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The PKO-Prague Chamber Orchestra (PKO) is one of the four oldest chamber orchestras in Europe. It was founded in 1951 and its history has never been interrupted since then. It stands out as an orchestra of the so-called Mozart cast (34 musicians), which is able to perform without a conductor. At the beginning of its existence, it focused mainly on interpretations of earlier Czech music, the music of Classicism and Early Romanticism. Later, it included in its repertoire also compositions of the 20th century and subsequently began to perform also entirely new work of contemporary composers. Currently, the PKO has a number of premieres to its credit.
PKO quickly took its place among the musical bodies most in demand in the country and already one year after its foundation was a guest of the (then only a few years old) festival Prague Spring. In the more than 60 years of its existence, it has performed many thousands of concerts, of which precisely 2,223 have taken place abroad as of December 2014. The travel history of the PKO is very rich: with the exception of the Antarctic it has performed on all of the continents – a total of 64 countries. Other than its European tours (in which it has visited all of the states except Albania), it has completed ten tours of South America, sixteen in the USA and Canada and nine in Japan.
The orchestra has cooperated with a number of artistic personalities with renowned names. The conductors include, for instance, Sir Charles Mackerras, Václav Neumann, Gerd Albrecht and Trevor Pinnock. The list of the soloists has among others Emil Gilels, Arturo Benedetti-Michelangeli, Rudolf Buchbinder, Henryk Szeryng, Maxim Vengerov, Jessye Norman, Barbara Hendricks, Mischa Maisky, Beaux Arts Trio, Ivan Moravec or Alice Sara Ott.
PKO has recorded countless title for the companies Supraphon, Denon, BMG, Decca, Telarc and others. In its extensive discography, it is not lacking a number of significant awards like the “Gold Record of Supraphon” in 1987 for one million gramophone records sold, “Wiener Flötenuhr” or the “Grand Prix du Disque” from the Académie Charles Cros.