The Kölner Kammerorchester (Cologne Chamber Orchestra) (= KKO) was founded in 1921 by Hermann Abendroth bigger Köln’s orchestras, for the purpose of performing early music.
First documented concerts of this ensemble took place under the direction of Hermann Abendroth and Otto Klemperer in the context of the again-created Rheinischen Kammermusikfestes (Rheinisch Chamber Music Festival) in each May of the years 1921-1925 in Köln and in the Musiksaal of the Brühler Schlosses. When Abendroth left Köln at the beginning of the 1930’s, 1934 his pupil Erich Kraack took over the conducting in 1934. Kraack shifted the location of the ensemble to Leverkusen, where KKO in the casino concerts the Bavarian AG could soon recover and again strengthen its good reputation of the orchestra.
In 1964 Erich Kraack handed over the directing of the KKO to Helmut Müller-Brühl. This opened the ensemble not only as house orchestra of the Brühler Schloss concerts, but could thereby also tie a new effect place to the tradition of the orchestra justified of Abendroth more than 40 years ago in Schloss Brühl.
With the pianist William Kempff the KKO started in autumn 1964 under the artistic direction of Helmut Müller-Brühl a tour to Switzerland, which formed the prelude for co-operation with numerous international soloists. Many appearances in Europe, North and South America, Asia and at international festivals followed. Besides the have participated so far in over 200 LP/CD recordings, broadcast and television productions. Since 1995 the orchestras and the conductor have world-wide presence by their connection to the Naxos label, with constantly growing repertoire of Baroque and Classical masterpieces.
Two characteristics have shaped the history of the KKO in the last two decades: From 1976 to 1986 the ensemble under the name Capella Clementina made music exclusively on historical instruments. The experiences won thereby convert Helmut Müller-Brühl and his ensemble since 1987 on modern instruments. From this a synthesis typical for the KKO of today's results from historical performance practice and modern instruments alike. Since 1988 the ensemble maintains the concert series "Das Meisterwerk", since 1995 also at the Théâtre of the Champs Elysées in Paris and at the Prinzregententheater in Munich.
For years the KKO has presented young talented musicians of the new generation, both in the ensemble and as soloists as a special request. Many today famous soloists celebrated their first successes with the KKO under the direction of Helmut Müller-Brühl. On the occasion of the Bach year 2000, the ensemble performed the complete orchestral works of J.S. Bach under the conducting of Helmut Müller-Brühl, thus for the first time all 35 concertos and suites and other kinds of orchestral works were performed in the original versions, including lost works by the composer with newly-made transcriptions reconstructions, which were also recorded on CD.
In January 2001 the KKO was awarded with Cannes Classical Award 2000 in the section of orchestral music of the 18th Century for their excellent recording of the 3 Darmstaedter Ouvertueren by Telemann. Thus in the are of early music, for the first time an ensemble has realised excellent performances both as a HIP ensemble and on modern instruments.