In order to make a successful career in the competitive world of chamber music today you have to be flexible and also come up with new ideas to draw the audience in.
This is something Ensemble 360 has managed and that means their diaries are full. It is therefore something of a coup that Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery and its energetic music organisers have managed to secure a date with the core of the group to appear for a concert in September.
Ensemble 360 was formed in 2005 and consists of eleven members, all musicians of international standing. The name is in homage to their original base, The Sheffield Crucible Studio and The Music in the Round. “It’s the most fantastic place to perform,” says Gemma Rosefield, the group’s cellist. “It’s very intimate and as we play in the round everyone is close to the musicians and we always move around between each piece of music to give everyone in the audience a new perspective both visually and aurally.”
Sheffield is still their base and they perform there at least a couple of times a month; for the rest of the time they have solo careers or play in other configurations all over the world. Flexibility is their strength according to Gemma and it also gives each member a chance to absorb new influences. “It also means that we can use outside artists if need be, we might for example need a harpist just for one concert,” she explains.
Gemma is herself an accomplished musician, who made her debut at the young age of 16 when she won the First Prize in The European Music for Youth Competition in Oslo. In 2007 she won the prestigious Pierre Fournier Award at Wigmore Hall. She has collaborated and performed with eminent musicians such as the piano virtuoso Stephen Kovacevich and has had modern composers writing specially for her, like James Francis Brown and David Matthews.
“It is a great honour to be working with a composer,” Gemma admits. “The ensemble has done this kind of “interactive” work quite often. “It is fascinating to be able to take part in this process and being able to see the work taking shape. It also gives us a chance to give our input.”
The quartet coming to Dulwich Picture Gallery will be Gemma and her cello, Benjamin Navarro – violin, Judith Busbridge – viola and Tim Horton – piano, all renowned musicians with glittering solo careers. They will feel at home in the gallery, they often play in museums, “we like doing educational work in different spaces.” To play in Dulwich has long been a dream for Gemma, who loves the gallery. The quartet will offer two well loved piano quartets by Brahms and Mozart.
The Ensemble is famous for its interaction with the audience. “We learnt that from the Studio Theatre at the Sheffield Crucible. We talked to them, it was scary to begin with, and found that it relaxed both artists and the audience and cut the formality. People are often afraid at concerts, thinking they must concentrate, but by feeling at ease they can open their ears and hear new things.”
Each year Ensemble 360 tours with their own specially written concerts for children based on a book. Last year it was the story “The Lion who wanted to love” set to music by Paul Rissmann.
“We take the concert to schools, often in deprived areas and we also do musical workshops where we talk about the instruments and give children the chance to compose. Sometimes we find a natural talent and we then play his or her work in our concerts, which is great for the young composer.”
Musical life is not all serious for Gemma. She has been described by the London Evening Standard as a “phenomenal talent” in her classical career, but she can also get your feet tapping with her guitar playing friend Morgan Szymansky. The two have formed the Latin-American duo Machaca. It caused something of a sensation even in Mexico.
Ensemble 360 has produced several CDs, the latest being Music for Piano and Wind by Francis Poulenc and Gemma has also just released a CD for Hyperion with Cello and Orchestra works by the great English composer Charles Villiers Stanford.
Ensemble 360 – a concert - Piano quartets by Mozart and Brahms
Friday 21 September at 7.30pm in Dulwich Picture Gallery
Tickets £20, £18 Friends, includes a glass of wine