Mito is a historical city that greatly contributed to the opening of the modern Japan. It is blessed with historical features, including Yoshinobu Tokugawa, the last shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate, who was born in one of the three privileged branches of the Tokugawa families and returned power to the Emperor, paving the way to the Meiji Restoration; Kairakuen, one of the three great gardens of Japan; and the Kodokan, one of the largest clan schools in the Edo Era that produced many leaders and knowledgeable people. Mito City, with its inheritance of advanced spirit, established Art Tower Mito, a complex facility with a concert hall, theater and art gallery, commemorating the 100th anniversary of its municipal system in 1990.
Mito Chamber Orchestra (MCO) was begun in 1990, advocated by Hidekazu Yoshida as the resident orchestra at Art Tower Mito (ATM). 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 eighteen Japanese musicians and five foreign musicians, who are active worldwide as soloists and principal performers of orchestras. Regular concerts held at ATM have two characteristics: concerts led by conductors including Seiji Ozawa, and conductor-less concerts. Musicians gather at ATM from around the world before the concert and have intensive rehearsals.
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 seventeen CDs under Universal Music and DECCA and three BD/DVDs under NHK Enterprises.
The MCO put on its first performance outside of Mito in 1996, with concerts held at various sites around Japan, including the Suntory Hall in Tokyo and the Osaka Festival Hall. The group has also spread its wings to perform abroad, the first tour overseas having taken place in Europe in 1998, when 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.

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