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The concert choir Orféon Donostiarra was founded in 1897 in the Basque capital of San Sebástian, whose name is “Donostia” in their native language. The Choir includes musically trained amateur singers who have set themselves the goal of giving full-scale performances of the choral-symphonic repertoire. During its first decade, the ensemble won several choral competitions, taking the Grand Prix d’Honneur in Paris in 1906. During the era of its leadership by Secundino Esnaola (1902–1929), the Choir also appeared at the Teatro Real in Madrid and performed Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in Portugal. From 1929 to 1968, when Juan Gorostidi was Music Director, the singers performed such works as Berlioz’s Grande Messe des Morts under Charles Munch and de Falla’s Atlántida under Igor Markevitch at the Edinburgh Festival. His successor Antxon Ayestarán (1968–1986) took the Choir on tours to Berlin and London, Israel, the United States, and the Soviet Union. Since 1987 José Antonio Sainz Alfaro has helmed the Orféon Donostiarra, further enhancing its international profile. During his tenure the Choir also worked with such conductors as Claudio Abbado, Daniel Barenboim, Paavo Järvi, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Sir Simon Rattle, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Michael Tilson Thomas and performed with the Berlin Philharmonic, the London Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Israel Philharmonic, and the Orchestre National de France. In 2016 the Choir took part in the opening ceremonies celebrating San Sebástian as the European capital of culture; this summer the Choir also appears at the Orange and Carcassonne Festivals. More than 120 CDs document the artistic work of the Orféon Donostiarra.
LUCERNE FESTIVAL (IMF) debut on 29 August 1964 with Orff’s Carmina Burana under the direction of Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos.