Founded in 1897, this 120 year-old Choral Society from San Sebastian also has the prestige of being considered the most important choral group in Spain. Every year, this amateur society performs some 40 concerts with a repertoire which includes more than fifty operas and Zarzuela operettas, over a hundred choral – symphonic works and a considerable number of folk and polyphony works. There are four clearly-marked stages in the history of this society, each being decidely influenced by the character and personality of the director at the time: Esnaola, Juan Gorostidi, Antxon Ayestarán and finally José Antonio Sáinz Alfaro, who took up the baton in 1987.
Amongst the endless list of orchestras, soloists and conductors with which the Orfeón has worked, we would highlight the following masters: Albrecht, Argenta, Barenboim, Chailly, Dudamel, Frühbeck, Gergiev, López Cobos, Maag, Makerras, Maazel, Markewich, Masur, Mehta, Mena, Muti, Nézet-Séguin, Ozawa, Plasson, Pletnev, Rattle, Salonen, Sokhiev, Spivakov, Stokovsky, Temirkanov, Ticciati, Víctor Pablo Pérez and Zedda. Furthermore, the society has made over 200 recordings, including the Requiem Mass by Verdi, published in CD and DVD format, and in 1993 the Orfeón was nominated for the Grammy awards in the “best choral performance” category. The Orfeón has regularly participated in the most important music festivals in Spain whilst, at an international level, the following European tours are of particular note: the Silvesterkonzert in 1997, alongside Claudio Abbado and the Berliner Philharmoniker orchestra at the Philharmonic Hall of this German capital city; the Orfeón’s participation in the Festival of Salzburg in 1999 with The Damnation of Fausto by Berlioz; in addition to its two great successes in Berlin in 2001, one with the Berliner Philharmoniker conducted by Claudio Abbado and the other conducted by Daniel Barenboim; The Mahler Symphony nº 2 interpreted alongside the Orchestra of the Lucerne Festival and conducted by Abbado in the 2003 contest held in this Swiss city and the Damnation of Faust represented at the German Festival of the Rhur with the Baden-Baden and Freiburg Orchestra and with Sylvain Cambreling as the conductor. In 2007 the Orfeón closed the Festival of the Canary Islands, alongside the Berliner Philharmoniker, conducted by Simon Rattle. In 2016 the Orfeón inaugurated the Lucerne Festival with Mahler’s 8th Symphony alongside Riccardo Chailly, the Festival orchestra, the Bayesrischen Rundfurkor, the Latvian radio choir and the Tölz Knanberchor. In 2017 he performed Beethoven’s Fidelio concert version) for his first time at the London Proms within BBC Philharmonic and under the direction of Juanjo Mena. In march 2018 the Orfeón performed alongside Nézet-Séguin and the Rotterdams Philharmonisch Orkest Mahler’s 8th Symphony in Rotterdam and Brussels for this orchestra’s centenary.