The London-based Nash Ensemble is a chamber orchestra consisting of 11 regular members, though their number can vary widely according to the work performed. The group's repertory is broad, but favors modern works by English composers like Lennox Berkeley, Harrison Birtwistle, James MacMillan, and Mark-Anthony Turnage. It performs most of its subscription concerts at Wigmore Hall, but also appears at other locations, including the Royal Festival Hall's Purcell Room and Queen Elizabeth Hall.
Founded in 1964 by Amelia Freedman, its longtime artistic director, the Nash Ensemble took its name from the famous Nash terraces in London, designed by architect John Nash. The ensemble initially developed its reputation in Great Britain, only slowly gaining recognition abroad.
Its first American tour took place in 1981, but the group remained little-known in the United States until the turn of the 21st century. In England, however, it had become recognized for its artistic achievements throughout the '80s and, thereafter, both for concerts (which included premieres of many works written specifically for the group -- 113 by 2006) and for recordings.
In the early '80s, the Nash Ensemble began recording for the Hyperion label; its first releases were a disc of chamber works by Berkeley (1983) and three CDs of compositions by Malcolm Arnold (1984). Soon the group began recording with other labels as well, including CDR (Hummel and Berwald septets; 1989), and NMC (Turnage works; 1995). Beginning in the '90s, recording activity intensified, both for Hyperion and other labels, including ASV and Black Box. The group's membership has evolved over its half-century of existence, but the revolving door has turned very slowly.
In 2010, the Nash Ensemble became the resident chamber ensemble of London's Wigmore Hall, where it remained as of 2017. By that time, it had given more than 300 premieres, 192 of them of commissioned works.
Mostly associated with the Hyperion label, it has continued to record prolifically, with releases balanced between mainstream repertory and contemporary works in many styles and from many different countries; the members of the group have displayed equal sympathy for, to name two composers they recorded in the mid-2010s, George Gershwin and Harrison Birtwistle; its recording of the latter's Moth Requiem, with baritone Roderick Williams and the BBC Singers, was hailed by Blair Sanderson of Allmusic.com as having " a haunting quality that invites closer study." Birtwistle recurred in the group's 2017-2018 season at Wigmore Hall, along with "French Connection" programs featuring French Romantic and Impressionist composers. ~ Robert Cummings, James Manheim