Mito Chamber Orchestra (MCO) was begun in 1990, advocated by Hidekazu Yoshida, the first General Director of Art Tower Mito (ATM) as its resident orchestra. Seiji Ozawa, a prominent conductor representing Japan, took office as General Director of ATM in 2013, and he also became the General Director of MCO. Since then, Ozawa has been operating the MCO. The orchestra consists of 17 Japanese musicians and 5 foreign musicians, who are active worldwide. Regular concerts held at ATM have two characteristics: concerts led by conductors and conductor-less concerts.
The MCO has actively commissioned and debuted new works by Japanese composers, including Toshi Ichiyanagi (Kisui-iki), Hikaru Hayashi (Hika, winner of the 1995 Otaka Prize), and Yoshihisa Taira (Saiun). So far, the MCO has produced 19 CDs and 3 BD/DVDs.
The MCO put on its first performance outside of Mito in 1996, with concerts held at various sites around Japan, including Tokyo and Osaka, gaining high acclaim. The group has also spread its wings to perform abroad. In 1998 they performed in five cities, such as Hamburg, Zurich, Vienna, Ludwigsburg, and Florence. In 2001, the MCO returned to Europe for its second tour under the baton of Seiji Ozawa in four cities including Florence, Vienna, Paris and Munich, and established a firm reputation as a world prominent chamber orchestra. In 2008, the MCO ran its third tour of Europe without a conductor. The MCO held concerts in Munich, Florence, and Madrid, and the performances received the highest praise.