1991-1995 A Vision of High Artistic Standards

The Philadelphia Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra was founded in 1991 as a professional string orchestra with Daniel Spalding as music director. During the first few years of operations a number of performance venues were utilized including the Peddie School in Hightstown, New Jersey (where the orchestra made its debut in October of 1991), Swarthmore College in a benefit for the Chester-Swarthmore Community Coalition, Trinity Cathedral (Trenton), Valentine’s Day Concerts at the Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia, and in keeping with the orchestra’s mission to reach young audiences, youth concerts at Brookdale Community College, Westtown School and the New Jersey State Museum. During this time, a Board was formed and PVCO was incorporated as a non-profit (501)(3)(c) in December of 1993.

1996-1999 Establishing a Home plus Touring and Recording for the First Time

The period 1996-1999 marked tremendous expansion in the scope of the Philadelphia Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra’s activities. In January of 1996, PVCO made its New York debut to a standing ovation in a special program of Romanian music for the New York Library of the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.  That same year, seeking to become more known and to serve its home city, PVCO implemented its Center City Concert Series at First Presbyterian Church at 21st and Walnut. For the next 12 years PVCO produced concerts every season at that location. In addition to its concert activities, the orchestra recorded two CD’s for the Connoisseur Society label, the first of which was a finalist for the 1998 Grammy nominations. With increased national and international attention coming its way, PVCO secured a contract with Community Concerts, Inc. for a national tour including a performance at Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York. During 1998-99 and with Gabriela Imreh as piano soloist, PVCO toured a total of six weeks throughout the western and mid-western states, all to high critical acclaim. PVCO also made its first international appearances when it visited Brazil in the fall of 1998 for a nine-concert three week tour.

2000-2004 National & International Recognition & Service to Our Neighborhood and City

Highlights of this period included a major tour throughout the eastern half of the USA with thirteen concerts in eight states from New Hampshire to Illinois, two concerts to open the prestigious Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts, and a one month long seventeen concert tour of Brazil including appearances at several major international music festivals and on Brazilian National Television. Another major tour took the PVCO to Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota,  Illinois, Missouri, California, Arizona, and Florida. In Philadelphia, PVCO presented the world premiere of “Limites” by the French composer Jean-Louis Petit, who dedicated the work to the Philadelphia Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra and travelled from Paris to conduct the performance. With grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Huston Foundation, Five County Arts Fund, Yamaha Artist Services, and a number of private donors, outreach concerts included performing at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital, the Media Theatre in Media, PA, the Westtown School, Widener University in Chester, Trenton Central High School and Trinity Cathedral in New Jersey. Continuing in its commitment to record significant chamber orchestra repertoire, PVCO recorded the music of American composer George Antheil for Naxos, one of the world’s largest classical recording companies. This CD received incredible praise throughout the world press, including being designated as “Editor’s Choice” for Gramophone, chosen as “CD of the week” by BBC Radio 3 and the London Observer, and as one of the top 10 classical CD’s of the year by the Chicago Tribune. PVCO was the first American orchestra to be recorded by Naxos. It was also a best selling album in the United Kingdom, and continues to be one of Naxos’ best-selling CDs in the United States.

2005-2008 Performing at Home and Continuing to Tour and Record 

The Center City Concert Series continued at the First Presbyterian Church with innovative repertoire that attracted the attention of Philadelphia’s classical music reviewers as well as the public. PVCO performed in the prestigious Composer Portrait Series at Miller Theater at Columbia University in New York City (which received a favorable review in the New York Times), for the Wednesday Club in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and made a return appearance at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach, Florida. The Kravis program was recorded live for broadcast on 248 National Public Radio stations for the program “Performance Today.” In April of 2006 PVCO toured Brazil and Argentina with 9 concerts. More touring throughout the USA included visits to California, Colorado, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, and New Jersey. Two recording projects came to fruition. An all Howard Hanson CD was released on Naxos, the second recording for PVCO on the world’s largest classical label. This CD received the “Writers Choice Award” for the best CD of 2006 from the audiophile magazine Audio Feedback Online, as well as many other stellar reviews from around the world. For the second project, over $34,000 was awarded from the Aaron Copland Fund for American Music and the Francis Coelet Charitable Lead Trusts in order to record a new CD of the music of George Antheil for New World Records. This CD also received many accolades from major critics around the world. During this period, PVCO was selected to be on the Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour roster, which is funded by the Heinz Endowment, the William Penn Foundation, Pennsylvania Council for the Arts, the PEW Charitable Trusts, and administered by the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation.  After 12 years of concerts at the First Presbyterian Church, it was decided to schedule future performances in more flexible venues and varied neighborhoods.  The first of these concerts took place in the fall of 2008 at the Arden Theater with a daring production called “On the Edge”. This concert featured the P.A.M. Band, a collection of robotic instruments invented by PVCO’s long-time violinist, Kurt Coble, along with special lighting effects and choreography.

 2009-2015 A change in Focus

Substantial grants from PNC Arts Alive, Frank & Lydia Bergen Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts enabled PVCO to concentrate on performing free concerts throughout the region during these years. This included the orchestra’s debut at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts plus performances in unusual public spaces like shopping centers and Philadelphia International Airport. There were youth concerts in Trenton and several more appearances at Church of the Advocate. Two exciting international tours included a week in Mexico and a European debut at the Nomus International Festival in Novi Sad, Serbia, partly sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. Here at home engagements took the orchestra to Texas, Missouri, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Florida, and to Queens College in New York City. Engagements in 2012 included Bloomsburg University, where the PVCO presented a 35 piece orchestra and the prestigious Getty Museum in Los Angeles. The recent two week tour to Russia, which included sold out performances in Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Hall and Saint Petersburg’s Mariinsky Concert Hall, stands as a testament to the Philadelphia Virtuosi’s “world class” status. The latest recording project, released on New Ariel Recordings, is music of the American composer Jeffrey Jacob in a CD dedicated to earthquake relief in Haiti.

Today

The Philadelphia Virtuosi is now in its 25th year of continuous operation, having performed over 200 concerts for an audience of over 90,000 people. Funding for the PVCO over the years has come from the Pennsylvania Council for the Arts, the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, National Endowment for the Arts, Cassett Foundation, Arcadia Foundation, Dofinger-McMahon Foundation, Huston Foundation, the Frank and Lydia Bergen Foundation, Judson Foundation, Nakamichi Foundation, and most recently PNC Arts Alive. There have also been a number of private donors who have generously supported the orchestra. The Philadelphia Virtuosi enters into the next phase of its history with confidence and the hope that it can continue to bring the joys of classical music to many more thousands of people.

Philadelphia Virtuosi at the Mariinsky after the concert.

Philadelphia Virtuosi at the Mariinsky after the concert.

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