About The Reykjavík Chamber Orchestra
The Reykjavík Chamber Orchestra was founded in 1974 under the leadership of Rut Ingólfsdóttir. It initially comprised a dozen young musicians who had recently returned to Iceland to perform with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and teach at the Reykjavík College of Music after advanced music studies abroad. The ensemble was founded with the dual objective of offering the public regular performances of chamber music from the Baroque era to the twentieth century and of providing performing musicians with varied and challenging performance opportunities. It can be said without hesitation that the Reykjavík Chamber Orchestra, now one of the cornerstones of Icelandic musical life, has succeeded in its mission.

The Reykjavík Chamber Orchestra appears in diverse groupings ranging from 3 to 35 players; its size and instrumentation vary according to the projects at hand.  Its members remain active in the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and as teachers and free-lance performers, but they share the goal of enriching Icelandic musical life with performances of chamber music from various periods.  Thus the Reykjavík Chamber Orchestra’s objectives remain as valid today as they were at the time of the ensemble’s founding three decades ago.

The Reykjavík Chamber Orchestra is well known for its wide-ranging repertoire and excellent performances, among them its highly popular Christmas Baroque concerts. The group has premiered a host of Icelandic and foreign works, many of which have been composed especially for it. Moreover, the Reykjavík Chamber Orchestra has given Icelanders the opportunity to hear many masterpieces of Western music never performed in Iceland before:  works such as Pierrot Lunaire, Serenade, Chamber Symphony #1, and other works of Arnold Schönberg; Quatuor pour la fin du temps and Des Canyons aux Étoiles by Olivier Messiaen; Façade by William Walton; Fratres, Te Deum and other works by Arvo Pärt; and the music of such composers as Lutoslawski, Adams, Gubaidulina and Boulez.

The RCO has worked with a number of distinguished conductors, including Vladimir Ashkenazy, Paul Zukofsky, Jaap Schröder, and Reinhard Goebel. The ensemble performs regularly, both in Iceland and abroad, and has recorded extensively for Icelandic radio and television. It is a frequent guest at the Reykjavík Arts Festival and has appeared at numerous music festivals in other countries. The Reykjavík Chamber Orchestra has been a cultural ambassador for Iceland at EXPO 1998 in Lisbon and EXPO 2000 in Hannover, as well as on tours to Japan and China. In May 2003, the RCO toured Belgium and Russia under the direction of Vladimir Ashkenazy. In October 2004, it performed a programme of Icelandic music at the Icelandic Culture Festival, Islande de glace et de feu [Iceland, Land of Ice and Fire] in Paris. That same year the group received the Icelandic Music Award for its recording of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concerti, performed under the baton of Jaap Schröder.

In recent years, the RCO has made an effort to record and issue on compact disc the large number of Icelandic works that have been composed for it. The resulting series of CDs features the ensemble’s chief collaborators among Icelandic composers.

The season 2019-2020

Two Frenchmen and Schumann

At Norðurljós, Harpa Concert Hall, October 27th at 4 pm

The Reykjavík Chamber Orchestra starts the season 2019-2020 performing Schumann’s piano quintet, one of the most beloved chamber works of the the romantic era. It’s form, being both dramatic and spectacular, features a counterpoint which melds the different themes from various movements into a complete whole. Fervent and sensitive melodies are also characteristic of Schumannand the piece builds up a passion that is unique in the chamber music literature.

The humorous sextet by Poulenc which is one of the most popular pieces for winds, is also on the program and the wind quintet, Trois pièces brèves by Ibert. The sextet is full of jazzy humor that could have sprung from the cafes and bars of Paris. In between are irresistable melodies typical of Poulenc.  It is  interesting how well he writes for each instrument and how he magically creates different colors for this ensemble.


Jacques Ibert (1890-1962): Trois Pièces brèves for woodwind quintet

Poulenc (1899-1963): Sextet for wind quintet and piano


R. Schumann (1810-1056):  piano quintet


Baroque Christmas

At Norðurljós, Harpa Concert Hall, December 8th at 4 pm

The annual christmas concert of the Reykjavik Chamber Orchestra is a festive event.  Beautiful Italian baroque music  will bring you the peaceful spirit of christmas. Our soloists this year are two young women, Steiney Sigurðardóttir who has recently become assistant principal cellist of the Iceland Symphony and violinist Laufey Jensdóttir who is also in the Iceland Symphony and a member of the Reykjavik Chamber Orchestra. You are invited to gorgeous palaces in Florence, Napoli and Venice and the varied program offers a bright and vivid cello concerto by Vivaldi, a beautifully ornamented violin concerto by Pergolesi, works by Locatelli, Marcello, Veracini and the introvert but world famous trio sonata by Domenico Gallo, a piece used by Stravinsky in his ballet Pulcinella.


Domenico Gallo: Triosonata nr. 1 in G major

Giovanni Battista Pergolesi: Concerto for Violin

Locatelli: Concerti XI a quattro in c minor


Veracini: Ouverture in Bb major 

Vivaldi: Cello concerto RV 415 in G major

Marcello: La Cetra no. 2 in in E major

The Reykjavik Chamber orchestras Final Concert of Dark Music Days

The Icelandic Composers Society’s Music Festival

February 2nd

More information to come soon.

Beethoven for 250 years

At Norðurljós, Harpa Concert Hall, March 29th at 4pm

The Reykjavík Chamber Orchestra celebrates 250 years since the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven with a broad look at his oeuvre.

His emotional musical language tore up the rules of the classical period and expanded its form, opening the way to the romantic period. 

No composer since then has made a deeper impact on music history. His music has just as much meaning and message today and it’s genius and endless depth still surprises and awes the musical world.

The concert starts by introducing the 11 year old child prodigy Ludwig van Beethoven with his first published piece, followed by pieces from his youth which are influenced by his contemporaries, especially Mozart.  Among them are the wind octet, Rondino and the famous septet.

From the middle period we hear a chamber version of the 1st movement from the 8th symphony arranged especially for this concert by Hrafnkell Orri  Egilsson a member of the Reykjavik Chamber Orchestra.

The Reykjavik Chamber Orchestra will also perform one movement from the piano trio in D major op. 70 and a Fugue for string quartet op. 137.

It is impossible to remember Beethoven without looking at his late string quartets composed in his final years when he had completely lost his hearing and was suffering both physically and mentally.

The concert ends with the Cavatina from the string quartet op. 130 which is among the contents on the two gold phonograph records that are included aboard the spacecraft Voyager 1 and are sort of a time capsule.  Voyager 1 has been travelling at 62.000 km/h for 42 years and is headed for interstellar space.