The Ensemble Villa Musica (EVM) is a chamber group that has garnered much praise for its spirited performances in varied repertory since its founding in 1990. The number of players in the ensemble can vary according to the work performed, typically expanding from a duo to a quintet or all the way to a nonet, though the number of ensemble members is nearly 20 and can thus accommodate larger works. The group's repertory is broad, encompassing compositions by J.S. Bach, Mozart, Schubert, Fauré, Saint-Saëns, Hindemith, Martinu, as well as contemporary composers such as Penderecki and Hans Werner Henze. The ensemble has recorded for the German label MDG and for Naxos.
Ensemble Villa Musica was founded in 1990 when a group of principal players from several of Germany's major orchestras assembled for master classes in Mainz under the state-sponsored Villa Musica foundation. The players decided to form the group with no limitations in repertory, but with a focus on neglected masterworks of the past. Most of the members retained their posts in orchestras and/or on the faculties of universities or music schools. The ensemble's leader since its founding has been clarinetist Ulf Rodenhäuser.
There have been at least 20 members of the group over the years, and they include several famous names: violinist Rainer Kussmaul (member of Berlin Baroque Soloists and Stuttgart Piano Trio), violinist Thomas Brandis, violist Enrique Santiago, cellist Martin Ostertag, and bassoonist Klaus Thunemann. The rest of the EVM membership includes horn and bass players, flutist, oboist, pianist, and additional string players. Typically, EVM members are or have been first-chair or prominent players in important German orchestras, and all or most of the 20 have remained active in the ensemble.
Among the EVM's first recordings was the 1992 Amadis (Naxos) release of Schubert's Trout Quintet and E flat Trio. As the group gained recognition in Europe, a string of recordings followed quickly, including seven volumes of the complete Hindemith sonatas on MDG, and individual issues such as the 1999 release of the Martinu serenade and quartet. Other recordings include a 2005 Richard Strauss disc on MDG containing the composer's Op. 7 Serenade, Op. 4 Suite, and Sonatina "Aus der Werkstatt eines Invaliden." Though the EVM members have centered their activities in Mainz over the years, they have established a regular series of concerts in Rheinland-Pfalz, Stuttgart, and Munich, and have often gone on tour abroad. Efforts continued, with discs covering Reger (2009), Ponchielli (2010), and Schumann (2011).