalia Gutman, Natalia Shakhovskaya, Karine Georgian, David Geringas, Mark Drobinsky, Mischa Maisky, Alexander Kniazev, Danjulo Ishizaka, and Denis Shapovalov; pianists Justus Frantz, Evgeny Kissin, Tatiana Nikolayeva, Elisso Virsaladze, Alexei Liubimov, Dmitry Bashkirov, Vladimir Krainev, Sergei Babayan, Barry Douglas, Denis Matsuyev, and Alexei Volodin; trumpetists Timofei Dokshizer, Guy Touvron, Reinhold Friedrich, Gábor Boldoczki, and Sergei Nakariakov; flutists Aurèle Nicolet, Jean Pierre Rampal, and Camilla Hoitenga; oboist Alexei Ogrintchouk, singers José van Dam, Elena Obraztsova, and Virgilijus Noreika, among many others.
During the five decades the LCO has not only performed countless programmes in close collaboration with various soloists, conductors and choirs, but also produced over a hundred recordings of diverse repertoire, with special attention to the music of Bach and Mozart. The German tours of 2000 and 2001 with the legendary British actor and reciter, Sir Peter Ustinov, as narrator resulted in the unique recording of Ludwig van Beethoven’s ballet music The Creatures of Prometheus(conducted by Karl Anton Rickenbacher and released on RCA Red Seal label), which became the bestseller of the BMG company. Several collaborations and tours with young Russian trumpet player Sergei Nakariakov led to the recording of the album Echoes from the past featuring transcriptions of concerti by Hummel, Mozart, Weber and Saint-Saëns (Teldec Classics, 2002), which received 5 stars the Classic CD category.
Along with performances of Baroque and classical masterpieces, the orchestra has frequently included new works in its programmes and recordings. It has always been an active promoter of Lithuanian music, having performed over 200 works by M.K.Čiurlionis, Balys Dvarionas, Stasys Vainiūnas, Eduardas Balsys, Julius Juzeliūnas, Teisutis Makačinas, Vytautas Barkauskas, Jonas Tamulionis, Arvydas Malcys, Algirdas Martinaitis, Mindaugas Urbaitis, Raminta Šerkšnytė, and Justė Janulytė. It has also given a number of world premieres of works by many internationally renowned composers such as Rodion Shchedrin, Edison Denisov, Sergei Slonimsky, Sofia Gubaidulina, Giya Kancheli, Alfred Schnittke, Arvo Pärt, and Pēteris Vasks. Some of these works were composed in close collaboration with and dedicated to the orchestra.