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Orchestre des Champs-Elysées

The Orchestre des Champs-Élysées is distinctive in several respects among the various period-instrument groups active in France. The group offers performances of music from Haydn to Debussy on instruments appropriate to the composer's time. The Orchestre des Champs-Élysées was co-founded in 1991 by Alain Durel, director of the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, and conductor Philippe Herreweghe, who remains the group's conductor and music director. Among the community of early music conductors, Herreweghe has been notable for extending the concept of historical-instrument performance into the Romantic era, and the Orchestre des Champs-Élysées has devoted itself to the performance of music from Haydn forward to Mahler and Debussy, using instruments from the time of the work being performed. Sometimes the group even seeks to use the instruments on which a work was played at its first performance. More generally, the orchestra seeks (as stated on its website in 2020), "in a spirit comparable to that of the restorers of works of art restoring the original colors of the masterpieces of the great painters by skillful cleaning, to approach each score from a new perspective, re-examining many of the readings of these works which, over time, have deposited traditions that are sometimes far removed from the composer's original concerns." During the first part of its career, the Orchestre des Champs-Élysées held ongoing residencies at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées and the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. Since then, the group has appeared at major venues in many countries, including the Musikverein in Vienna, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, and Lincoln Center in New York. In addition to Herreweghe, the orchestra has been led by a range of guest conductors, including Daniel Harding, Christophe Coin, and René Jacobs. A novel feature of the group's annual concert season is that each concert is performed in a variety of French cities, in venues such as the Théâtre Auditorium de Poitiers, with which the orchestra has an ongoing association. The Orchestre des Champs-Élysées has made more than 20 recordings. Until 2011, the group recorded mostly for the Harmonia Mundi label before forming the Phi imprint under the auspices of the Outhere label. The Orchestre des Champs-Élysées maintains its own training program, operated mostly by the instrumentalists themselves; the Jeune Orchestre de l'Abbaye was founded in 1996 and was one of the first such programs aimed at introducing young musicians to period performances of music of the Classical and Romantic eras.
© James Manheim /TiVo
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