Mito Chamber Orchestra

About MCO

mcoThe Mito Chamber Orchestra (MCO), ATM's exclusive in-house orchestra, was established in 1990 concurrently with the opening of the cultural complex at the behest of ATM's first Director General, the late Hidekazu Yoshida(1913-2012). The group's general director and occasional conductor is the renowned Seiji Ozawa. The regular membership of the ensemble comprises 23 musicians – 18 Japanese and 5 foreigners - who are active worldwide. Before each concert, MCO's members gather from all around the world to the city of Mito to rehearse intensively.  

A unique aspect of MCO is its ability to wear "two different faces" flexibly. The first is its nature as a conductor-less ensemble. Thanks to the repeated rehearsals made in a painstaking manner by the group's member artists, each of whom has reached a sophisticated level of musical skill and musicality, MCO has developed a depth of mutual understanding that creates a sound which combines the meticulousness of a chamber group with the sense of scale of a larger orchestra. The fruits of their labors, carefully cultivated thus, are also expressed fully when the ensemble puts on its second face: its nature as a "conductor-led" ensemble. Even when they encounter differing styles of direction under individual guest conductors, the penetration of a shared musical language among the individual members allows them to immediately adapt smoothly and seamlessly to each conductor's unique style of musicality, all the while maintaining the ensemble's unique musical performance style.

Taking advantage of those two characteristics - wearing its "two faces" - MCO has presented quite a few notable concerts down the years. As a conductor-less ensemble, it has put on many conceptual programs. At the same time, its concerts led by conductors have also been highly rated: besides Seiji Ozawa, MCO has also welcomed Szymon Goldberg, Rudolf Barshai, Trevor Pinnock, Jean-Francois Paillard, Ton Kopman, Jun Maerkl, Hiro Wakasugi, Jun'ichi Hirokami, Heinz Holliger, and Kazushi Ono at the helm. Meanwhile, the group has also presented memorable concerts featuring such soloists as Mstislav Rostropovich (cello), Andras Schiff (piano), Bruno Leonardo Gelber (piano), Takahiro Sonoda (piano), Doris Soffel (mezzo-soprano), Karl Leister (clarinet), Nathalie Stutzman (alto), Rainer Kussmaul (violin), Andreas Steier (harpsichord and fortepiano), and Yuri Bashmet(viola) among others. Occasionally, MCO has actively commissioned and debuted new works by Japanese composers, including Toshi Ichiyanagi ("Kisui-iki"), Hikaru Hayashi ("Hika," winner of the 1995 Otaka Prize), and Yoshihisa Taira ("Saiun"), who just died in March 2005. So far the ensemble has produced 13 CDs - under the Sony Classical and Universal Music – and 2 BD / DVD under the NHK-enterprises- each of which has garnered excellent reviews from fans and music critics alike.

MCO put on its first performance outside of Mito in 1996, with concerts held at various sites around Japan, including Suntory Hall in Tokyo and the Osaka Festival Hall. The group has also spread its wings to perform abroad, the first tour overseas having taken place in Europe in June 1998. At the time, MCO visited five cities, having received invitations to perform at the Vienna Art Week, the Ludwigsburg Castle Festival, and the Florentine May Music Festival, with additional concerts in Hamburg and Zurich. The European audiences were astounded at the excellence of the group, as attested by newspaper reviews. In March 2001, MCO returned to Europe for its second tour of that continent, this time performing in Milan, Vienna, Paris, and Munich. By this time, of course, the ensemble had already established a firm reputation in Europe, and the various audiences were highly appreciative again.
In June 2008, MCO run its third tour for Europe without a conductor. MCO received an invitation from Munich, Florence, and Madrid and the performances received the highest praise.

*MCO receives support from NEC, Adastria Co., Ltd., Mito Securities Co.,Ltd.,the Genden Fureai Ibaraki Foundation,and Yoshida Oil Co.,Ltd.,and enjoys the cooperation of All Nippon Airways Co.,Ltd,.and Mito Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

From the Founder and First General Director

Mito Chamber Orchestra--"It Began With a Dream"
by Mr. Hidekazu Yoshida(1913-2012)

yoshidaArt Tower Mito (ATM) was founded in 1990 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Mito City's designation as an official municipality, the very first city in Japan to be recognized as such by the government. The city had been famous throughout Japan in the Edo era (early 17th c to mid-19th c) for the Mito School of thought. The rationale behind the founding of ATM, then, was to set up a facility that would serve as the site for a comprehensive range of creative artistic activities --music, drama, and art -- thereby contributing to the fuller and deeper spiritual life of the citizens of Mito. The person who should be commended for this wonderful idea was the previous mayor, Mr. Kazunobu Sagawa.

