An Overture to the European Union Youth Orchestra

Click here for the EUYO History in photographs
The European Union Youth Orchestra is one of the world’s most prestigious and dynamic Orchestras. It unites Europe’s most talented young musicians from all 25 EU countries, under some of the world’s most famous conductors, in an Orchestra which transcends cultural boundaries and performs all over the world. The level demanded of the players, combined with the renowned musical leadership of its conductors, has won the EUYO an outstanding musical and educational reputation and regular comparisons with the world’s finest Orchestras.
  • The Foundation of the EUYO
    The European Community Youth Orchestra (later to become the European Union Youth Orchestra) was founded in 1978 by Lionel and Joy Bryer, Chairman and Secretary General of the International Youth Foundation of Great Britain, with a view to creating an Orchestra which would represent the European ideal of a community working together to achieve peace and social understanding. At the same time it was also designed to provide an invaluable professional development experience for young orchestral musicians.

    The proposal for the creation of the Orchestra was first put to the Committee on Cultural Affairs and Youth of the European Parliament in 1974. As a result of an all-party effort, a resolution was adopted by the European Parliament by an overwhelming majority on 8 March 1976 during its plenary session. The European Commission officially confirmed the Patronage of the Orchestra in April 1976. The EUYO's Honorary President is the President of the European Parliament and its Honorary Patrons the Prime Ministers of each of the EU member states, headed by the President of the European Commission.

    “This Orchestra has an outstanding reputation for excellence and for fostering a new kind of creative co-operation across borders with all the energy and potential that brings.”
    Josep Borrell Fontelles, President of the European Parliament and Honorary President of the EUYO


  • The Musical Pedigree of the EUYO
    Lionel and Joy Bryer then began to work with Maestro Claudio Abbado, the Orchestra’s Founding Music Director, and its first President, the Rt. Hon. Sir Edward Heath KG MBE, to help establish the Orchestra as a world-class institution. Claudio Abbado was succeeded as Music Director by Bernard Haitink KBE in 1994, who in turn was succeeded by the EUYO’s present Music Director, Maestro Vladimir Ashkenazy in 2000.

    "The EUYO is a unique Orchestra – their youth, vitality and energy sets them apart, while their ability and enthusiasm results in outstanding performances equal to many of the world’s greatest orchestras."
    Bernard Haitink KBE, 2005

    In addition to the EUYO’s Music Directors, world famous guest conductors have included Daniel Barenboim, Leonard Bernstein, James Conlon, Sir Colin Davis, Carlo Maria Giulini, Herbert von Karajan, Mstislav Rostropovich and Sir Georg Solti KBE. Noteable soloists who have worked with the EUYO include Emanuel Ax, Teresa Berganza, Kyung Wha Chung, Barbara Hendricks, Nigel Kennedy, Radu Lupu, Lord Yehudi Menuhin, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Jessye Norman, Murray Perahia and Ravi Shankar.


  • The Members of the EUYO
    The Orchestra is made up of up to 140 players, representing all 25 member countries of the European Union. The players are selected each year from over 4,000 candidates aged between 14 and 24, who take part in auditions throughout the EU. The competition is such that current members of the Orchestra have to re-audition along with new applicants each year in order to keep their places.

    Once the members have been selected for the year, they are invited to join the Orchestra to rehearse and perform major works by composers including Mahler, Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Beethoven, and Strauss, as well as contemporary repertoire which has included works by Ligeti (who joined the Orchestra as composer in residence on tour), John Adams, Erkki-Sven Tuur, and Arturs Maskats, on international stages all over the world.

    ‘Ravel’s Rapsodie Espagnole and Shéhérazade showed, under Gardiner’s sympathetic direction, the incredible refinement and tonal subtlety of which these players are capable.’
    Evening Standard review of the BBC Proms concert, 25th August 2005


  • The Tours
    Since the EUYO’s inaugural tour, which took the players to Amsterdam, Bonn, Paris, Luxembourg, Brussels, Milan and Rome, the EUYO has gone from strength to strength, undertaking at least two long tours each year as well as a number of other important engagements. The Orchestra regularly takes part alongside the world's greatest sympony orchestras in prestigious music festivals including the Salzburg Festival, the Edinburgh Festival, the BBC Proms and the Concertgebouw's Robeco Summer Concert Series. In addition to performing to full houses in all the major cities, concert halls and festivals of Europe, the EUYO’s reputation has taken them to China, Hong Kong, Japan, India, North and South America and Russia, as Ambassadors of Goodwill.


  • Education and Professional Development
    The unique experience that the EUYO provides for its young musicians is not only socially stimulating and culturally enlightening, but is invaluable to their future careers. The Orchestra acts as a training ground, bridging the gap between music colleges and the professional music world. Over 90% of EUYO players go on to become professional musicians, and many have found jobs with Europe’s leading orchestras.


  • Awards
    In recognition of the Orchestra’s achievements, prizes awarded to the EUYO include the Olympia Prize of the Alexander S Onassis Public Benefit Foundation, the ‘Prix d’Initiative Européenne’, the Grant for Young Artists awarded by The Praemium Imperiale and the ‘European Media Prize’.

    The European Union Youth Orchestra is supported by the European Union budget line 'Support to organistations who promote European Culture' and by each of the twenty-five member governments of the European Union. The EUYO would also like to acknowledge the generous support of its rehearsal residency hosts, corporate sponsors, trusts, foundations andindividuals, without which it would be unable to continue its important and pioneering work.

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