The Camerata Salzburg musicians are "full of revolutionary energy and utopic potential, uncompromisingly individual, daring, and modern - and yet classically stringent," as pronounced by the Salzburger Nachrichten in the occasion of the concert for the 60th anniversary of the orchestra.
The distinct musical style of Camerata was formed over a period of six decades through their continuous collaboration with world-renowned musicians such as Bernhard Paumgartner, Géza Anda, Sándor Végh, Sir Roger Norrington, and András Schiff. Famous musicians, including Clara Haskil, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Heinz Holliger, Aurèle Nicolet, Wolfgang Schneiderhan, Christoph Eschenbach, Philippe Herreweghe, René Jacobs, Franz Welser-Möst, and Peter Ruzicka performed with the chamber orchestra, with compositions covering a wide variety of music from string quartets for a small chamber group to romantic symphonies and 20th century classical works for a large orchestra. In the city of Mozart's birth the orchestra is one of the habitués of the Salzburg Festival and the Mozart Week, offering concerts and operas alike. In its home, the prestigious Mozarteum Salzburg, the Camerata has its own subscription series. The orchestra regularly performs in venues such as the Konzerthaus Vienna, the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, the Konzerthaus Berlin, the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, the Festspielhaus Bregenz, and participates in the Carinthian Summer Festival, and the Haydn Festival in Eisenstadt. Touring the world, it played in the metropolises of Munich, London, Florence, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Beijing, and Tokyo, and in the festival cities of Aix-en-Provence and Lucerne.
Throughout its six decades of its existence, Camerata Salzburg made more than sixty recordings, which have been honoured with many prestigious awards, revealing its unique art of music making. Its two complete editions of Mozart's piano concertos with the Hungarian pianists Géza Anda and András Schiff, and also its complete recording of Mozart's serenades, and divertimenti conducted by Sándor Végh are milestones in the history of classical recording.
Leading soloists like Anne-Sophie Mutter, Hilary Hahn, Patricia Kopatschinskaja, Julian Rachlin, Daniel Hope, Benjamin Schmid, Joshua Bell, Thomas Zehetmair, Augustin Dumay, Veronika Hagen, Mitsuko Ushida, Elisabeth Leonskaja, Claire-Marie Le Guay, Yu Kosuge, Oleg Maisenberg, Murray Perahia, Olli Mustonen, Alexander Lonquich, Till Fellner, Fazil Say, Stefan Vladar, Heinrich Schiff, Patrick Demenga, and François Leleux, as well as acclaimed singers such as Genia Kühmeier, Vesselina Kasarova, Christiane Oelze, and Elina Garanca are amongst the featured guests of the Camerata. Former concertmasters Gerard Korsten and Alexander Janiczek frequently return to the Camerata to lead the orchestra in its performances.
Camerata Salzburg was founded in 1952 by teachers and students of the Salzburg Mozarteum. The ensemble was able to quickly establish itself, with its Mozart Matinees soon becoming the cynosure of the Salzburg Festival. The founding father of the Camerata was conductor, music pedagogue, and musicologist Bernhard Paumgartner who had also been co-founder of the Salzburg Festival, and later went on to be its president. When founding the Camerata, Paumgartner sought out to preserve as well as to revive the ethos of classical and classicistic music.
The name of the orchestra – originally Camerata Academica of the Mozarteum Salzburg – was chosen to pay homage to the historical Camerata Fiorentina of the Renaissance. Then, as now, the focus of the musicians was to independently make music with a sense of community. The Camerata Salzburg concentrates on the traditional chamber orchestra repertoire. The musicians play both under conductors, under the direction of soloists, and concertmasters alike, also performing in smaller chamber music formations. Naturally, the works of the Salzburg-born musical prodigy Mozart, as well as the music of Haydn, Beethoven, and Schubert were instantly the core of the Camerata's repertoire. Within the setting of their Mozart Matinees at the Salzburg Festival, the Camerata played many symphonic works and gave numerous concert performances of Mozart's operas, thereby shaping the unique "Salzburg Mozart sound", a sound, which is as recognizable as it is ever evolving.
Since 1956, when the first Mozart Week was held in Salzburg, the Camerata has also focused within this festival on the repertoire of the First Viennese School. From the very beginning, the orchestra has included opera in its repertoire.
The further development of the orchestra after the Paumgartner era was entrusted to the artistic director Antonio Janigro, under whom in 1974 the first subscription concert series of the Camerata took place. One of the soloists of that period was violinist Sándor Végh, who took over the artistic leadership of the ensemble in 1978 parallel to his duties as a pedagogue at the Salzburg Mozarteum. He successfully integrated excellent young musicians into the Camerata. Végh realized the idea of performing string quartets in larger settings, which encouraged each musician to individually develop whilst simultaneously benefiting the collective.
Under Végh the ensemble expanded its chamber orchestra repertoire to the Romantic era (e.g. Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Brahms, Dvorák, Tchaikovsky) and to 20th-century classical music (e.g. Bartók, Strawinsky, and Schönberg). Furthermore, the Camerata has initiated its own Festival "Begegnung" ("The Encounter") and since 1987 has been programming its own concert series at the Konzerthaus in Vienna.
Starting in 1993, the Camerata has once again performed operas at the Salzburg Festival ("Lucio Silla", "La clemenza di Tito", "Le nozze di Figaro", and "The Rake's Progress", amongst others).
On the occasion of the Mozart Week in 1997 Sir Roger Norrington joined the Camerata for the production of Mozart's "Mitridate, Re di Ponto", replacing the late Sándor Végh as principle conductor. As a result of this collaboration Sir Roger Norrington was appointed as chief conductor and held this position from 1998 until 2006. During this tenureship he enriched the characteristic style of the ensemble with his experience in historically accurate performance practice. In recognition of their achievements, the Salzburg Festival granted the Camerata and Norrington their own concert series. In 2007 Norrington's assistant director, violinist Leonidas Kavakos, took over the artistic direction of the orchestra until 2011, when Louis Langrée was appointed principle conductor. Langrée's musical leadership and choice of repertoire show great congruency with the Camerata's inclinations, without lacking refreshing inspiration. Thus, even in its seventh decade, the Camerata displays a "contagious musical enthusiasm" (Neue Zürcher Zeitung).