The idea for a unique festival orchestra of international standing in Lucerne goes back to Arturo Toscanini, who in 1938 convened acclaimed virtuosos of the time into an elite ensemble with the legendary “Concert de Gala.” It was 65 years later that the conductor Claudio Abbado and Festival Executive and Artistic Director Michael Haefliger established a connection to this moment of the Festival’s birth and founded the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, which made its public debut in August 2003. With Riccardo Chailly, this unique orchestra once again has an Italian music director. Moreover, each summer a guest conductor is invited in order to offer the audience an additional musical perspective.
Every summer – and, starting in 2022, every spring as well as part of a residency – famous soloists, chamber musicians, renowned music teachers, and principals of the leading European orchestras, along with members of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and of the Orchestra of La Scala in Milan, join together in Lucerne to form an ensemble that is special class. Many of the musicians spend their vacations here to rehearse and experience afresh a symphonic repertoire free from workaday regimentation and routine.
The Lucerne Festival Orchestra performs a three-day residency each spring on Palm Sunday weekend and sets the tone for the opening week of the Summer Festival with several symphony concerts. And at the season’s end comes the grand tour. Foreign residencies have taken these musicians throughout Europe and to Asia and the USA.
The Lucerne Festival Orchestra is an ensemble that brings together internationally acclaimed soloists, chamber musicians, and music teachers, as well as members of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and the Filarmonica della Scala who exclusively perform works of the symphonic repertoire in this configuration.
Since its founding in the summer of 2003, the first chair-principals who have played and/or continue to play together include such artists as the violinist Kolja Blacher; the violists Wolfram Christ and Antoine Tamestit; the cellists Jens Peter Maintz, Natalia Gutman, and Julian Steckel; the flutists Jacques Zoon and Emmanuel Pahud; the clarinetists Sabine Meyer and Alessandro Carbonare; the oboists Lucas Macías Navarro and Albrecht Mayer; the horn players Alessio Allegrini and Ivo Gass; the trumpeter Reinhold Friedrich; the trombonist Jörgen van Rijen; the timpanist Raymond Curfs; as well as the members of the Sabine Meyer Wind Ensemble and of the Alban Berg, Hagen, and Leipzig String Quartets. And the list goes on and on …