The Royal Danish Orchestra has been adding to its collection of fine stringed instruments for centuries – but there is revolution as well as evolution behind its distinctive string sound, which is unmistakable whatever the repertoire and whoever the conductor, finds Andrew Mellor
There is a sport among Copenhagen’s music critics. It involves attempting to define the distinct playing style and sound culture of the Royal Danish Orchestra while speculating as to how much those things are connected to the ensemble’s age. With a playing history dating back to 1448, this is the oldest orchestral institution in the world.
Det Kongelige Kapel (‘The Royal Chapel’), as it is known locally, is the house ensemble for the Royal Danish Opera but also gives symphonic concerts throughout the season at Copenhagen’s modern opera house. The ensemble has counted great composers among its members (Dowland and Nielsen) and has worked with a string of iconic conductors: Bernstein, Boulez, Furtwängler, Karajan, Klemperer, Knappertsbusch, Kubelík, Ormandy, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Rattle and Walter, to name just a few.
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