The Moscow Chamber Orchestra has been regarded for more than a half century as one of the greatest chamber ensembles in the world. Shostakovich considered it the greatest and entrusted the premiere of his Fourteenth Symphony to the orchestra. The MCO has made countless concert tours throughout Europe, Asia, and the Americas and numerous acclaimed recordings. The MCO gives 120 concerts per year and the performance venues for subscription concerts are Moscow Conservatory's Large Hall and the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall. The MCO's repertory has been truly eclectic over the years, from Baroque to contemporary, from operatic fare to ballet, from transcriptions of Chopin and Gershwin to folk and traditional arrangements, and from light waltzes and tangos to tragic symphonies. It would be difficult to see the MCO as a specialist ensemble in any area, though Russian music from the late 19th and early 20th centuries has garnered a higher portion of the ensemble's attention. The MCO's recordings are available from such labels as EMI and Delos.
The Moscow Chamber Orchestra, also known as the Russian State Academic Chamber Orchestra, was founded in 1956 by conductor/violist Rudolph Barshai. The ensemble quickly earned a reputation for its collective virtuosity and interpretive skills.
In 1962 it debuted in England at the Bath Festival. The acclaimed performances there led to one of the first recordings in the west by a Russian ensemble, an EMI LP of Prokofiev's Visions Fugitives (arranged for string orchestra by Barshai) and Tippett's Concerto for Double String Orchestra. On September 29, 1969, Barshai led the MCO in the premiere of the Shostakovich Fourteenth Symphony, a work that stirred much controversy. Over the next decades the orchestra maintained its lofty reputation under conductors Igor Bezrodny (1976-1981), Victor Tretyakov, and Andrei Korsakov.
Upon the 1991 death of Korsakov, pianist/conductor Constantine Orbelian was appointed music director, the first American ever to hold a major conducting post in Russia. Under Orbelian, the MCO would draw greater attention in Western Europe and the U.S. Acclaimed concerts in Berlin, Paris, London, and Tokyo regularly followed, and from 1998 the MCO has made annual appearances at Carnegie Hall. In 2004 the MCO was given the prestigious invitation to appear at the Dean Acheson Auditorium, Washington, D.C., by the U.S. State Department for a concert to commemorate 70 years of U.S.-Russian diplomatic relations. Among the MCO's later recordings is the popular 2008 Delos disc, To Russia With Love, featuring baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky.