Versatile, enterprising and ambitious, the Scottish Ensemble is a tight-knit band of outstanding string players from around Europe who perform regularly together under Artistic Director, Jonathan Morton.
The foundation of their work is the rich repertoire of music for strings of the three centuries since the age of Bach and Vivaldi. They bring a sparky questing attitude to bear on this heritage and new work habitually rubs up against much loved masterworks within the same programme. Commissions from John Tavener, James MacMillan, Sally Beamish, David Horne, John Woolrich, Craig Armstrong, Steve Martland and Thea Musgrave have enriched their concerts in recent years.
They also venture further afield musically by collaborating with musicians of different traditions. Leading Shetland fiddler Aly Bain, and folk musician Dougie MacLean have both performed with the ensemble. Maverick musicians such as American bassist Edgar Meyer and Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto (both free spirits, equally happy in many different musical worlds) have proven the ideal partners, and created joyfully adventurous and unique events in which Western ‘classical’ works sat happily alongside folk, electronica and improvisation.
Although it is based in Glasgow, the majority of the Scottish Ensemble’s projects – some 50 concerts a year – tour throughout Scotland, appearing in many major towns and cities, as well as further flung areas including the Islands and northernmost Highlands of Scotland. It also presents programmes of small scale chamber music showcasing the talents of its many excellent individual players.
The Ensemble appears regularly at London’s Wigmore Hall, The BBC Proms and the Edinburgh International Festival as well as such festivals as the City of London Festival; Aldeburgh Festival; Edinburgh International Festival; and the St Magnus Festival, Orkney. This season it will appear at BBC Proms, City of London, Lichfield, Aberdeen International Youth and Edinburgh International Festivals. Internationally, it has toured to China (Shanghai Spring International Festival), Germany and France.
Many music lovers further afield know the ensemble best through its recordings, which include its award-winning CD of Tavener, as well as the critically acclaimed CD of Britten with tenor, Toby Spence (both on the Linn Records label). Future plans include a recording of Haydn Trumpet Concertos with Alison Balsom, MacMillan’s Seven Last Words with Tenebrae and the Eight Seasons, featuring Jonathan Morton as soloist.
Concerts and recordings may be the most visible aspect of the Scottish Ensemble’s work, but its commitment to education, outreach and community work in Scotland is equally important. This work develops constantly, and includes large scale creative projects for children – many of them experiencing live performances of this kind for the first time – instrumental coaching and masterclasses, and professional development seminars for workplaces.
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