Sir Neville Marriner says that the small ensemble he founded in 1958 ‘had no intention of giving any concerts or continuing forever’. Happily, whatever the initial intention, 50 years on the Academy is firmly established as one of the world’s leading chamber orchestras and, according to The Times journalist Richard Morrison, ‘As you travel round the globe, the Academy’s name has an aura possessed by no other British orchestra’.

Formed from a group of leading London musicians and working without a conductor, the Academy gave its first performance in its namesake church on 13th November 1959. Its debut recording just two years later, had ‘...precision, care, consummate musicianship and more sense of style than all other chamber orchestras in Europe put together’ (Denis Stevens).

Demand for the Academy, particularly in the recording studio, soon began to grow as did the size of the orchestra and the repertoire it performed. Eventually Sir Neville was forced to put down his violin and take up the conductor’s baton, but the collegiate spirit and flexibility of the original small, conductorless ensemble remains an Academy hallmark. Today the Academy performs in combinations ranging from a chamber group to a symphony orchestra.

Known for its superlative performances and award-winning recordings the Academy maintains a busy high-profile international concert schedule and alongside its performances with Sir Neville Marriner and Kenneth Sillito collaborates with some of today’s most thrilling musicians, including Murray Perahia, Joshua Bell, Julia Fischer, Julian Rachlin, Janine Jansen and Anthony Marwood.

During its 50th anniversary year the Academy will tour throughout Europe, the USA and Canada and will give performances in London and around the UK. The launch of a programme to commission new works for chamber orchestra will see the world premiere of an exciting concerto by American composer Steven Mackey for string orchestra, solo violin and electric guitar.

Beyond the concert hall, the Academy’s Outward Sound education activities will continue to take classical music beyond the traditional concert setting, involving participants of all ages in rural and urban communities in school projects, family music days and creative music making.

‘The musicianship that streamed from the stage last night was beyond superlatives… The playing from this legendary conductor-less orchestra coupled all the grandeur of epic Beethovenian playing with the flawless intimacy of seasoned chamber musicians.’ Michael Tumelty, The Glasgow Herald
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sbarnebey - 22 Dec 2009