St. Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble – Biography

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Academy of St Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields was formed in 1958 from a group of leading London musicians. Working without a conductor, the Academy gave its first performance in its namesake church on November 13 1959. Their first three recordings led to a succession of long-term contracts and the Academy quickly took their place among the most recorded ensembles in history.  As the repertoire expanded from Baroque to Mozart, Bartok and Beethoven, so it became necessary for the principal violin, Neville Marriner, to conduct the larger orchestra. Today, the Academy’s partnership with Sir Neville Marriner remains the most recorded pairing of orchestra and conductor. This partnership was celebrated by Marriner at 90 – a series of concerts in 2014 in honour of his 90th birthday.

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 to include winds.  Its touring commitments are extensive, with regular visits to France, Germany and Spain and frequent tours to North and South America, Australia and New Zealand.

Contracts with Philips Classics, Hyperion, and Chandos have led to the release of over thirty CDs by the Chamber Ensemble.

Individual member bios

Tomo Keller (violin, guest leader) was born in Stuttgart, Germany and studied at the University of Music Vienna and the Juilliard School New York. After winning prizes at international competitions he made his debut at major European concert halls and festivals. Furthermore he appeared on Radio and TV in Europe and Asia. A CD with solo violin works followed. He has performed with the Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin and the Vienna and London Symphony Orchestras and has appeared in most of Europe as well as in Asia and the US. He is currently Assistant Leader of the London Symphony Orchestra and Leader of the Swedish Radio Orchestra.

Harvey de Souza (violin) 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) 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.

Robert Smissen (viola) 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.

Stephen Orton (cello) 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 Delmé 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. He has recently joined the Chilingirian Quartet in 2013.

Will Schofield (cello) was born in London to Australian and Italian parents. He read music at Edinburgh University and went on to study with Radu Aldulescu in Rome and at the Menuhin Academy in Gstaad, Switzerland. Will has been cellist with the Grammy nominated Emperor String Quartet since the group was formed in 1992. He started playing with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields the following year and membership of these two groups has been the primary focus of his playing career ever since. He has also played as a guest with the Allegri and Maggini Quartets and with the Schubert Ensemble of London. As a freelance cellist Will has played as guest principal cello with many of the UK’s top orchestras such as the Royal Philharmonic and the English Chamber Orchestra, as well as orchestras in Ireland and Spain.

Lawrence O’Donnell (bassoon)

Lawrence O’Donnell started playing the bassoon aged 12 and played in the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland and the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. He studied with Graham Sheen, Meyrick Alexander and Dan Jemison at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and at the Royal College of Music with Julie Price and Andrea de Flaminneis, where he won the RCM Bassoon Prize. Lawrence is a keen chamber musician and has appeared at Wigmore Hall, Cadogan Hall, St Paul’s Cathedral, and the Barbican and has taken part in the Cheltenham Festival Academy, Paxos Music Festival and Perth Festival of the Arts.

Lynda Houghton (double bass)

Lynda Houghton is Principal Double Bass with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and has been playing with the orchestra for over 25 years. Having studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London and at the Banff Centre for Fine Arts in Canada, she rapidly established a reputation as a talented exponent of contemporary music. Invited to play with the London Symphony Orchestra – the first female bassist in that orchestra – Lynda enjoys playing with a number of chamber orchestras, including as Principal Bass in the City of London Sinfonia and Orchestra of St. John’s, and as a guest in many other ensembles including the Nash Ensemble and Fibbonacci.

Stephen Stirling (horn)

Stephen Stirling is a renowned soloist who has appeared at almost every major British venue and with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, BBC NOW, BBC SSO, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestra of St John’s. He has a world-wide reputation as a chamber musician, in constant demand at festivals in the UK and abroad, as well as being a founder member of Endymion, The Fibonacci Sequence, the Audley Trio, Arpège, and the New London Chamber Ensemble. Principal of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and the City of London Sinfonia, Guest Principal Horn with the Capella Andrea Barca, Orquestra de Cadaques and Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and a Guest Principal of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Stephen is privileged to have worked with many of the world’s finest chamber orchestras.

Timothy Orpen (clarinet)

Timothy Orpen is the Principal Clarinet with two of the UK’s leading chamber orchestras, Royal Northern Sinfonia and Aurora Orchestra, and is also a member of the London Chamber Orchestra. He is a previous overall winner of the Royal Over-Seas League and has been described as a ‘blazing talent’ by The Times and as ‘one of the best young British musicians today’ by The Telegraph. As a chamber musician Timothy has performed with many of today’s leading string quartets and sopranos Elizabeth Watts, Lucy Crowe and Sally Matthews. Timothy, who spent his early years in Australia, studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London and at the Hochschule für Musik Karlsruhe, Germany with Wolfgang Meyer.

May, 2015. Please destroy all previously dated material.