Musikkollegium Winterthur

About Musikkollegium Winterthur

The Musikkollegium Winterthur is one of Europe's oldest musical organizations. The group's composition has changed as music developed, and today it is a professional symphony orchestra in Winterthur, Switzerland. The Musikkollegium Winterthur was founded in 1629 by a clergyman, Hans Heinrich Meyer. Originally it was a music society and choir that aimed to promote choral singing, and the membership of 30 to 40 performed at church services. Each member had to have both a strong voice and proficiency on an instrument. The latter ability came in handy when church music declined in the 18th century, and the group began to perform instrumental compositions. In 1875 the group was relaunched, by conductor Georg Wilhelm Rauchenecker, as the Stadtorchester Winterthur or Winterthur City Orchestra. It reached perhaps the height of its fame and influence under Hermann Scherchen, who served as chief conductor from 1922 to 1950 and intensified his activities in Switzerland after leaving Germany in 1933. Scherchen championed contemporary music and led the premieres of more than 120 works by such composers as Stravinsky, Webern, Schoenberg, Hindemith, Honegger, and Richard Strauss. An associated Winterthur Oratorio Choir continued to make possible the performance of vocal works. In 2000 the name Musikkollegium Winterthur was adopted anew in a nod toward the organization's roots. Contemporary conductors of the group have included future Cleveland Orchestra conductor Franz Welser-Möst (1987-1990); as of 2016 the conductor has been Thomas Zehetmair. Such soloists as Sol Gabetta, Yuja Wang, Ian Bostridge, and András Schiff have appeared with the orchestra, sometimes at unconventional venues like the outdoor Classic Openair. The orchestra has been noted for programming aimed at children; it has even been involved with three premieres of operas composed by children, most recently Drachencamping (Dragon Camping, 2017). Under Scherchen the orchestra amassed a large catalog of LP recordings. The group has continued to record for its own Winterthur label and for the German audiophile label MDG. In 2017 the orchestra backed violinist Rudolf Koelman in a recording of Prokofiev's two violin concertos on the Dutch label Challenge Classics. ~ James Manheim

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