It was back in 1962 that the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation decided to establish a permanent orchestral body, which initially consisted of only twelve pieces (chords and continuo group), originally designated as Gulbenkian Chamber Orchestra. This collective was successively enlarged up to the point where today the Orquestra Gulbenkian (the name it has adopted since 1971) counts upon a permanent body of sixty six instrumentalists which can be expanded here and there in accordance with the needs of the programmes at hand.
This structure allows Orquestra Gulbenkian to interpret a wide repertoire which spans all of the Classical period, a significant part of 19th century orchestral literature and much of the music of the 20th century. Works belonging to the current repertoire of the grand traditional symphonic orchestras, namely Haydn’s, Mozart’s, Beethoven’s, Schubert’s, Mendelssohn’s or Schumann’s orchestral productions, can thus be delivered by Orquestra Gulbenkian in versions that are closer to the orchestrations they originally were conceived for as far as the balance of their internal sonic architecture is concerned. In each season the orchestra executes a regular series of concerts at the Gulbenkian Grand Auditorium in Lisbon. There it has had the opportunity of working together with some of the biggest names in the world of music (conductors and soloists). It has also performed on numerous locations all over Portugal, which has allowed it to contribute to decentralizing culture.
The orchestra has been gradually expanding his activities in the international level, performing in Europe, Asia Africa and the Americas. More recently Orquestra Gulbenkian made another appearance in the Enescu Festival (13 September 2011) and visited Armenia for the first time, giving two concerts in Yerevan (15 and 16 September 2011), in both cases under the direction of Maestro Lawrence Foster. In July 2013 performed in the Kissingen Sömmer Festival (Germany) with maestro Lawrence Foster and in October made a tour in China with concerts in Macao, Canton and Beijing, under the direction of Paul McCreesh.
In the recording level, the name of Orquestra Gulbenkian is associated to labels as Philips, Deutsche Grammophon, Hyperion, Teldec, Erato, Adès, Nimbus, Lyrinx, Naïve and Pentatone, among others, and this activity has been recognized with several prestigious international prizes.
French-Swiss conductor Lorenzo Viotti has been appointed Principal Conductor and Music Director of the Gulbenkian Orchestra, as of Season 18/19.