I, Culture Orchestra
I, Culture Orchestra 2012

The I, CULTURE Orchestra is a project initiated by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute. It is one of the pillars of the cultural programme for the Polish Presidency of the European Union Council.

The Orchestra follows the example of such renowned ensembles as the European Union Youth Orchestra and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. Its members are young people from Poland, Ukraine, Belarus and other European countries to the east of European Union, among them Moldavia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. The I, CULTURE Orchestra will tour the most prestigious concert halls in Europe through the autumn of 2011.

Poland is located in the heart of Europe and has a long history of connecting the East and the West. On the occasion of the Polish Presidency of the EU Council, it must be emphasised that both the East and the West have long had a strong influence on European cultural identity. Moreover, the Western societies ought to be reminded of the cultural richness and long-standing tradition of the European countries from beyond the eastern boundaries of the Schengen Area. The project aims to bring on permanent change in the approach towards orchestra education in the participating countries and leave a strong impression on the musical map of Europe for future generations.

As part of this project, young and talented musicians from Eastern Europe have the occasion to work under the direction of some of the most eminent teachers from the leading orchestras in Western Europe, such as the London Symphony Orchestra, Opera de Lyon, Philharmonia Orchestra and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. This meeting between the musical talents from Eastern Europe and experienced musicians from Western Europe will be the biggest one in the history of this continent so far. The aim of this meeting is to achieve the highest artistic level of the orchestra, so that it would be comparable to the best orchestras of this type in Europe. The willingness to cooperate with the orchestra has been so far confirmed by such exceptional musicians as Sir Neville Marriner and Julia Fischer.

In the period between August 23 and September 5, 2010, the pilot programme of the project I, Culture Orchestra was carried out with musicians from Poland and Ukraine. During a seven-day-long master course in the modern campus of the Gdańsk Academy of Music, young people from both countries prepared a symphonic programme under the guidance of the orchestra's artistic director Pawel Kotla.

Paweł Kotla studied symphonic and opera conducting under Professor Ryszard Dudek and Professor Boguslaw Madey at the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in Warsaw. He also completed postgraduate studies in musicology and performance of early music at the University of Oxford. Moreover, he attended courses in Vienna, Siena, Innsbruck and Brixen, and studied with the legendary Finnish professor Jorma Panula. He settled in London over ten years ago works there as a conductor in the London Symphony Orchestra.

The young artists also had the opportunity to work under the supervision of a group of tutors whose rank is exceptional - a rare thing even among the best youth orchestras in Europe - and who normally play in such famous orchestras as the London Symphony Orchestra, London's Philharmonia Orchestra, Opera de Lyon and the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra.

Meyrick Alexander - for thirty years Alexander was the Principal Bassoonist of London's Philharmonia Orchestra, appointed by Riccardo Muti. Between 1980 and 2010 he worked with most of the world's leading conductors, including Maazel, Guilini, Ashkenazy, Svetlanov, Dohnanyi, Salonen, Sinopoli, Ozawa, Haitink, Harnoncourt, Mackerras and many others. He also appeared as soloist in concerts and recordings. During this period he also played with John Eliot Gardiner's Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique and taught at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, the Royal Northern College of Music and the Birmingham Conservatoire. In 2010 Meyrick Alexander was appointed Head of Woodwind at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (www.rwcmd.ac.uk) and continues to play in the London Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and many other ensembles.

Rod Franks - principal trumpet of the London Symphony Orchestra. Rod began to study trumpet with Maurice Murphy at the age of 15, he joined Brighouse and Rastrick and was appointed assistant principal cornet of Black Dyke Mills Band at 17. He studied at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester and finished his study with the Hiles Gold Medal in 1977. In the same year, he was appointed principal trumpet of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra. He worked for the Bergen Philharmonic for seven years. During this time he was playing as a soloist, conducted a number of concerts and founded the Norwegian Brass Band Club and Championships. In 1983, Philip Jones invited Rod to become principal Trumpet of the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble and he maintained a busy free-lance schedule until 1989, when he joined the London Symphony Orchestra as principal trumpet in 1990.

Peter Thomas spent the first ten years of his professional career in chamber music, first as second violin in the Allegri String Quartet, one of the most prestigious ensembles on the world scene, and then together with Sharon McKinley and Ian Brown formed the Orion Piano Trio, ensemble - in-residence at Southampton University. During their time there, they were awarded the BBC Beethoven Prize and subsequently gave many concerts and broadcasts at home and abroad. He has also played regularly at that time with the Academy of Saint Martin in the Fields.

The next twenty years were spent as an orchestral leader, first with the National Orchestra of Wales, then the Philharmonia, and finally with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra for the last decade of Simon Rattle's directorship. As a soloist, he has frequently performed with the CBSO and Philharmonia, with a particular emphasis on the concertos of Mozart, Mendelssohn, Elgar and Brahms Double. He has also been a guest conductor for many orchestras during his career, including the London Symphony, the BBC Symphony, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and the Budapest Festival Orchestra. Most recently, he has been guest conductor for a number of orchestras in Spain.

The Artistic Director of the Orchestra is the leading young conductor Pawel Kotla. Kotla has cooperated for many years with such ensembles as the London Symphony Orchestra, European Union Youth Orchestra, St. Petersburg Philharmonic and the National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra.

The preliminary programme for the I, Culture autumn tour includes the Berliner Philharmonie on November 2, Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels on November 4, Royal Festival Hall in London on November 6 and the Teatro Real in Madrid on November 8. In 2012 the orchestra launched a new tour with a new group of musicians and new repertoire. 

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Source: Adam Mickiewicz Institute.