Photo: Tamás Márkos
Purcell Choir and Orfeo Orchestra
artistic director: György Vashegyi
Purcell Choir was founded in 1990 in Budapest by György Vashegyi for the performance of Purcell’s Baroque opera Dido & Aeneas. Few suspected at the time that the group was to become the most respected choir in Hungary thirty years later. All the choir members are excellent professional singers, musicians and instrumentalists, and some of them are also members of other choirs and orchestras. The choir repertoire of the Purcell Choir ranges from works by Gesualdo to Mendelssohn, but they also perform pieces by later composers. Thanks to the three decades of continuous work with the founder, the choir’s sound and mastery of styles is always appreciated by international critics.
The choir’s regular partner in performances is Orfeo Orchestra which was founded in Budapest in 1991 also by György Vashegyi, receiving its name from Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, following the first full performance of the opera in Hungary. The orchestra (since 1992 playing on period instruments) consists of professional musicians with international experience as either orchestra members or instrumental soloists.
The ensembles are the most authentic exponent of Early music (Baroque, Classical and Romantic) compositions in Hungary and has given many first performances on period instruments under the baton of György Vashegyi. Since 1998 they have produced several world-premier recordings for Hungaroton and other publishers from compositions of Charpentier, Conti, Geist, Michael Haydn, Istvánffy, Kraus, Lickl, Manna, Méhul, Tartini, Tunder and Stölzel. Since 2014, a close cooperation has been formed with the Center of Baroque music of Versailles, their first CD released together was the world-premier recording of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s „ballet héroique”, Les Fêtes de Polymnie (published in January 2015 by Glossa). Continuing the collaboration, they published seven more recordings: Grand Motets and Isbé by Mondonville, Opéra pour trois rois (premiere in Versailles 24th November 2016), Rameau: Naïs in March 2017, Rameau’s great opera-ballet, Les Indes Galantes, a tragedy from Gervais, Hypermnestre in September 2019, a Glossa worldwide release – Montéclair: Jephté in February 2020. Our records with other publishers: at the end of 2019 Brillez, astres nouveaux! – published by Aparté. We’ve just started a new serie of CDs called ‘Esterházy Music Collection’ for Accent, to record forgotten treasures of Hungarian music heritage: first volume – Symphonies Le Matin-Le Midi-Le Soir by Haydn – is published in Juni 2020, the second volume is Der Gute Hirt, 1739 by Gregor Joseph Werner (official release expected in November 2020). Besides the famous singers’ outstandig performance, the critizens appreciated the ensembles’ musically shaped execution: the recordings released up to now have notable international successes, such as: Diapason D’Or and Diapason Découverte, Diamant de l’Opéra (Opéra Magazine, Paris), Preis der deutchen Schallplattenkritik.
The first concert master of Orfeo Orchestra is László Paulik, nevertheless Simon Standage – the world-famous Baroque violin player – has been often invited for solos and for leading the orchestra since 2009. In recent years, the Orfeo Orchestra and the Purcell Choir have been conducted by international renowned conductors such as Helmuth Rilling, René Jacobs, Philippe Herreweghe and Masaaki Suzuki.
The names of the Orfeo Orchestra and the Purcell Choir have now become inseparably linked to their founder György Vashegyi, who can rightly be described as the outstanding exponent of classical and early music compositions and the person who has revitalized these works in Hungary.