The World Orchestra for Peace was formed by Georg Solti for a special concert in Geneva to mark the 50th anniversary of the United Nations in 1995. For this concert Solti created a hand-picked ensemble in which the finest individual players came together from orchestras all over the world, to make a unique demonstration for peace.
Since Solti’s death in 1997, the orchestra has been reassembled by its Co-founder and Director Charles Kaye, who invited Valery Gergiev to be its conductor; for the opening concert of the new Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden in 1998 and for 22 of its concerts since then. The first BBC Proms appearance (there have been four since then) took place in 2000.
In 2003 the orchestra performed for the first time in Russia, giving a concert in St Petersburg marking the 300th anniversary of its founding and one in Moscow for the Easter Festival, on either side of Russia’s annual peace holiday. In 2005 the orchestra undertook its first tour – marking the exact 60th anniversary of the cessation of hostilities of the Second World War with a concert in Beijing’s Forbidden City. Further concerts for peace were then given in Rotterdam, Brussels, Berlin, Budapest, Jerusalem, Kraków and Stockholm.
In 2010 the orchestra celebrated its 15th anniversary with two concerts – for the BBC Proms and for the Salzburg Festival. Marking the 150th birthday of Gustav Mahler, they performed his symphonies Nos. 4 and 5. In January 2011 the Orchestra gave its first concert in the Arab World, at the invitation of the Abu Dhabi Festival. The orchestra made its USA debut in October 2012 – with two sell-out concerts celebrating the 100th birthday of its Founder, Sir Georg Solti, in Carnegie Hall, New York and at Symphony Centre Chicago. In July 2014 the orchestra returned to the BBC Proms for a special concert marking the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. This concert was released – together with a moving documentary about the orchestra From War to Peace – on DVD and Blu-ray in May 2015, to celebrate the orchestra’s 20th birthday.
In recognition of its work to encourage peace through multi-cultural dialogue and understanding, the World Orchestra for Peace was designated UNESCO Artist for Peace in 2010 – the first major symphony orchestra to receive this honour. The orchestra’s discography includes twelve recordings, made together the Decca, Philips, C Major and Arthaus labels.