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Ensemble 360 was founded in 2005 by Music in the Round, Sheffield's all-year Classical Music series, and will enjoy a place at the heart of their concert and education activity. Young musicians from across the world were invited to join this eleven piece chamber ensemble, forming a versatile group with the capacity to play an enormous variety of music from solo recitals to the largest chamber works. The members of Ensemble 360 are all resident in Sheffield whilst pursuing their international careers, individually and as ensemble players.

The ensemble starts out with a head start, as the official anointed successor of The Lindsays. It's a flexible group, not unlike the equally celebrated Nash Ensemble, and is built around both a string quartet (the prodigiously gifted young Elias Quartet) together with piano, and a wind quintet. This ensemble can be further expanded as necessary (with more brass, or percussion, double wind, or whatever is required by the repertoire) and could even form the basis for a future orchestra in the region: amazingly, Sheffield (along with its fellow towns nearby) is the largest city conurbation in Europe not to have, as yet, its own professional orchestra. South Yorkshire clearly deserves one.

One of Rotherham's best kept secrets is the beautifully responsive acoustic of Talbot Lane Methodist Church, in the heart of the Metropolitan borough: the building originally dated back to a characterful octagonal chapel of the 1760s; it was later enlarged and extended in 1832, but its present form dates from only 1903, after the building burned down in 1901. The final shape, however, makes it superb for sound. The curved East End and the wood of the gallery combine to create perfect resonances that serve equally admirably for keyboard, instrumental, chamber and choral music. As organiser Sean Rourke was quick to realise, Talbot Lane is definitely one of South Yorkshire's hidden gems.

Ensemble 360
Ensemble 360

Ensemble 360 began as it intends to go on: magnificently. Four of its young players made a perfect launch, with Mozart's Flute Quartet in A, K298. The biographies of the string players of the Elias Quartet give a feel of the rich backgrounds from which this fine Ensemble hails. The leader, Sara Bitlloch, is a Catalan whose studies took her from Perpignan to the Yehudi Menuhin School and Academy, and to Philadelphia's renowned Curtis Institute. She was winner of both the Szigeti Competition in Budapest and the Renata Molinari Competition, Switzerland, and regularly attends the International Musicians' Seminar of Prussia Cove, in Cornwall. The second violin, Scot Donald Grant, was brought up in a small village in the Scottish highlands. He studies at the Royal Northern College of Music and has served as a guest leader of the Britten-Pears Chamber Orchestra. He is also a talented (and recorded) folk-fiddler.

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Copyright © 18 October 2005 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry UK


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