In 1997, Austria’s legendary Lockenhaus chamber music festival was witness to a small revolution when the violinist Gidon Kremer presented a brand new orchestra: Kremerata Baltica. Comprised of twenty-three young players from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, the orchestra conquered the discerning audience, injecting new blood into the festival with its exuberance, energy and joy in playing.
Kremerata Baltica, an educational project with a long-term vision, was Kremer’s 50th birthday present to himself: a way of passing on his rich artistic experience to young colleagues from the Baltic states while making no compromises on artistic standards as he nurtured and inspired musical life in the region. In a few years the talented group of musicians developed into one of the best international chamber orchestras in the world and has cemented its international reputation in major concert venues around the world.
In the last 15 years Kremerata Baltica has performed over 1000 concerts in 600 cities – in over 50 countries – around the world: Asia, Australia, the USA, Latin America, and all over Europe. It is one of the most extensively touring European chamber orchestras and has performed in prestigious halls such as the Vienna Konzerthaus, Musikverein, Bozar, Carnegie Hall, Rudolfinum, Royal Albert Hall, Suntory Hall, and others. Kremerata Baltica has held its own Festival in Sigulda, Latvia since 2003. It has released more than 20 CD-s and won a Grammy Award and ECHO prize in 2002, and a Praemium Imperiale Grant for Young Artists in 2009.
Among the celebrated soloists with whom Kremerata Baltica has played are soprano Jessye Norman; pianists Martha Argerich, Mikhail Pletnev, Evgeny Kissin, and Oleg Maisenberg; violinists Thomas Zehetmair, and Vadim Repin; cellists Boris Pergamenschikov, Yo-Yo Ma, and Mischa Maisky; conductors Sir Simon Rattle, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Christoph Eschenbach, Kent Nagano, Heinz Holliger, and Vladimir Ashkenazy. Each of these musicians has contributed to shaping the chamber orchestra.
Essential to Kremerata Baltica’s artistic personality is its creative approach to programming, which often looks beyond the mainstream and has given rise to numerous world premieres of works by composers such as Arvo Pärt, Giya Kancheli, Pēteris Vasks, Leonid Desyatnikov and Alexander Raskatov. The orchestra’s wide-ranging and carefully chosen repertoire is also showcased in its numerous and much-praised recordings. “After Mozart”, a 21st century take on the composer, won an internationally coveted Grammy Award and German ECHO prize in 2002. Some latest CD-s from the record label Nonesuch include “De profundis” and “Hymns and Prayers” with Gidon Kremer, and “The Art of Instrumentation: Homage to Glenn Gould” (released in September 2012 for Glenn Gould’s 80th birthday), an album comprising 11 pieces and arrangements by contemporary composers that quote from or are inspired by works, mostly by Johann Sebastian Bach, that Glenn Gould famously recorded during his career.
“Mieczysław Weinberg” (ECM) – released in January 2014 – was nominated for 2014 Grammy Award in the category “Best Classical Compendium”. It was recorded with Gidon Kremer and soloists at Neuhardenberg and Lockenhaus in 2012 and 2013, and makes a strong case for Shostakovich’s assertion that Weinberg was one of the great composers of his era. The recording was highly appreciated by music professionals and lovers. The orchestra’s most recent recording, “Giya Kancheli: Chiaroscuro”, was released by ECM in November 2015, shortly after Giya Kancheli’s 80th birthday. The disc features the first recordings of the composer’s two major works: “Chiaroscuro” for violin and chamber orchestra, and “Twilight” for two violins and chamber orchestra. Both recordings are performed by Kremerata Baltica and violinists Gidon Kremer and Patricia Kopatchinskaja.
Some of the orchestra’s most memorable recent performances include its participation in the concert for Human Rights in Russia, “To Russia With Love”, held in October, 2013 at the Berlin Philharmonie together with world reknowned soloists Martha Argerich, Daniel Barenboim, Elsbeth Moser, Nicolas Altstaedt, Khatia Buniatishvili, Emanuel Pahud, Sergey and Nakaryakov. Kremerata Baltica is also a part of the “All About Gidon” project – a half-scenic concert show with music from J. Haydn to A. Piazzolla, where Gidon Kremer reflects on his career in a musical and rhetorical way. Another exciting experience for the last couple of years for Kremerata Baltica is its collaborative performances with Gidon Kremer and the mime Slava Polunin with his group, Snow Show Symphony. This original musical spectacle created by two living virtuosos of the 20th century was highly acclaimed by audiences. Also this year, a noteworthy project was launched: Philip Glass’s “The American Four Seasons” supplemented with contemporary video projections by renowned visual artists.
More information about Kremerata Baltica can be found at www.kremeratabaltica.com.