“Tradition" and "Innovation" – two bywords that in the international music scene have found their expression in the Münchener Kammerorchester (= MKO, Munich Chamber Orchestra). This orchestra, since 1995 under the artistic leadership of Christoph Poppen, has made willful programming its trademark, and has received international recognition for it: with its regular compositional premieres and its presentation of contemporary music, which are brought into a conceptual balance with classical works, it has achieved a "successful balance of the cultivation of the traditional with advocacy of contemporary music", which "sets new standards". The MKO has as a result received many awards, for example the renowned "Musikpreis" from the City of Munich, the European Culture Award, the Award of the German Music Publishers and the Cannes International Classical Award in January 2002 as well as the Award of the Christoph and Stephan Kaske Foundation in July 2002.
The core of its artistic activities is its subscription concert series in the "Herkulessaal" in Munich. In addition to that, the MKO (the orchestra was founded in 1950 by Christoph Stepp, from whom Hans Stadlmair took it over in 1956) performs approximately 70 concerts a year world wide: since autumn of 1995 the orchestra's tours have taken it to the musical capitals of Eastern Europe: Bratislava, Cracow, Warsaw, Bucharest, Sofia and Belgrade (in cooperation with the Goethe-Institute); to New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas; to the Chinese cities of Jinan, Quingdao, and Shanghai under the auspices of the Bavarian Government; to Japan and to various European Countries (Switzerland, Italy, France, Austria), as well as the cities of Paris, Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt, Vienna, Prague, Budapest, and Kiev. In October 2002, once again in cooperation with the Goethe-Institute, the orchestra traveled to the Central Asian cities of Bishkek, Ust-Kamenogorsk, Tashkent, Samarkand, and Ashgabat.
Since 1995 the MKO has collaborated with soloists such as Gidon Kremer, Mstislav Rostropovitch, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Teresa Berganza, Juliane Banse, Christian Tetzlaff, Kim Kashkashian, Paul Meyer, Radovan Vlatkovic, Hariolf Schlichtig, Peter Sadlo, Stella Doufexis, Cornelia Kallisch, Isabelle Faust, and has been lead not only by Christoph Poppen, but also by, among others, Mario Venzago, Hans Zender, Gilbert Varga, Heinz Holliger, Markus Stenz, Karl Friedrich Beringer and Juha Kangas.
A number of highly acclaimed projects under the direction of Christoph Poppen have broadened the musical scope of the MKO: it has attracted attention, for example, with its periodic concertant opera performances and its children's concerts. The children's concerts with Sunnyi Melles as narrator have become a recurrent audience favourite.
The MKO is also regular guest at the foremost music festivals: the Rheingau Music Festival, the Schleswig-Holstein Festival, the Würzburg Mozart Festival, the Janacek Festival in Ostrava, the Musikfest Kreuth, the Braunschweig Chamber Music Podium, the Bonn Beethoven Festival, the Richard Strauss Festival in Garmisch, and the Klangspuren Festival of New Music in Schwaz, Austria. The MKO is a well established collaborator at the Biennial for the New Music Theater in Munich, where it above all caused a stir with the operas Marco Polo by Tan Dun in May of 1996 and PNIMA- Ins Innere by Chaya Czernowyn in May of 2000.
An ongoing collaboration with ECM records has been arranged, having commenced with the release of the award-winning CD "Funèbre" with works of Karl Amadeus Hartmann, and being followed by a recording of works of Sofia Gubaidulina. In March of 2003 the collaboration was continued with the release of "Ricercar", a recording of J.S. Bach's Cantatas and works of Anton Webern with the Hilliard Ensemble. Further recordings are: Haydn's complete Violin Concertos, the Cello Concertos of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Schubert's String Quartet Death and the Maiden in the version for string orchestra, Soprano Arias of W.A. Mozart, recordings with Peter Ustinov, and Cello Concertos by Robert Schumann and Widmann with Jan Vogler as soloist.