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“The ensemble played … with obvious pleasure, turning in a luminous and often-breathtaking performance that won the musicians a standing ovation.”
The Washington Post, October 2012
The Academy of St Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble was created in 1967 to perform the larger chamber works—from quintets to octets—with players who customarily work together, instead of the usual string quartet with additional guests. Drawn from the principal players of the orchestra, the Chamber Ensemble tours as a string octet, string sextet, and in other configurations including winds. Its touring commitments are extensive, with annual visits to France, Germany, and Spain, and frequent tours to North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, and Taiwan.
In 2011, two critically acclaimed tours saw the Ensemble perform in cities across the USA and Canada. They also visited venues throughout the UK with a programme featuring two of the most important works written for octet. In 2012 the Ensemble will perform in London at Kings Place and St Martin-in-the-Fields, with a US tour scheduled for the Autumn.
Contracts with Philips Classics, Hyperion, and Chandos have led to the release of over thirty CDs by the Chamber Ensemble.
“The performance was also exemplary chamber playing…acutely responsive and rich in nuanced details. While they often offered big, thick sound and expressive intensity…they were also capable of fleet delicacy and quiet lyricism”
Feb 2011, The Oregonian
More reviews of the Chamber Ensemble.
In this video, members of the orchestra introduce the Academy of St Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble.
Harvey de Souza – Violin
Harvey de Souza has been a member of the Academy since 1993 and has led the orchestra on tours with Sir Neville Marriner and soloists including Joshua Bell and Julia Fischer. As a member of the Chamber Ensemble he has performed extensively throughout South America, Europe and the USA.
Harvey has been a member of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, and a member of the Vellinger String Quartet, who were winners of the 1994 London International String Quartet Competition. He has been Principal Guest Director of the Lancashire Sinfonietta, and is co-artistic director of the Sangat Chamber Music Festival, now in its seventeenth year in Mumbai. Harvey plays on a Carlo Bergonzi, kindly lent to him by the Beare’s International Violin Society.
Martin Burgess- Violin
Martin began playing with the Academy in 1992, taking up the position of Principal 2nd violin in 1998. Having studied with Emmanuel Hurwitz and the Amadeus Quartet he brought with him the love of chamber Music. He leads the Grammy nominated Emperor Quartet (winners of the prestigious Evian International String Quartet Competition). The Quartet has released critically acclaimed CDs of music by Britten, Walton, Martinu and James MacMillan. They have also performed on several Film soundtracks, notably “There will be blood” and “Norwegian Wood” (both written by Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead).
Martin enjoys a wide variety of playing away from both these ensembles, most recently recording and then touring the world with Peter Gabriel.
Jennifer Godson- Violin
Jennifer Godson has been a member of the Academy since 1985. She was for many years a member of the Fairfield String Quartet with whom she toured extensively in Britain and abroad. She now leads a busy chamber and orchestral career and has a special interest in period performance.
She is sub-leader of John Eliot Gardiner’s Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique and a member of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, with whom she has appeared as guest leader.
Robert Smissen- Viola
Robert Smissen won a scholarship to Chethams School of Music at the age of 14, and went on to study at the Guildhall School of Music with David Takeno. While there he won prizes for chamber music and solo playing. After college he was appointed principal viola with the Northern Sinfonia, a post he held until 1986. He currently plays with the Academy, as well as other London chamber orchestras.
Duncan Ferguson was born in the Kingdom of Fife and after completing his studies at both junior and senior departments of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music was awarded a scholarship and exhibition prize for extended study at the Royal Academy of Music, London. It was there that he joined the Medea Quartet with whom he performed extensively over the course of the next five years and was fortunate to be able to study with many of the world’s great quartets including The Amadeus, Alban Berg and Borodin. During this period the group also held the position of quartet in residence at The University of York and Leverhulme Fellows at the RAM.
Duncan’s Academy career started in 1996 and he has been a member of the Ensemble for the last eight years; while this has involved extensive performing and touring he has also been working with the English Chamber Orchestra and Orchestra of St John’s for a similar length of time and has been acting as principal with OSJ for the past three years. Through Music For Autism, an important musical therapy project, he has also performed to hundreds of children in special needs environments.
Stephen Orton- Cello
Stephen Orton was born in Ripon, Yorkshire, and studied with William Pleeth at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He has been principal cello with the Bournemouth Sinfonietta and the City of London Sinfonia and was also a member of the Delme Quartet for ten years. He has acted as guest principal cello with the London Symphony Orchestra and Philharmonia.
Stephen has wide experience of chamber music and has often played the Schubert Quintet with the Chilingirian Quartet. In 1985 Stephen became principal cello with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and has played concertos with the orchestra. He is also a member of the Academy Chamber Ensemble, touring internationally and making numerous recordings.
John Heley was born in London, and began playing cello at the age of six. He was awarded a scholarship to study with William Pleeth at the Guildhall School of Music, where he won numerous prizes. In 1980 he left the post of sub principal cellist with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to concentrate on freelance work, which included numerous scores for both TV and Film. In 1986 he became associate principal cellist with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, and began to perform with the Academy Chamber Ensemble in 1997.
John has been principal cello of the OSJ for many years; through his work with them, John has become very involved with the charity “Music for Autism”, which brings musicians into special needs schools to play to and interact with autistic children.