Established in 1951, the Prague Chamber Orchestra had its beginnings in the Czechoslovakia Radio Symphony Orchestra when a chamber group was formed from the symphony's members to record works that did not require the full orchestra. The ensemble's original repertoire was taken primarily from the Baroque and early Classical periods, with an emphasis on the old Czech masters such as Jan Dusek, Johann Stamitz
, Anton Reicha
, and the masters of Citoliby. The orchestra made its first recording in the year it was founded, and has continued to record extensively throughout its history.
As the orchestra's popularity grew and its public concerts began to overshadow its recording and broadcasting duties, the ensemble gradually separated from its parent organization. In 1955, the group gained the sponsorship of the National Museum and was allowed to use the museum's archive of musical scores. By 1964, administration of the orchestra was placed in the hands of the government Ministry of Culture. The orchestra began its work with young artists and students when it came under the management of the Music Studio of the Czech Music Fund in 1967. Instructive concerts were introduced and many gifted young soloists and composers have had the opportunity to work with this eminent chamber orchestra since the early 1970s. An 11-member string ensemble under the leadership of concertmaster Oldrich Vlcek
, was established from within the Prague Chamber Orchestra in 1976. The Virtuosi di Praga, as it is named, tours and performs separately from the full ensemble, and sometimes acts as a virtuoso ensemble when needed for concerto works. Known for its sensitive interpretations of works by Czech composers from the Baroque to the Contemporary, the Prague Chamber Orchestra is truly worthy of its reputation as one of the finest chamber ensembles in Europe.