Britten Sinfonia is a chamber orchestra ensemble based in Cambridge, UK. It was created in 1992, following an initiative from Eastern Arts and a number of key figures including Nicholas Cleobury, who recognised the need for an orchestra in the East of England. It is a flexible ensemble composed of chamber musicians in Europe. The players are freelance musicians who are employed on a project-by-project basis and the ensemble performs around 70 concerts per year and works with hundreds of people in the communities where the orchestra is resident. It is a not-for-profit organisation, and a registered charity.
One of Europe’s most celebrated and innovative chamber orchestras, Britten Sinfonia is praised for the quality of its performances and an intelligent approach to concert programming that is centred around the development of its players. Unusually it does not have a principal conductor or director but chooses to collaborate with a range of the finest international guest artists from across the musical spectrum as suited to each particular project.
Recent seasons have included projects with Thomas Adès, James MacMillan, Joanna MacGregor, Masaaki Suzuki, Alina Ibragimova, Dhafer Youssef, Paul Lewis, Nitin Sawhney and the Michael Clark Company. In 2009-2010 guest artists and collaborators include Christopher Hogwood, Efterklang, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Nico Muhly, Mark Padmore, Pekka Kuusisto, Imogen Cooper, Stephen Layton and Polyphony.
Britten Sinfonia has residencies in Cambridge, Norwich, Birmingham and Krakow with a major concert series at London’s Southbank Centre and Wigmore Hall. The orchestra also performs in many of Europe’s finest concert halls and festivals including invitations this season to the BBC Proms, Latitude, the City of London Festival and venues such as the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Madrid’s Auditorio Nacional, Glyndebourne and London’s Barbican Centre. The group enjoys a blossoming international profile, a recent highlight being an acclaimed tour of South America. This season (2009-2010), Britten Sinfonia has toured to the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Mexico, with further tours planed in the USA, Canada and a return to South America during the 2010-2011 season.
Britten Sinfonia is frequently heard on disc, BBC Radio 3 and commercial radio. CD recordings from the last year include collaborations with Joanna MacGregor on Live in Buenos Aires (Warner Classics and Jazz) recorded during Britten Sinfonia’s tour of South America in 2008, with Polyphony for George Frideric Handel’s Messiah (Hyperion), a disc of Paul Hindemith’s music and Songs of the Sky, a collection of Britten Sinfonia commissions. Future plans include work with tenor Mark Padmore for the Harmonia Mundi label.
The orchestra has received many awards including the prestigious Royal Philharmonic Society Chamber Music Award in May 2009 for its Britten Sinfonia at Lunch series, the RPS Ensemble Award in 2007 in recognition of its work, a Gramophone Award in 2008 and the 2008 Arts & Business International Award.