English Chamber Orchestra Appoints Roberto Forés Veses as Principal Guest Conductor, and Stephanie Gonley as Leader and Principal

Learn more about the new people filling these roles here!

By: Nov. 22, 2023
English Chamber Orchestra Appoints Roberto Forés Veses as Principal Guest Conductor, and Stephanie Gonley as Leader and Principal

One of the UK's best-known ensembles, the English Chamber Orchestra, has announced two major appointments. Spanish conductor Roberto Forés Veses has been announced as the ECO's Principal Guest Conductor. The appointment will see him become the orchestra's major conductor figure. And at the same time, Stephanie Gonley, the ECO's much-loved leader since 1991, will be recognised in the newly created position of Leader And Principal. A role that is intended to place her and her fellow musicians firmly and formally at the heart of the ensemble's future direction.

Valencia-born Roberto Forés Veses, until now little-known in the UK, was the long-time Music Director of the Orchestre National d'Auvergne, which he turned into one of France's most admired chamber orchestras. Forés Veses, who has been ICMA Award-nominated for the last two years in a row, first conducted the ECO in 2021, and returned the following season.

 

"The connection between Roberto and the orchestra was clear from the first moment," says ECO General Manager James Rutherford, "Over the two seasons he has worked with us, he has shown a real mastery across a very wide range of repertoire. We knew of Roberto as one of the best orchestra conductors around today, with a very deep understanding of chamber orchestras, and we are delighted to be continuing our musical journey with him in an official capacity. We are excited to combine the insight we have among the musicians of the orchestra with Roberto's musical intuition and vision. Roberto's passion for making music through true collaboration is clear, and this melds everyone together, audience included, around the sheer joy of making music. We're delighted to take our relationship with him to this next level."

 

The ECO's first plans with Forés Veses, says Rutherford, will celebrate both the core classical repertoire and British music that have earned the orchestra its reputation over many years, and also bring a focus on 19th and 20th Century French music — a rich corner of the repertoire for which he has great love, but has traditionally been under-explored by British chamber orchestras. In subsequent seasons there are also plans to explore Spanish music. There are also plans for recordings, and foreign tours. Forés Veses will assume the post in the 2024/25 season for an initial three years. His next appearance with the orchestra will be at Cadogan Hall on 18th June 2024, conducting a program that includes Reynaldo Hahn's Mozart Overture (which imagines the fictional exploits of Mozart in Paris), Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 23, and Bizet's Symphony in C, with fast-rising piano soloist Tom Borrow.

 

Forés Veses said, of his appointment, "Of course I knew of the world-famous reputation of the English Chamber Orchestra, but sometimes you begin to make music with a group of artists, and you just immediately realise that you've found members of your musical family, and you are somehow part of theirs. I felt that on our first meeting and the feeling only grew subsequently. Making music is something for which you must have a very tight-knit relationship, between the conductor and musicians, and between all of us and the audience, and if you're already this kind of family, well, you've got a head start! I am so proud to have been invited to be the Principal Guest Conductor of this magnificent ensemble, and I am so excited for our musical explorations together. London truly has a gem among the world's orchestras in the ECO."

Stephanie Gonley has been leader of the ECO since 1991, frequently directing from the violin and often appearing as soloist. On the novel title of 'Leader And Principal', Rutherford explains, "In this new era for the ECO, we wanted to show continuity for the orchestra's great legacy of the past, and move into the future with both Stephanie and the members at the heart of the artistic process. When Stephanie is directing, there is a palpable and unique energy to the performance and we will be bringing together many exciting projects under her directorship in the future. This new role will create a collaboration between the ensemble and management to deliver a shared vision. As our leader for more than three decades, Stephanie is part of the ECO's DNA, and the recognition of her as Leader And Principal of the orchestra ensures the quality and integrity of the ensemble can be maintained from within and that the soul of the English Chamber Orchestra can continue to flourish."

 

Stephanie Gonley comments, "I am delighted to be part of the ECO's future as Leader And Principal. I have been leader of this orchestra for more than 30 years and have been privileged to work with many inspirational musicians who have contributed to the quality and flavour of the ECO. I am looking forward to continuing and developing this process into the future."

 

The English Chamber Orchestra's next appearance will be on 3rd December at London's Cadogan Hall, performing Handel's Messiah. Upcoming international appearances include the Vienna Musikverein with Julian Rachlin, and the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg with Pinchas Zukerman.



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