twentieth-century music

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Articles

The London Sinfonietta 1968–2004: A Perspective 1


DAVID C.H.  WRIGHT 

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Abstract

The London Sinfonietta’s reputation as a contemporary music ensemble comes from the continuing commitment by its players and artistic directors to its quality of performance. The ensemble also developed a sense of its musical identity by generating a repertoire of commissioned works. This article looks at some of the ways that the Sinfonietta defined its musical ideology and has functioned as a performance-centred art world in which composers are invited to collaborate but are not there by right. It examines the Sinfonietta’s strategies for audience building, the ensemble’s contribution to the development of London’s concert life since its foundation in 1968, and looks at the ways that it has sought to renew itself in response to the different funding and aesthetic environments it has encountered in its history. The Sinfonietta’s venture into Broadway repertoire is discussed in terms of social identity. The article argues, after Jürgen Habermas and T. W. C. Blanning, that one of the most significant contributions of the Sinfonietta has been its continued commitment to the concert event as a forum for critical engagement and cultural debate.



Footnotes

1 I should like to thank the London Sinfonietta, particularly Cathy Graham (Managing Director) and Gillian Moore (Artistic Director) for grantingme such generous access to their archives and placing no constraints on its use. I respected the fact that it is a working archive, and so did not seek to make use of ‘live’ material. I amvery grateful to the London Sinfonietta staff for much encouragement, friendliness and kindness. Needless to say, responsibility for errors remains firmly with me, not least because there was never any sense of anxious prying into what I might or might not be discovering.