From the onset, I was asked to manage the ATM. I thought that one thing that the new facility could do to set itself apart would be to set up a chamber orchestra, which would both typify and crystallize the experience of Japan in the last century in a concrete form. Namely, the 100-year period of Mito's designation as a city corresponds almost exactly with Japan's encounter with Western music. Both the structure and the spirit of that music were incorporated and digested by the Japanese, while a diligent trial-and-error attempt was made to by artists in this country develop and express to the rest of the world a new type of music built upon the base of traditional Japanese music.

Japan has produced many fine musicians over the past century. Some have decided to pursue their careers outside Japan, while others have remained in the country. Some have concentrated on being soloists, while others have been active as members in chamber ensembles, symphony orchestras, and other kinds of groups. Some also have served as teachers or researchers at educational institutions, both at home and abroad.

At the beginning of the 1990s, I wondered -- half seriously and half amusingly -- what a chamber orchestra would sound like that was made up of the best musicians Japan had produced.

Although at first just a dream, it drew closer to reality one day after I talked with Seiji Ozawa. Not only did he appreciate my idea right away, but he agreed to throw his full support behind it and cooperate with me on the project. He then carefully selected, one by one, the musicians in the prime of their careers who would join the group, to be called Mito Chamber Orchestra (MCO). He made sure that they had experience both as soloists and as ensemble members.

Seiji Ozawa agreed to become the new group's musical advisor. A policy was pursued of running the MCO in a way that both respected the members' individuality and that would gain their approval. A yearly concert schedule was set up with two programs held each spring and autumn (with two concerts given of each program). That means a total of eight concerts are given by MCO each year, some of which are directed by Seiji Ozawa himself, some by guest conductors, and some with no conductor at all, with just the members playing. In concerts with no director, pieces that require soloists feature MCO members as soloists. In other concerts, guest soloists are sometimes invited to perform. The MCO thus gives four different types of concerts. Also, the ensemble members stay in the city of Mito for two weeks both in the spring and the fall to rehearse for the four programs given each year.

The concerts are performed in the Concert Hall ATM, which forms part of the Art Tower Mito (ATM) complex. The hall constitutes one of the three main "legs" of the tripod upon which ATM stands, the others being the Contemporary Art Center and the ACM Theatre. It was innovatively designed by the famous architect, Arata Isozaki. Performers and the audience alike appreciate the acoustics of the hall, which are perfect for string quartets and other small ensembles. Every time that I listen to a concert in the Concert Hall ATM, whether the music is chamber or not, I experience great happiness as a music lover (not just because I happen to be associated with the facilities). I frequently ponder on the quirks of fate that have led me to call such a wonderful place as Mito my home.

One person who had heard of the MCO's stellar reputation once asked me why the group didn't hold concerts in Tokyo and other major cities. I responded, "The MCO can only be heard in Mito for the time being, so if you want to hear them play, you must come up to Mito. When you do come, you'll be struck by the beauty of the ATM complex, and you'll come to realize that the true satisfaction of listening to the group can come only from doing so in the concert hall at that complex." Ever since the founding of the MCO, the ensemble has indeed only given regular concerts at the Concert Hall ATM.

The MCO has also embarked on series of recordings. Its first CD was put out in 1994, featuring works by Mahler and Schubert. Thanks to the excellent reception that the first CD got, a second CD came out in May 1995, with Seiji Ozawa directing Bizet's Symphony No. 1 and Ravel's "Ma mere l'oye", and shortly after that a third CD was released, with Rudolf Barshai directing the MCO in a performance of three string quartet works arranged by during the regular concert season.

Meanwhile, the MCO finally gave in to relentless pressure to perform elsewhere than Mito, and gave a concert at the Festival Hall in Osaka in spring 1996 and another one at the Suntory Hall in fall of the same year. The ensemble has thus expand the sphere of its activities.

