When Max Rostal began teaching violin at the Berne Conservatory, so many top-notch string students were attracted to the institution that 13 of the more advanced players, along with a harpsichordist, funneled themselves into a chamber orchestra called Camerata Bern.
From its inception in 1962, the group played without a conductor and instead took its cues from its concertmaster, who until 1979 was Alexander van Wijnkoop. The group played music from the Baroque era to the present, but became especially known for its lively -- though mainstream -- way with 18th century music. The group soon began touring Europe and playing at festivals and was already performing in the United States and Asia in 1967. Van Wijnkoop was succeeded by Thomas Füri, just in time for Camerata Bern to land a recording contract with the early music label Archiv. The ensemble's initial LPs made a strong international impression even though they featured music by such obscure figures as Zelenka, Holzbauer, Cannabich, and Lebrun. The most celebrated player to join the group was probably Thomas Demenga, who went on to make a series of eclectic and provocative cello recordings for ECM. Wind players were contracted as necessary and tours included a major soloist; from 1974 well into the 1980s, this was more often than not oboist Heinz Holliger. Camerata Bern continued to perform in the ensuing decades and Antje Weithaas has served as artistic director since 2009. Later recordings included efforts on Mozart, Bach, and Mendelssohn.