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Arion

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Biography

Arion is a chamber ensemble mainly devoted to the performance of Baroque music. The group uses period instruments and consists of about 19 players, though the number often expands or contracts based on requirements of repertory. What makes the group unique is that it has no regular conductor, though it is led by guest conductors like Stephen Stubbs, Monica Huggett, Jaap ter Linden, Barthold Kuijken, Daniel Cuiller, and Elizabeth Wallfisch, most of whom typically perform as soloists as well. Arion has made over 20 recordings, mostly issued on Canadian labels such as Analekta, Atma Classique, Early-music.com, and Marc Aurel Edition. It has also recorded for the Dutch label Ottavo, turning out its only non-Baroque-based CD, which contained works by two twentieth century composers Jean Françaix and Frank Martin. Usually, Arion's programs include performances of works by Handel, J.S. Bach, Vivaldi, Telemann, Couperin, and lesser-known Baroque figures like Michel Blavet, André Campra, and Michel Corrette. But the group's concerts and recordings are not exclusively instrumental: well-known singers like Suzie LeBlanc, Kimberly Barber, Agnes Mellon, Daniel Taylor, Matthew White, and Max van Egmond often serve as soloists in vocal repertory. Instrumental soloists also regularly appear with the group, such as bassoonist Mathieu Lussier, Celtic harpist Siobhan McDonnall, and others. Arion was formed in Montreal in 1981 by a foursome of young musicians: flutist Claire Guimond, harpsichordist Hank Knox, violinist Chantal Rémillard, and gambist Betsy MacMillan. Since its inception, Arion has been guided Guimond, who doubles in the role of artistic director. Initially, the founding players' intention was to perform in a small chamber ensemble, and so they functioned as a quartet until the mid-'90s. Its inaugural concert took place at Pollack Hall, McGill University, and was enthusiastically received. They then debuted in Europe in 1984 at the Bruges International Competition, where they again garnered lavish praise. Successful tours of Mexico and Europe came in 1989-1990, as well as many subsequent ones across the globe. From the mid-'90s up through the first decade of the new century, a period during which the group made most of its more than 20 recordings, it achieved international celebrity both in the concert hall and recording studio. In 2003 Arion won both the Canada-based Felix Award and the OPUS Award for Record of the Year. Among the ensemble's more popular later recordings is the 2009 Early-music.com CD of Haydn's Symphonies No. 41, No. 44, and No. 49.

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