The Ensemble Recherche is a chamber ensemble largely devoted to the performance and advocacy of contemporary music. The group consists of nine members who are based in Freiburg, Germany, where they present a regular slate of concerts each season. The players also make occasional radio broadcasts and appearances on film. In addition, they are very active in music education, teaching at the International Summer Course for New Music in Darmstadt and offering instruction at the Ensemble Akademie Freiburg. Individual members also serve on the faculties of several major music schools in Europe. While the Ensemble Recherche is known for performing contemporary music, it offers much else in its repertory: music from the late 19th century; Impressionist music, notably works by Debussy; serial compositions, including music of the Second Vienna School; and a range of works from later avant-garde movements, including the Darmstadt School and French spectralism. Thus its repertory encompasses music by Alban Berg, Luigi Dallapiccola, John Cage, Morton Feldman, Brian Ferneyhough, and others. Yet, despite the seemingly hardcore progressive tendencies, the Ensemble Recherche also performs music written prior to 1700. The ensemble has recorded more than 50 CDs of quite varied offerings for such labels as Stradivarius, Winter & Winter, Kairos, Hat Hut Records, Sony/BMG, Accord, and Montaigne.
The Ensemble Recherche was formed in 1985, and while it can perform as a chamber ensemble, it describes its members as soloists and they certainly function that way. Indeed, the group typically performs small chamber works, such as duets, trios, and quartets and its size can contract to showcase the individual virtuosity of the players. The group will usually feature combinations involving piano, violin, viola, cello, clarinet, flute, oboe, percussion, and other instruments, as well as vocal soloists.
Since its inception, the Ensemble Recherche has premiered about 500 works by composers such as Wolfgang Rihm, Hèctor Parra, Brice Pauset, and Gérard Pesson. With the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, it helped establish and annually participate in educational and performance activities at the aforementioned Ensemble Akademie Freiburg, a yearly forum attended by musicians and composers.
Several of Ensemble Recherche's recordings have been major events in contemporary music, like the 1995 Montaigne CD of Luigi Nono's Guai ai gelidi mostri and Omaggio a György Kurtág. Later recordings are hardly less notable, as evidenced by the 2009 Winter & Winter CD Schnee, a work-in-progress by Danish composer Hans Abrahamsen.