45 years after his debut Philips recording of Beethoven's Ninth, Seiji Ozawa returns to this epic masterpiece with the Mito Chamber Orchestra. This new recording features star players Radek Baborák (horn), Ricardo Morales (clarinet), and Philippe Tondre (oboe) as well as the German baritone Markus Eiche, who leads a quartet of Japanese soloists and the Tokyo Opera Singers in a riveting performance of the famed final movement.
Mito City is a historical city that contributed greatly to the modernization of Japan. During the Edo Period (1603 to 1867), it was the site of one of the three privileged branches of the Tokugawa family, which ruled Japan at the time. Yoshinobu Tokugawa, the last shogun in the Tokugawa line, returned the government to imperial rule, thus paving the way to the Meiji Restoration of 1868. Mito is the locale of Kairaku-en, one of Japan's three finest landscape gardens. Boasting the largest clan school of the Edo Period, the Kodokan, which is now a historical and cultural heritage site, Mito produced many leaders and intellectuals during those formative years. In 1990, having inherited the progressive spirit of the Edo Period, Mito City established Art Tower Mito, a complex containing a concert hall, theater and art gallery, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of its official establishment as a city.
The 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). In 2013, the famed Japanese conductor Seiji Ozawa assumed the post of director general after Yoshida's death, also serving as MCO's general director, and is currently involved in its management. The membership of MCO consists of twenty-one Japanese nationals and five foreign musicians who are active as soloists and 0rchestra principals worldwide. Besides being led by conductors, including Seiji Ozawa, at its regular concerts that take place in the Concert Hall ATM, MCO also puts effort into concerts that are conductor-less. Before each concert, MCO's members gather from all around the world to the city of Mito to rehearse intensively.
The ensemble energetically commissions works by Japanese composers, having debuted Toshi Ichiyanagi's Kisui-iki, Hikaru Hayashi's Elegia (winner of the 1995 Otaka Prize), and Yoshihisa Taira's Saiun, among others. They have also released sixteen CD recordings to date under the Sony Classical and Universal Music labels, along with two BD/DVDs from NHK Enterprise, all of which have been received with resounding plaudits.
Beginning in 1996, MCO has extended its performance venue outside of Mito, having played at Tokyo's Suntory Hall and Osaka's Festival Hall, among other cities nationwide, thereby expanding its renown. The group has also ventured abroad, starting with a tour of five European cities in 1998 - Hamburg, Zurich, Vienna, Ludwigsburg, and Florence - followed by another tour of four cities in 2001 - Florence, Vienna, Paris, and Munich - both times led by Seiji Ozawa. The tours cemented MCO's reputation as a leading world-class chamber music ensemble. Another European tour took place in 2008, this time to three cities - Munich, Florence, and Madrid - and without a conductor, astounding audiences with the group's brilliant musicality.