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The Academy of St Martin in the Fields (ASMF) is an English chamber orchestra, based in London.
Sir Neville Marriner founded the ensemble as The Academy of St.-Martin-in-the-Fields in London as a small, conductorless string group. The original group numbered 11, all male. The ensemble's name comes from Trafalgar Square's St Martin-in-the-Fields church, where the orchestra gave its first concert on November 13, 1959. In 1988, the ASMF dropped the hyphens from its full name. The orchestra incorporated in February 1971 as "A.S.M. (Orchestra) Limited", with Marriner as chairman until 1992, when Malcolm Latchem succeeded Marriner. John Heley took on the post in 1994. Marriner holds the title of Life President with the ASMF.
The initial performances as a string orchestra at St Martin-in-the-Fields' church played a key role in the revival of baroque performances in England. The orchestra has since expanded to include winds. It remains flexible in size, changing its make-up to suit its repertoire, which ranges from the Baroque to contemporary works. The orchestra presently has three sections: the main group, which is conducted by Marriner; a chamber ensemble, formed for performing a large scale string section conducted by the Artistic Director, Kenneth Sillito; and the smallest group was made specifically for touring.
Neville Marriner continued to perform obbligatos and concertino solos with the orchestra until 1969, and led the orchestra on recordings until the autumn of 1970, when he switched to conducting from the podium from directing the ensemble from the leader's desk. On recordings, besides Marriner, Iona Brown and Kenneth Sillito have led the ASMF. Since 2000, Murray Perahia has held the title of principal guest conductor of the ASMF, and has made commercial recordings with the ensemble as pianist and conductor. In May 2011, the ASMF announced the appointment of Joshua Bell as its new music director, the second person to hold the title in the ensemble's history, effective September 2011, with an initial contract of 3 years.
The orchestra's first recording was for the L'Oiseau-Lyre label at Conway Hall on March 25, 1961. The orchestra has since accumulated a vast discography, and is the most recorded chamber orchestra in the world, with over 500 sessions. Other labels the orchestra has recorded for include Argo, Capriccio Records, Chandos Records, Decca Records, EMI, Hänssler Classic, Philips Records, and Hyperion Records. The orchestra has also recorded under the names "Argo Chamber Orchestra", "London String Players", and "London Strings." The ASMF has played on the film soundtracks of Amadeus (1984), The English Patient, and Titanic (1997). The ASMF's best-selling recording is the Amadeus soundtrack.
Affiliated with the ASMF is the Chorus of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, which Laszlo Heltay formed in 1975. Heltay directed the chorus until 2002, when Johan Duijck succeeded him in the post. It is regularly heard on European television singing the UEFA Champions League Anthem. FanartBanner