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The Academy of St Martin in the Fields celebrates its 60th anniversary this season with a 60-CD box set of its celebrated recordings, and tours to Europe and the US. Toby Deller speaks to some of the orchestra’s long-standing string players about working together democratically and the artistic transition from ...
Can you take exams to get in to this ‘academy’? And what sort of ‘fields’ are they anyway? Many music lovers unfamiliar with the colourful nomenclature of London churches may have scratched their heads about this ‘Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields’ they were hearing so much about in the beginning, but in the orchestra’s early years it was not its name that made its reputation, but rather its fresh approach to Baroque and Classical repertoire at a time when early music had yet – so to speak – to be invented.
Located on a corner of Trafalgar Square in central London, the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields hosted the orchestra’s first concert in November 1959, a ‘Survey of the Baroque Concerto’ featuring various Italian works. It took place at the invitation of the church’s director of music John Churchill and was directed by Neville Marriner, then principal second violin in the London Symphony Orchestra but also a chamber musician in both Baroque and string quartet repertoire.
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