Norwegian Chamber Orchestra became a permanent ensemble in 1977 when it made its debut under the leadership of Terje Tønnesen, who still is the orchestra’s Artistic Director. Over the years he has worked parallel with Iona Brown, who until last season was Music and Artistic Director. Under their direction NCO’s schedule has become increasingly concentrated and far-reaching. In recent years the orchestra has toured extensively throughout the USA and Western Europe.
NCO’s first recording quickly established the orchestra’s international reputation; the “Gramophone” critic simply wrote “No record has given me more pleasure and few as much”. Norwegian Chamber Orchestra regularly gives a series of subscription concerts in Oslo and frequently performs in other cities in Norway and Scandinavia.
Concert appearances in the UK have included a nationwide tour in 1989 and a remarkably successful debut at the 1991 London Proms. The orchestra returned to the Proms for its second appearance in August 1994, and again in 1997. Norwegian Chamber Orchestra was the first orchestra ever to give a concert in the House of Lords, in September 1995. This concert was followed by a tour in the USA, visiting prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall and Kennedy Center. The orchestra played at the Schleswig-Holstein and Salzburg festivals and did an encompassing tour of Germany/Holland/Belgium in 1997. In 2001 the orchestra was invited as Festival Musicians of the Year by the Bergen International Festival and had a remarkable success in a series of 5 concerts with a repertoire ranging from Rameau to Xenakis. In September 2002 it toured the Baltic countries to wide acclaim and in April did a very successful tour of Italy and Spain with Leif Ove Andsnes as soloist, both under the auspices of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry.
Over the years Norwegian Chamber Orchestra has worked with major soloists such as Mstislav Rostropovich, Maurice André, James Galway, Radu Lupu, Joshua Bell, Thomas Zehetmair, Andrew Manze, Angela Hewitt, Joanna MacGregor, Truls Mørk and Leif Ove Andsnes. It has developed a very wide repertoire, from baroque music to contemporary works for chamber orchestra.
Norwegian Chamber Orchestra has recorded for a number of different labels, including Virgin Classics, Chandos and EMI and won several awards for its recordings. Its recording of 3 Haydn Concertos with Leif Ove Andsnes was recently given the Gramophone Concerto Award for 2000.