Irish Chamber Orchestra’s 50th + Beethoven’s 250th

Jörg Widmann, Feb 13 and 14. Photo: Marco Borggreve

A BUSY year of making fabulous music lies ahead for Irish Chamber Orchestra as it enters its 50th year of being the country’s worldwide representative in this field. The Spring Season 2020 alone sees the company tour seven venues between February and May. Its first concert takes place in Limerick’s University Concert Hall on February 13 and has an emphasis on Beethoven on the 250th anniversary of his death.

Limerick Post put it to orchestra chief Gerard Keenan that he must be well pleased with this twinning of auspicious dates. “Happy? Of course, we are but we won’t overdo it as everyone will be doing Beethoven.” He lists Beethoven’s 7th  Symphony – “one of his all time greats” – as being on the programme, preceded by conductor Jorg Widmann’s ‘Con Brio’ overture which is based purposely on the same instrumentation.

“We are also recording it for Alpha Classics, the top European label for worldwide distribution. Of the February programme, we are recording three pieces for the album, Strauss’ ‘Duet Concertino for Clarinet, Bassoon and Orchestra’, Jorg’s ‘Con Brio’ and Beethoven’s ‘Symphony No. 7’.

“We performed the Symphony two years ago at Kilkenny Arts Festival and Jorg’s interpretation is truly different and is full of life.”

The Dublin man and career musician talks some more about Widmann, the Orchestra’s principal artistic partner. This composer, clarinettist and conductor is now a long time with the ICO and tours range from South and North America to Ireland’s outlying parts.

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“Do you know the three most performed living composers in the world are John Williams – not surprising as he has done amazing film score music for ‘Star Wars’, ‘Schindler’s List’, ‘ET’ and so on. Then Arvo Part, the Estonian who    is known for his big choral works, and . . . Jorg Widmann.

“We played to a full house in Carnegie Hall, New York in 2019 and that came about as he holds the Hall’s composition chair since last year. That’s a very sought after position.”

Opening the year rightfully at UCH beside their own recording and performance studio in Plassey, their next gig is a first concert to be sited at The Printworks in Dublin Castle on the following night, February 14.

“We have a very interlinked programme [Mozart’s ‘Marriage of Figaro Overture’ is the fourth work]. What I love about it is that it is full of extraordinary sounds that we are not going to hear again other than on  February 15, 16 and 17 in our own studio. All the Alpha record  people are coming over and will see us and record on site.”

Alpha Classics coming to Limerick to record the Irish Chamber Orchestra live at home? Truly a coming of age mark of respect for their 50 years of achievement.