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Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra

The Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra (previously known as the Oxford Philomusica) enjoys a wide reputation as an ‘excellent’ (Gramophone Magazine) and ‘thoroughly impressive’ (BBC Music Magazine) orchestra. The orchestra is relatively new, having been founded in 1998 by its Music Director, Marios Papadopoulos.

The orchestra’s exemplary level and enthusiastic spirit has attracted many great musicians to perform with them at Sir Christopher Wren’s Sheldonian Theatre, including Sir András Schiff, Martha Argerich, Valery Gergiev, Lang Lang, Janine Jansen, Maria-João Pires, Renée Fleming, Pinchas Zukerman, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Anne-Sophie Mutter and Nigel Kennedy.

Led by virtuoso pianist and conductor Marios Papadopoulos MBE, the orchestra is continuously searching for excellence. As a pianist, Papadopoulos has been described as ‘having all the attributes of one of the world’s greatest players’ (1975, The Times). His recordings of Beethoven’s sonatas are considered to be on the elite level of those by Schnabel, Brendel, Barenboim and Wilhelm Kempff. He has also emerged in the last two decades as one of the leading orchestral conductors. Papadopoulos has had the opportunity to work with many great musicians including Vladimir Ashkenazy, Hélene Grimaud, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Maxim Vengerov, Renée Fleming and Lang Lang.

Papadopoulos’ contributions to the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra are from the perspective of both a pianist and conductor, as he often conducts from behind the piano. Examples are the performances from the 2008 Beethoven Festival, in which he played and directed all five of Beethoven’s piano concertos. He made a repeat performance during the 2013-14 concert season. He also performed and conducted Mozart’s complete cycle of piano concertos during the worldwide celebrations of Mozart’s 250th anniversary.

The Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra has enjoyed a four-year collaboration with their Artist in Residence, the world famous violinist Maxim Vengerov. Vengerov made his debut with the orchestra in 2013 at a sold-out concert in Oxford. Soon after, he became the orchestra’s first ever Artist in Residence. Vengerov stated in an interview, ‘I feel a special bond with Marios Papadopoulos, the superb orchestra and the city of Oxford which, for me, creates a perfect environment for music-making. We have enjoyed so many wonderful performances together and I greatly look forward to each opportunity to return’.

... thoroughly impressive.

Together, the Oxford Philharmonic and Vengerov have given concerts across the UK and in Vienna, Madrid and South America. They also recorded the violin concertos of both Brahms (2015) and Sibelius. Their performances are often aired on BBC Radio 3, Classic FM and WQXR. Future engagements with the orchestra include a recording of Mendelssohn’s Octet and a performance in July 2018 with the Soloists of the Oxford Philharmonic, which has been praised for its ‘glorious individual players’ by The Times. Highlights from his residency with the orchestra include a tour of the Brahms violin concerto, conducting Mendelssohn’s ‘Scottish’ Symphony, performances of Sibelius’ original 1904 Violin Concerto in both London and Oxford and recitals with Papadopoulos in Oxford, London and at Windsor Castle.

According to Papadopoulos, ‘Over the course of many thrilling projects, our [Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra’s] relationship with Artist in Residence Maxim Vengerov has touched audiences far and wide. It is a treasured partnership that continues to inspire our players, our local community and those for whom we travel to play. Maxim’s energy and questing spirit allows for endless possibilities and we look forward to yet more musical adventures together’.

In addition to concerts with Vengerov, the orchestra also performs an extensive concert season in their hometown and throughout the UK. They have recorded Haydn’s The Creation with the New College Choir and the Handel/Mendelssohn’s Acis and Galatea with Christ Church Choir. They have also performed in many celebrations of composers, including Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven. Furthermore, they give family concerts, host an annual Piano Festival (founded in 1999 by Papadopoulos) and Summer Academy and the critically acclaimed Chamber Music Series featuring the Soloists of the Oxford Philharmonic.

Since its earliest days, the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra has dedicated itself to education and outreach. They believe in bringing music to socially and economically disadvantaged areas, where the people would normally not have the opportunity to enjoy the music of an orchestra. They also perform in special schools and hospitals. Other educational pursuits take place at the University of Oxford, where the orchestra has served as Orchestra in Residence since 2002. As the university’s first ever orchestra in residence, they have collaborated with many faculty members to create educational programmes for students. They have also organized masterclasses with students from Oxford University and the Royal Academy of Music, where Maxim Vengerov serves as Menuhin Professor of Music. They have also partnered with the Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council to provide tuition and performance opportunities for hundreds of students every year.

In 2013, the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra and Marios Papadopoulos were awarded the City of Oxford’s Certificate of Honour, ‘in recognition of their contribution to education and performance in Oxford’.

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