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Basque National Orchestra - The Orchestra

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The Orchestra

Euskadi is ancient and modern culture. It is music: both traditional and avant-garde. In this context, promoted and developed by the Basque Government Culture Department, The Basque National Orchestra was set up in 1982 in a society where music is a shared asset, rich heritage for which the Orchestra is the depositary and, at the same time, assumes the commitment of disseminating it and promoting its development. So, the Basque National Orchestra today is a top notch symphonic formation nationally, both in terms of quality and quantity, as it is a group which is enormously well-known within its community, with 7000 subscribers and an average of 150,000 spectators every year; an orchestra of its time, setting itself high expectations and strongly committed to disseminating symphonic music from all periods, whilst putting special emphasis on the creation and expansion of Basque music, both inside and outside our borders.

Members of the Basque National Orchestra posing in a quarry

Ever since Enrique Jordá became the artistic consultant of this newly created formation and guided its first steps, different conductors have been responsible for helping the Basque National Orchestra to grow in terms of quality and projection. Andrey Boreyko is Principal Guest Conductor. Andrés Orozco-Estrada, Gilbert Varga and Cristian Mandeal, Mario Venzago, Hans Graf, Miguel Ángel Gómez Martínez, Matthias Kuntzsch, Maximiano Valdés and Jordá himself, who was honorary conductor, have guided the fate of the Orchestra as its star rose.

The Orchestra live

Well-structured, dynamic work, deeply rooted in Basque cultural life leads the Basque National Orchestra to give more than 100 concerts per season, spread over different cycles and also working with different national and international musical institutions.

Framed within the Season Concerts, the backbone of their work, the Orchestra always offers four concert cycles in the Euskalduna Palace in Bilbao, in the Kursaal Auditorium in San Sebastián, in the Teatro Principal in Vitoria and in the Baluarte Auditorium in Pamplona. The BNO has shared the stage there with top conductors such as Yehudi Menuhin, Krysztof Penderecki, Christopher Hogwood, Paul McCreesh, Yakov Kreizberg, Oleg Caetani, Jerzy Semkov, Lawrence Foster, Giovanni Antonini, Jesús López Cobos, Cristóbal Halffter, Arturo Tamayo, Kery Lynn Wilson, Gloria Isabel Ramos, Gerd Albrecht, Joana Carneiro, Diego Matheuz and Michal Nesterowicz. The list of soloists accompanying the Orchestra also includes top names such as Maria Joao Pires, Frank Peter Zimmermann, Mischa Maisky, Antonio Meneses, Christian Zacharias, Leonidas Kavakos, Radu Lupu, Arcadi Volodos, Heinrich Schiff, Vadim Repin, Hélène Grimaud, Branford Marsalis, Michel Camilo, Martin Grübinger, Martin Fröst, María Bayo, Carlos Alvarez, Carlos Mena, Ainhoa Arteta, Asier Polo and many, many more. After successfully joining forces in 2011 in the production of Magifique, the BNO and Malandain Ballet Biarritz were back together with Cinderella. Other series complete the Orchestra's concert offer: a small format but high quality series dedicated to chamber music, known as "Miramón Matinées", and the concerts for younger children and families ("Family Concerts"), designed by the Orchestra's Education Department and complemented by other activities developed through the Music Room ("School Concerts").

Kursaal AuditoriumEuskalduna PalaceTeatro Principal in Vitoria-GasteizBaluarte Congress Hall in Iruña-Pamplona

In addition, aside from the concerts they put on themselves, there are other ways of enjoying the Orchestra live, as they often participate as guests at festivals such as the San Sebastian Classical Music Festival, and the Bilbao Friends of the Opera Association (ABAO) season, etc. and in different towns and cities in our region (Orkestra Herrietan). Also, away from home: in international tours, which are highly important for this orchestra, in terms of transmitting our land's cultural wealth. Austria, Argentina, Germany, Brazil, Chile, Switzerland, France, Great Britain and Italy are just some of the destinations of these tours which have been highly successful, including triumphs in top concert halls such as Vienna Konzerthaus, Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, Prinzregententheater in Munich, Berlin Kontzerthaus, the Tonhalle Dusseldorf, the Sala Sao Paulo, the Milan Auditorium or the Opéra Royal de Versailles. This is a good time to mention their exchange policy with other Orchestras both nationally and internationally which, as well as taking the BNO music to other locations, also attracts foreign orchestras to our auditoriums.

A backdrop of sound which is constantly growing.

The Basque National Orchestra also has a significant sound library, resulting from an intense discography policy centred fundamentally on symphonic productions by Basque composers. So, from around fifty recordings published by labels such as Decca (Universal) or RTVE Música among others, we can highlight the Basque Music Collection published by CLAVES with support from the Mondragon Group, which represents a compilation of works by the most important Basque composers produced to date. Nevertheless, its aim to grant permanency to the masterpieces of Basque music goes beyond this collection, as demonstrated by the first recording of the opera Gernika by Francisco Escudero, one of the monuments of Basque musical creation in the 20th century. In addition to keeping musical heritage alive, the Orchestra promotes its expansion by regularly commissioning works from both emerging and established Basque composers. An example of this interest is the compositional project Tesela, undertaken by the Orchestra in 2012 to commemorate its 30th anniversary with the exclusive collaboration of the BBVA Foundation.

A lively orchestra

With all this, in a time of divergence, cohabitation and diversity, the Orchestra is a complex yet versatile living entity, worthy of its time which promotes experimentation with other cultural spaces, capable of escaping the concert halls to fuse its work with the modern art world by presenting its album Music of the Spheres by Mike Oldfield to the world in the Guggenheim Bilbao or a telematic concert which was broadcast over the internet in 2001 with some of the musicians several miles away from the conductor, connected by optical fibre. This is the framework corresponding to KlasikAT, a season falling outside the bounds of classical music where the Orchestra fuses its sound with other kinds of music, records or directly performs the soundtracks of films like The Impossible and El mal ajeno (For the Good of Others), or collaborates with the singer-songwriter, Jorge Drexler.

The Basque National Orchestra, the country's top regional symphony orchestra, was set up in 1982 based on a project given to Imanol Olaizola, as Music Director for the Basque Government Culture Department. The Orchestra's organisational structure is headed by its Board of Directors, presided over by the Culture Minister and President of the Orchestra. The Board also includes the Deputy Minister for Culture and Basque Government Culture Director, in addition to culture delegates from the three Basque provinces and representatives from different institutions. There is also an Artistic Commission that works on defining and developing the Orchestra's musical path.

Since it was founded in 1982 the Basque National Orchestra has been a member of the Spanish Symphony Orchestra Association (AEOS). It is also a member of the Network of Educational Concert Organisers (ROCE) since the creation of the network in 2010.

The Basque National Orchestra is an official supporter of San Sebastian European Capital of Culture 2016.

Everything you need to know about the history of the Basque National Orchestra has been meticulously compiled in a book entitled Primo Tempo. This volume, published by Kutxa in 2007, for the Orchestra's 25th Anniversary, is a testimony constructed from numerous witness accounts, from people that have worked closely with the Orchestra throughout its musical adventure.