Since its founding in 1970, the Da Capo Chamber Players has established itself as one of the foremost new music groups in the United States. The group's mission is to give new works the dedicated attention and exciting performances consistent with the highest musical standards in traditional repertoire. Winners of the Walter W. Naumburg Chamber Music Award in 1973, they were subsequently sponsored by the Naumburg Foundation for a second concert in Alice Tully Hall in 1980, in honor of their 10th Anniversary. The group has received funding since its inception from the New York State Council on the Arts, and for 18 years was one of the highest funded chamber groups by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Da Capo is a leader in building a strong heritage of present-day American chamber music: the group is known not only for exceptional artistry but also for the wealth of new compositions written for them. For their 20th Anniversary, Da Capo premiered eight pieces written for the occasion by Gunther Schuller, George Perle, Shulamit Ran, John Gibson, Stephen Albert, Bruce Adolphe, Richard Wilson, and Yehudi Wyner. Over the years, more than 80 chamber music works have been written especially for them by composers ranging from Philip Glass to Milton Babbitt, Joan Tower, Jeffrey Mumford, and Su Lian Tan—a distinguished roster and a tremendous source of pride for the group.
Imaginative programs in Da Capo's annual New York concert series have included gala concerts honoring George Perle, Lukas Foss, Aaron Copland and Shulamit Ran, as well as several entire evenings of pieces written expressly for the group. Tour engagements from coast to coast and beyond have included appearances at the Library of Congress, the Schoenberg Institute, the Honolulu Chamber Music Series, the San Antonio Chamber Music Society, the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, the Los Angeles Monday Evening series, the Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society and the Minnesota Composers Forum at the Walker Art Center. Concerts and interviews are frequently taped for radio broadcast, and a special show was produced and twice aired nationwide by Minnesota Public Radio's St. Paul Sunday Morning. The American Record Guide (Music In Concert) has applauded the group for "stimulating concerts for a quarter of a century".
Enhancing the context of new works, beyond performance, Da Capo's Guest Composer Residency Program (1990-93, funded by the Mellon Foundation) offered a wealth of "get to know the composer" events (in 2- to 4-day sessions) with Joan Tower, Gunther Schuller, Shulamit Ran, and George Perle. Among the honors received by the Da Capo Chamber Players, have been a First Prize in the ASCAP/Chamber Music America Adventuresome Programming Award, three Chamber Music America Commissioning Awards, and a major grant (1990-93) from the Mellon Foundation. The group's newest CD is of chamber music by Shulamit Ran (Bridge 9052). Funded by the Mary Flagler Cary Trust, the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, and the National Endowment for the Arts, it has been called "a rare treasure" by Fanfare magazine. An upcoming CD of chamber music by Judith Shatin will be issued next season by CRI.
Groundbreaking programs have defined the group's recent seasons. A chamber music opera by Shirish Korde, Rasa, exploring the theme of multi-cultural identities in a changing society, was premiered at Miller Theatre in 1998. Da Capo also premiered Louis Karchin's "American Visions", settings of poems by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, for a program which included Mr. Yevtushenko as a guest reader/commentator. A program for the "Music At The Anthology" series featured works by Hanns Eisler and Martin Matalon, with films by Joris Ivens and Luis Buñuel. In February 2000 Da Capo gave a newly staged performance of Peter Maxwell Davies' Le Jongleur de Notre Dame, directed by Jennifer Muller, with co-sponsorship of the Miller Theatre. A tribute to George Perle was presented, with a special quintet written for the occasion by Paul Lansky. LEAFY SPEAFING: A Musical Remembrance of Stephen Albert, including works by Albert, MacCombie, Currier, and Leshnoff, was offered in the fall of 2000. A memorable 30th Anniversary gala was given in June 2001, with retrospectives (by Joan Tower, Shulamit Ran, and Bruce Adolphe) and new discoveries (by Giya Kancheli and Alla Borzova). Three exciting premieres are in the works for the two forthcoming seasons: Martin Bresnick, My Twentieth Century (a project of Chamber Music America's "Musical Celebration of the Millennium"); Penka Kouneva (commissioned with a grant from Meet the Composer); and Chinary Ung (commissioned in 1999 with a grant from the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust.)