The Academy of St Martin in the Fields (= ASMF) was founded in 1959 by Sir Neville Marriner and a group of London's leading orchestral players. Originally formed as a small conductorless string group, it spearheaded the 1960’s Baroque revival, and recorded and performed a rapidly expanding range of repertoire with Sir Neville Marriner and long-time partner, Iona Brown. The orchestra now divides its time between international tours, education and outreach work, the recording studio and UK concerts.
The ASMF has three principal partners: Life President Sir Neville Marriner, Artistic Director Kenneth Sillito and Principal Guest Conductor Murray Perahia. It is also enjoying a burgeoning relationship with the young American violinist Pamela Frank. Kenneth Sillito also directs the Academy of St. Martin the Fields Chamber Ensemble.
The ASMF regularly tours the USA, Europe, the Far East and South America. In June 1997 the Academy was invited to Hong Kong to play for the official handover celebrations which included two performances of L.v. Beethoven's Symphony no. 9 with Sir Neville Marriner. In April 1993, the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields became the first orchestra to be honoured with the Queen's Award for Export Achievement.
World Premieres of works by Sally Beamish (Cello Concerto, performed to great critical acclaim by Robert Cohen) and Alec Roth (Departure of the Queen of Sheba) have enhanced the wide-ranging repertoire performed by the Academy in all its formations: from string sextet to classical-sized orchestra.
After an absence of many years, the orchestra returned in 1997 to its 'spiritual home', the church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square. It also continues to appear on the South Bank (both Royal Festival Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall) and in many halls across the country: from Birmingham and Glasgow to Truro, Baldock and King's Lynn.
With over 500 recordings to its credit, ranging from baroque and classical to the romantic and 20th century, the Academy remains the most recorded chamber orchestra in the world. New recordings released recently include A Rossini Gala a second volume of Percy Grainger’s Chamber Musicand Sibelius’ Tempest and Violin Concerto.
The ASMF has received many prestigious international awards, including eight Edisons, the Canadian Grand Prix and a multitude of gold discs – thirteen alone for the soundtrack of Milos Forman's film 'Amadeus'. Another more recent soundtrack, 'The English Patient', won an Oscar for Best Sound.
The ASMF has an increasingly ambitious education and outreach programme called 'Outward Sound'. Players take part in a wide range of projects with schools and community groups throughout the UK. These are tailored to suit each individual group's needs.
The ASMF is very proud of its Chorus. Formed in 1975, it has established a reputation as one of the most versatile choirs in the UK and performs with the orchestra both at home and abroad. The Chorus is conducted by Joseph Cullen.
Unlike many major British orchestras, the Academy receives no direct government subsidy and relies solely on its artistic integrity and commercial initiative for its continued success. It has, however, benefited in recent years from various Lottery and Foundation funds, supporting its capital, educational and developmental work.