The performers of the MCO have striven so far to produce an excellent quality of sound in line with the ideal acoustics of the hall in which they perform. Likewise, the regular members of the ensemble's audience in Mito have had their musical ears trained, and are now accustomed to hearing such exquisite music. I wonder what happens when MCO leaves its home hall and performs under different circumstances for audiences with different experiences and expectations.

As I mentioned earlier, the MCO was created as a result of a half-serious, half-amusing desire on my part. Listening to the actual performances of the MCO so far has given me the pleasure of knowledge that the group has hit off to a good start, maintaining high quality just as I had expected. Moreover, my impressions of the group during the performances itself - fine, interesting, exact, delicate and powerful - linger on long since they have ended, leaving me in a reverie of gentle sound. It makes me dream that I am listening to a never-ending performance.

October 1996

From General Director 

Getting the Chance to Reflect on the Spirit of "Doing Music"
by Seiji Ozawa

ozawaOne day, several years ago, Mr. Hidekazu Yoshida invited me to his house in Kamakura, and mentioned to me there that he would like to create a chamber orchestra in line with the founding of a new concert hall in Mito. I thought it was a wonderful idea, and decided to work with him on the project. That happened to be a time when the Saito Kinen Orchestra was touring Europe every year, so I told him I thought it would be best to assemble a group using some of its members. I had Mr. Tatsuo Oguchi, who was the managing director of Concert Hall ATM (and now the General Intendant of MCO) and who was able to pull a few strings, fly straight to Europe and convince some of the members of the orchestra to join our new group. In no time at all, the pieces started to fall into place, and we had a full-fledged chamber ensemble on our hands.

Several factors have come together -- a near-ideal amount of rehearsal time, the members' previous musical careers, and the hearty welcome extended by the people at Mito -- that mutually interact to produce the wonderful assemblage of musicians that MCO is. Although the group can perform without a conductor, some works do call for some one to conduct, so I have assented to lead the group in some of its concerts. Whenever I am working with them, I feel I have gotten an invaluable opportunity -- as have the orchestra's musicians -- to reflect on what it really means to "do music" once again.

I sincerely hope that the MCO continues to set new traditions in the history of Japanese ensembles.

Mito Chamber Orchestra

General Director: Seiji Ozawa
Founder and First General Director: Hidekazu Yoshida (1913-2012)
Advisor Emeritus: Tatsuo Oguchi
Intendant: Tadashi Hori
MCO Members' chief Representative: Masayuki Naoi



Syoko Aki, Machie Oguri, Yosuke Kawasaki, Kyoko Saburi, Machiko Shimada,
Kyoko Takezawa, Naoko Tanaka, Yasushi Toyoshima, Shizuka Nakamura, Miwako Watanabe

Violas: Maureen Gallagher,
Masao Kawasaki, Yoshiko Kawamoto, Mazumi Tanamura
Violoncellos: Noboru Kamimura, Sadao Harada
Dai Miyata
Double-basses: Hiroshi Ikematsu
Flute: Shigenori Kudo
Oboe: Philippe Tondre
Clarinet: Ricardo Morales
Bassoon: Dag Jensen
Horns: Radek Baborák, Masayuki Naoi

Stage-Manager: Masaki Sato
Personnel Manager: Yoshiko Shiga
Supported by: NEC, Adastria Co., Ltd., Mito Securities Co.,Ltd.  
Genden Ibaraki Foundation
Yoshida Oil Co., LTD
Cooperation: All Nippon Airways Co., Ltd.
Sponsorship: The Ibaraki Shimbun Co., Ltd.,  The Mito Chamber of Commerce and Industry



Beethoven: Symphony No.9 in D minor, Op.125
Conducted by Seiji Ozawa
Soprano, Rie Miyake
Mezzo-soprano, Mihoko Fujimura
Tenor, Kei Fukui
Baritone, Markus Eiche
Chorus, Tokyo Opera Singers

Universal Music UCCD 1468

Beethoven: Symphony No.5 in C minor, Op.67
Mozart: Clarinet Concerto in A major, K.622

Conducted by Seiji Ozawa
Clarinet, Ricardo Morales

Universal Music UCCD 1433

J.S.Bach: Orchestral Suite No.2 in B minor, BWV1067
Mozart: Symphony No.40 in G minor, K.550
Hindemith: Five Pieces for String Orchestra Op.44-4
Haydn: Symphony No.82 in C major, “L’ours”

