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 34 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 in 1981, 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 Andreas Scholl, violoncellist Steven Isserlis, fortepianist Emanuel Ax, and maestros Jordi Savall and Richard Egarr. The Orchestra enjoys numerous collaborations, including an ongoing 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.
To nurture the next generation of historically informed performance, Philharmonia and The Juilliard School’s Historical Performance program partner to bring the star students of Juilliard415, the school’s acclaimed period instrument ensemble, to practice and perform alongside PBO’s seasoned professionals. Annual residencies include masterclasses, coaching, and a culminating side-by-side showcase of PBO mentors and J415 students.
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.