Mission of Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale
Mission statement: Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale’s mission is to present audiences throughout the world with historically-informed performances of music from the Baroque, Classical, and Early Romantic periods, as well as new music, using period instruments and vocal techniques that capture the style, spirit, and distinctive sound of that time. We share our music through live performances and recordings, and actively reach new audiences through our educational offerings and training programs for the next generation of musicians.
- Great music is universal. It is a timeless medium that impacts quality of life on an emotional, social, spiritual, and intellectual level.
- Period-instrument performance, executed at the highest level, creates a distinct sound and singular listening experience. Historically-informed performance means more than playing music in the style in which it was written; it also means performing music with a passion, joy, and vitality that provide a meaningful contemporary artistic experience for today’s audience. In addition, this experience enriches appreciation of history and provides a valuable perspective in preserving and understanding the orchestral tradition.
- The opportunity for audiences today to hear great works and authentic instruments from the past is, in itself, a legacy that must be preserved for the benefit of future generations.
History of Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale
Under the musical direction of Nicholas McGegan for the past 33 years, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale (PBO) is recognized as America’s leading historically informed ensemble. Using authentic instruments and stylistic conventions of the Baroque to early-Romantic periods, the orchestra engages audiences through its signature Bay Area series, national tours, recordings, commissions, and education projects of the highest standard. Founded in the San Francisco Bay Area 37 years ago, the ensemble is the largest of its kind in the United States and is known for its versatility in programming and joyful performances.
PBO’s musicians are among the best in the country and serve on the faculties of The Juilliard School, Harvard, and Stanford, among others. The Orchestra performs an annual subscription season in four venues throughout the San Francisco Bay Area as well as the orchestra’s popular alternative concert series for younger and new audiences—PBO SESSIONS which has regularly sold out since its inception in 2014. In April 2017, PBO performed the modern-day premiere of Rameau’s Le Temple de la Gloire. The fully-staged opera included an international cast of singers and dancers and celebrated sold-out audiences and critical acclaim from around the world.
Each season welcomes eminent guest artists such as mezzo-sopranos Susan Graham and Anne Sofie von Otter, countertenor David Daniels, violoncellist Steven Isserlis, fortepianist Emanuel Ax, and maestro Richard Egarr. The Orchestra enjoys numerous collaborations, including a regular partnership with the Mark Morris Dance Group and tours regularly to venues such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Tanglewood, and Weill Hall at the Green Music Center. In July 2017, PBO co-produced the critically-acclaimed modern adaptation of Aci, Galatea e Polifemo in partnership with Anthony Roth Costanzo and National Sawdust in Brooklyn.
Among the most recorded orchestras in the world, PBO boasts a discography of more than 40 recordings and launched its own label in 2011, on which it has released ten recordings, including a coveted archival performance of mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson in Berlioz’s Les Nuits D’été, and a Grammy-nominated recording of Haydn symphonies. The orchestra released a recording of its modern North American premiere of Alessandro Scarlatti’s La Gloria di Primavera, which coincided with a tour in May 2016 and released the world premiere recording of the original version of Rameau’s Le Temple de la Gloire with the unedited libretto by Voltaire in July 2018.
In 2015, Philharmonia launched its Jews & Music Initiative – a permanent effort to explore and understand the relationship between Jews and music from the 17th to the 21st centuries. The initiative brings Jewish historical context to classical music and provides opportunities for significant collaboration with SFJCC, the Jewish Contemporary Museum, Oshman JCC, and The Magnes Collection at UC Berkeley, among others. In 2016, Harvard and Yale universities invited PBO to present “Jews of the 17th Century Italian Jewish Ghetto” featuring works by Salomone Rossi and Monteverdi. The program was reprised at the University of Chicago in April 2018 and was deemed “shimmering….stylish, precise and expressive” by the Chicago Times.
PBO launched its New Music for Old Instruments initiative in 2016 as an effort to commission and perform new works written expressly for period instruments. Recent commissions include a co-commission with London’s Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment with composer Sally Beamish, two works by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw, the first for mezzo-soprano Anne-Sofie von Otter that enjoyed its world premiere at Walt Disney Concert Hall in April 2016 followed by the second piece in the song cycle for soprano Dominique Labelle in 2017. A third piece will be premiered at Lincoln Center in 2019. Additionally, PBO commissioned To Hell and Back by Guggenheim Fellow Jake Heggie. Future seasons will bring new commissions by Caroline Shaw, Matthew Aucoin, and Mason Bates.
PBO’s Education Program has been a leading force in early music education since 1989. Through partnerships with institutions such as The Juilliard School, Stanford University, Yale University, Harvard University, San Francisco Conservatory of music, and the University of California at Berkeley, the Orchestra inspires and helps train a new generation of young artists. Reaching over 4,000 students of all ages annually, the program has enriched the Bay Area’s cultural community through free public masterclasses, symposia, school residencies, community chamber music workshops, full Orchestra concerts for students and teachers, numerous lecture series for adults, and family concerts.
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra was founded by harpsichordist and early music pioneer Laurette Goldberg.
Philharmonia Chorale has been critically acclaimed for its brilliant sound, robust energy, and sensitive delivery of the text since its founding in 1995. Under the direction of Chorale Director and PBO Scholar-in-Residence Bruce Lamott since 1997, the Chorale was formed to provide a vocal complement whose fluency in the stylistic language of the Baroque period matched that of Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. Members of the Chorale are professional singers with distinguished solo and ensemble careers. They appear in roles with regional opera companies and have been members and founders of some of the country’s premiere vocal ensembles.
The Chorale’s repertoire has included oratorios by Handel and Bach, masses by Beethoven and Mozart, and Rameau’s Le Temple de la Gloire. The singers have appeared on tour with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, and at New York City’s Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. The Chorale appears on the Orchestra’s recordings of Arne’s Alfred, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, and Rameau’s Le Temple de la Gloire.
Bruce Lamott has been director of the Philharmonia Chorale for more than a decade. He first performed with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in 1989, as continuo harpsichordist for Handel’s Giustino.
Lamott was previously the Director of Choruses and Conductor of the Mission Candlelight Concerts at the Carmel Bach Festival, where his 30-year tenure also included performing as a harpsichordist and presenting as a lecturer and education director. In eight seasons as Choral Director and Assistant Conductor of the Sacramento Symphony, he conducted annual choral concerts of major works, including both Bach Passion settings and Haydn’s The Seasons, as well as preparing the chorus for most of the standard symphonic choral repertoire.
Lamott received a bachelor’s degree from Lewis and Clark College, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Musicology from Stanford University, where he researched the keyboard improvisation practices of the baroque period. LaMott joined the Musicology faculty at U.C. Davis, where he directed the Early Music Ensemble. He currently resides in San Francisco, where he teaches Choral Music and Music History at San Francisco University High School, and is part-time professor of Music History at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Among his other music-related activities, Lamott also teaches continuo realization in the Merola Program of the San Francisco Opera and lectures for the San Francisco Opera Guild.