History & Mission Statement
Vision and Mission
The Philadelphia Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra is committed to changing lives through music’s extraordinary power to communicate, and thus inspire, uplift, educate and entertain. We are dedicated to challenging classical performance boundaries by offering fresh interpretations of the standard chamber orchestra repertoire as well as the discovery of new and unusual works. Through live performances that are evocative, dramatic, and passionate we seek to develop new audiences of all ages for classical music.
Overview of the Organization
A Vision of High Artistic Standards
The Philadelphia Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra was founded in 1991 by Daniel Spalding, whose vision was to combine the great European chamber orchestra tradition with the extraordinary virtuosity of some of the finest musicians from the Philadelphia area and the east coast. During the first few years of operations a number of performance venues were utilized, especially in suburban locations. This included several appearances on a concert series at the Peddie School in Hightstown, New Jersey (where the orchestra made its debut in October of 1991), engagements at Swarthmore College in a benefit for the Chester-Swarthmore Community Coalition, Trinity Cathedral (Trenton), Valentines Day Concerts at the Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia, and in keeping with the orchestra’s mission to reach young audiences, youth concerts at Brookdale Community College, Westtown School and the New Jersey State Museum. During this time, a Board was formed and the PVCO was incorporated as a non-profit (501)(3)(c) in December of 1993.
Establishing a Home While Seeking National and International Recognition
The period 1996-1999 marked tremendous expansion in the scope of the Philadelphia Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra’s activities. In January of 1996, the PVCO made its New York debut to a standing ovation in a special program of Romanian music for the New York Library of the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. That same year, seeking to become more known and to serve its home city, the PVCO implemented its Center City Concert Series at First Presbyterian Church at 21st and Walnut. For the next 12 years, the PVCO was “in residence” at this location and dedicated itself to serving the enter city neighborhood with a series of concerts every season. In addition to its concert activities, the orchestra recorded two CD’s for the Connoisseur Society label, the first of which was a finalist for the 1998 Grammy nominations. With increased national and international attention coming its way, the PVCO secured a contract with Community Concerts, Inc. for a national tour including a performance at Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York. During 1998-99 and with Gabriela Imreh as piano soloist, the PVCO toured a total of six weeks throughout the western and mid-western states, all to high critical acclaim. The PVCO also made its first international appearances when it visited Brazil in the fall of 1998 for a nine-concert three week tour including concerts in Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte, and other major cities.
National & International Recognition and Service to Our Neighborhood and City
The 2000-2001 season continued with a busy schedule of touring. Four weeks of concerts throughout the eastern half of the USA with thirteen concerts in eight states from New Hampshire to Illinois, were followed by two concerts to open the prestigious Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts, and a one month long seventeen concert tour of Brazil including performing at several major international music festivals and on Brazilian television. The Center City Concert Series continued at the First Presbyterian Church. One of these concerts included the world premiere of “Limites” by the French composer Jean-Louis Petit, who dedicated the work to the Philadelphia Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra and traveled from Paris to conduct the performance. There were also outreach concerts including performing at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital, the Media Theater in Media, PA, and the Westtown School. In the fall of 2002, the PVCO was able to implement for the first time its vision to bring free concerts to economically depressed minority neighborhoods with a performance at the Episcopal Church of the Advocate located in north Philadelphia. Continuing in its commitment to record significant chamber orchestra repertoire, the PVCO recorded the music of American composer George Antheil for Naxos, one of the world’s largest classical recording companies.
This CD was released in the fall of 2001 and received incredible praise throughout the world press, including being designated as “Editor’s Choice” for Gramophone, chosen as “CD of the week” by BBC Radio 3 and the London Observer, and as one of the top 10 classical CD’s of 2001 by the Chicago Tribune. It was also a best selling album in the United Kingdom, and continues to be one of Naxos’ best selling CDs in the United States. The Center City Concert Series continued as well as a special effort to implement more outreach concerts at schools, retirement communities and economically depressed neighborhoods. During the 2003-2004 season, support from the National Endowment for the Arts, Huston Foundation, Five County Arts Fund, Yamaha Artist Services, and a number of private donors enabled the orchestra to bring classical music concerts to the Episcopal Church of the Advocate in North Philadelphia, Widener University in Chester, and to Trenton Central High School and Trinity Cathedral in New Jersey. The fall of 2004 saw the orchestra back on the road for some major national touring with appearances in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri, California, and Arizona.
One of many free NEA sponsored concerts at Church of the Advocate since 2003
The Center City Concert Series continued at the First Presbyterian Church with innovative concert programs that attracted the attention of Philadelphia’s classical music reviewers as well as the public. Major national and international tours continued to be a part of the orchestra’s schedule. During 2005-2006, the PVCO performed in the prestigious Composer Portrait Series at Miller Theater at Columbia University in New York City (which received a favorable review in the New York Times), for the Wednesday Club in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and made a return appearance at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach, Florida. The Kravis program was recorded live for broadcast on 248 National Public Radio stations for the program “Performance Today.” In April of 2006 the PVCO toured Brazil and Argentina for over 2 weeks. Two recording projects also came to fruition. An all Howard Hanson CD was released in July of 2006 on Naxos, the second recording for the PVCO on the world’s largest classical label. This CD received the “Writers Choice Award” for the best CD of 2006 from the audiophile magazine Audio Feedback Online, as well as many other stellar reviews from around the world. For the second project, over $34,000 was awarded from the Aaron Copland Fund for American Music and the Francis Coelet Charitable Lead Trusts in order to record a new CD of the music of George Antheil for New World Records. This recording took place in October of 2005 was released in September of 2006. George Blood, recording engineer for the Philadelphia Orchestra is producer. This CD also received many accolades from major critics around the world. During this period, the PVCO was selected to be on the Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour roster. This program is funded by the Heinz Endowment, the William Penn Foundation, Pennsylvania Council for the Arts, the PEW Charitable Trusts, and the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation
The Philadelphia Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra Today
The PVCO is now in its 19th year of continuous operation. Touring engagements over the past two seasons have included appearances in Texas, New York, New Jersey, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Florida, Connecticut, and at Queens College in New York City. PVCO’s European debut takes place at the Nomus Festival in April of 2010, and other international tours are developing. After 12 years of concerts at the First Presbyterian Church, it was decided to move to a larger and more conducive Philadelphia venue. The first of these concerts took place in the fall of 2008 at the Arden Theater in the old city neighborhood.
Funding for the PVCO over the years has come from the Pennsylvania Council for the Arts, the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, National Endowment for the Arts, Cassett Foundation, Arcadia Foundation, Dofinger-McMahon Foundation, Huston Foundation, the Frank & Lydia Bergen Foundation, Judson Foundation, Nakamichi Foundation, and most recently by PNC Arts Alive. There have also been a number of private donors who have generously supported the orchestra. The Philadelphia Virtuosi enters into the next phase of its history with confidence and optimism.