Traditionally, an orchestra is composed of two imperative elements—musicians and a conductor. The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, which inhabited Sauder Concert Hall on Oct. 19 as part of the Performing Arts Series, requires only the musicians.Founded in 1972, this Grammy Award-winning orchestra is prominent for its unique and innovative methods. Orpheus aims to incorporate the intimacy of chamber music with the full resonance of an orchestra. Instead of a conductor, the musicians rotate leadership for each work, creating a diverse repertoire through collaboration.
The group is composed of 32 members, playing instruments ranging from violins and cellos to bassoons. The orchestra presents an annual series at Carnegie Hall, and also tours both nationally and internationally.
The 2014-15 season contains works by composers such as Beethoven and Wagner, as well as three newly commissioned pieces and debut appearances from various instrumentalists.
During the Sunday concert, the orchestra featured esteemed pianist Jonathan Biss—“one of the most thoughtful and technically accomplished pianists of the younger generation,” according to BBC Music Magazine. Raised in Bloomington, Ind., Biss has become one of the most accomplished performers of Beethoven.
The New York Times describes Orpheus as “enthusiastic and fresh,” and “well shaped and finely polished as many a more firmly established, conducted orchestra.”
“Orpheus’ commitment to collaboration allows them to achieve a level of musicality that conventional organizations often struggle to achieve,” Peter Paetkau, a sophomore who attended the concert, said. “It was incredible to watch them work and engage on such a deep level with the music, the audience and each other.”
Isaac Godshalk, a first-year, also attended the concert.
“As musicians, it was fantastic, but they went above and beyond what most orchestras give into the music,” Godshalk said. “I was really moved by it.”