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Honorary conduction: Jesús López Cobos † and Krzysztof Penderecki †.
In 1983 the Princess of Asturias Foundation formed a polyphonic group that whilst fostering the traditional love of the people of Asturias for choral music, would elevate it to its greatest heights. To achieve this, the group has risen to the most demanding challenges, interpreting works not only from the region's musical realm - some of which was composed exclusively after being commissioned by the Foundation - but also from the broad repertoire that is part of Humanity's joint heritage.
Conducted by José Esteban García Miranda, the Princess of Asturias Foundation Choir is considered an outstanding amateur ensemble of internationally recognized prestige. Since its inception, Jesús López Cobos, 1981 Prince of Asturias Laureate for the Arts, was the honorary conductor of the Choir until his death in 2018, a position he shared with Krzysztof Penderecki, who died in 2020 and who received the same Award in 2001. In December 2007, the European Parliament recognised the Choir with a special honour "for its outstanding services for the European Union".
Over the years the choir has demonstrated that first class artistic work can be produced, provided the right facilities are available, even though it has maintained its amateur status.
Its repertoire has gradually been built up. It has alternated "a capella" with symphonic and choral performances, and has displayed its artistry not only in Asturias but also in most of Spain's autonomous communities, as well as in a large part of Europe, Middle East and the United States. This is testified to by two tours of France - performing in Paris, Bordeaux, Saintes, Toulon and Narbonne -tours of Germany, Italy and Poland, successful concerts in Russia alongside the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra and the Moscow Virtuosi, and a performance in March 1994 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London with the English Chamber Orchestra, as part of the Spanish Arts Festival.
In January 1996 the Senior Choir
had a successful tour of the Middle East, offering five concerts in all -
both polyphony and accompanying the Rishon Lezion Symphony Orchestra of
Israel - and taking part in Jerusalem's renowned Liturgical Music
Festival. In 2000 it toured the United States, performing in Tampa,
Florida and in Washington DC. One of its performances earned the
headline "The Choir of Asturias: Magnifico" from the prestigious
newspaper, The Washington Post.
December 2002, the Princess of Asturias Foundation represented Spain before H.H. Pope John Paul II at the events celebrating the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in Rome. During its stay in the Italian capital, the Foundation Choir gave three performances at emblematic spots around the city, namely the Spanish National Church Santa Maria in Monserrato degli Spagnoli, St. Mary Mayor and during the Pontiff's floral offering at the Column of the Immacolata located in Piazza di Spagna.
In late 2003, the Choir travelled to New York where it gave two performances during the celebrations of Columbus Day. The first performance took place at St. Patrick's Cathedral before an audience of over two thousand and presided by HRH Prince Felipe of Spain. The second concert was held at Avery Fisher Hall, an auditorium that is part of the legendary Lincoln Centre. An audience of three thousand gave the Asturian group a ten-minute standing ovation. It was also invited to perform at the wedding ceremony of HRH the Prince of Asturias and Letizia Ortiz, now Princess of Asturias. The Choir sung at the Basilica of Our Lady of Antocha, where the Princess of Asturias offered her wedding garland to the Virgin Mary, performing works by Alfonso X El Sabio (Alfonse X the Wise), Felipe Pedrell and Tomás Bretón. In 2004 the Choir performed alongside the Vienna Sinfonietta Classical Orchestra at Madrid's Teatro Real. Proceeds from the concert were donated to the organisation Messengers of Peace, 1994 Prince of Asturias Award Laureate for Concord. In 2006 the Choir travelled to Brazil, where it gave three performances, including the opening concert of the São Paolo State Symphony Orchestra's season, one of the most distinguished events on the Brazilian cultural calendar. In April 2007, at a concert titled "Penderecki conducts Penderecki", the Foundation's Choir placed itself in the hands of this great conductor, performing his most recent work, Symphony No. 8 Lieder der Vergänglichkeit. In June of that same year, the Choir travelled to Greece to take part, as guest ensemble, in the 16th International Music Festival of Nafplion, which featured Spain.
The Choir has been conducted over the years by important names from the world of music. Examples include the prestigious conductor of the Radio Berlin Choir Marcus Creed, the conductor of the Spanish National Youth Orchestra Edmón Colomer, the conductor of the Spanish National Choir Alberto Blancafort, the conductor of London's Royal Choral Society Laszlo Heltay, and the conductor of the Chamber Orchestra of Athens Alexander Myrat. Maestros Doron Solomon, Maximino Zumalave, Antoni Wit, Ros Marbá, Maximiano Valdés, Friedrich Haider, Arturo Tamayo, Gert Medit, Tamas Vasary, Peter Maag, Antonello Allemandi, John Neschling, Yuri Bashment and Alberto Zedda have also prepared programmes.
The close links of the Choir with the Asturias Symphony Orchestra, the City of Oviedo Symphony Orchestra and the Moscow Virtuosi - the prestigious Russian chamber orchestra led by Vladimir Spivakov and which resides in Asturias since the latter part of 1990 - also deserve special mention for their collaboration.
Also worth highlighting is the Choir's October 2005 performance of G.Verdi's Requiem alongside the Orfeón Donostiarra - 1984 Prince of Asturias Award Laureate for the Arts - and the Principality of Asturias Symphony Orchestra, conducted by its honorary conductor and Prince of Asturias Award Laureate for the Arts, Jesús López Cobos.
Ever since 1988, when the then director of the National Choir of Spain, maestro Sabas Calvillo, took over the directorship of the Choir, to be followed by Víctor Pablo Pérez and Luis Vila, the Group took on an equivalent programming to that of professional choirs, aiming at performing an intense programme of concerts and incorporating changes of repertoire, conductorship, styles, venues and interpretations. This explains why, even during the same month, the Choir has to alternate programmes for polyphony and choral symphony concerts, and has to change programmes, orchestra and conductor regularly, if it is to fulfil the season's professional obligations. Such change demands a major effort from the choristers, who have to dedicate several hours per week to preparation. However, this is also the most efficient way to consolidate the artistic level of the Choir.
The Princess of Asturias Foundation provides the necessary facilities, and choir members not only have classes on music theory and vocal techniques but also study the scores in order to complete their musical training as singers. Particularly noteworthy in this respect is the training provided by the Foundation's Music Department, who created the Youth and Children's' Choirs, which are the cornerstones of a true Choir School. This means that there is a pool of technically trained, new voices available which can gradually be incorporated into the Senior Choir.
For its work recovering and fostering Asturian musical and choral traditions, it was chosen by the International Music Council (IMC), an organisation responsible to the United Nations, as an "Example to the World" in its support for music teaching and training. It was invited to present its work, aimed at fostering music, in the first "World Music Forum", which was held in Los Angeles, USA.
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