Conducted by Szymon Goldberg

Beethoven: Symphony No.2 in D major, Op.36
Beethoven: Symphony No.8 in F major, Op.93

Conducted by Seiji Ozawa
Universal Music UCCD 1421

Mozart:The Complete Horn Concertos
Conducted by Seiji Ozawa
Radek Baborak, Horn

Sony Classical / SICC 19002

Mozart: Symphony No.35 in D major, K.385 “HAFFNER”
Mozart: Symphony No.39 in E-flat major, K.543

Conducted by Seiji Ozawa
Sony Classical / SICC 19001

UCCD1413Beethoven: Symphony No.4 in B flat major, Op.60
Beethoven: Symphony No.7 in A major, Op.92

Conducted by Seiji Ozawa
Universal Music UCCD 1413

cd_10084Mendelssohn: Piano Concerto No.1 in G minor, Op.25
Mendelssohn: from Songs Without Words
Mendelssohn: Variations Sérieuses, Op.54 etc...

Conducted by Seiji Ozawa
Yu Kosuge, Piano

Sony Classical / SICC 10084

cd_10069Mozart: Symphony No.41 in C major, K.551 “Jupiter”
Mozart: Violin Concerto No.5 in A major, K.219 “Turkish”

Conducted by Seiji Ozawa
Masuko Ushioda, Violin

Sony Classical / SICC 10069

cd_10047Mozart: Symphony No.36 in C major, K.425 “Linz”
Mozart: Symphony No.38 in D major, K.504 “Prague”
Mozart: Motet “Exsultate, jubilate”, K.165 (158a)

Conducted by Seiji Ozawa
Maki Mori, Soprano

Sony Classical / SICC 10047

cd_10046Mozart: Symphony No.40 in G minor, K.550
Mozart: Symphonia concertante in E flat major, K.Anh.9 (297B) (Reconstruction by Robert D. Levin)

Conducted by Seiji Ozawa
Shigenori Kudo, Flute / Fumiaki Miyamoto, Oboe / Dag Jensen, Bassoon / Radek Baborák, Horn

Sony Classical / SICC 10046

cd_319Mozart: Concert for Flute and Orchestra in G major, KV313 (285c)
Mozart: Concert for Bassoon and Orchestra in B-flat major, KV191 (186e)
R. Strauss: Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra in D major

Conducted by Seiji Ozawa
Shigenori Kudo, Flute / Dag Jensen, Bassoon / Fumiaki Miyamoto, Oboe

Sony Classical / SICC-319

cd_11017Ravel: “Le Tombeau de Couperin”
Stravinsky: “Pulcinella” suite
Stravinsky: Concerto in D

Conducted by Seiji Ozawa
Philips / PHCP 11017

cd_1675Shostakovich / arr. Rudolf Barshai: Chamber Symphonies “Eine kleine Symphonie”
in C major, Op.49a

(Transcription from String Quartet No.1, World première)
– Herrn Hidekazu Yoshida und Mito Chamber Orchestra gewidmet –
Chamber Symphony in C minor, Op.110a (from String Quartet No.8)
Symphony for Strings and Wind Instruments in F major, Op.73a

(from String Quartet No.3)
Conducted by Rudolf Barshai
Sony Classical / SRCR 1675

cd_1500Ravel: “Ma mère l’oye”
Ravel: “Pavane pour une infante défunte”
Bizet: Symphony in C major

Conducted by Seiji Ozawa
Philips / PHCP 1500

cd_9502Schubert / arr. Mahler: “Death and The Maiden”
Mahler: Adagietto from symphony No.5

Sony Classical / SRCR 9502


-Violoncello: DAI MIYATA-
Haydn: Violoncello Concerto No.1 in C major Hob.VIIb-1
Mozart: Symphony No.35 in D major K.385 “Haffner”

dvd_13874Mendelssohn: Piano Concerto No.1 in G minor, Op.25
Mendelssohn: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” Music to Shakespeare’s play Op.21, Op.61

Conducted by Seiji Ozawa
Yu Kosuge, Piano / Yukiyoshi Ozawa, Narrator / Akiko Nakajima, Soprano / Katherine Rohrer, Mezzo Soprano


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