The Schubert Ensemble of London is a popular quintet with an unusual makeup: a standard piano quartet with the addition of a double bass player, the same instrumental forces needed to perform Schubert's Trout Quintet. The group's choice of repertory staples has generally favored works by Romantic composers, with Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Brahms foremost on the list. Of course, the Schubert Ensemble includes a variety of later fare on its programs, with compositions by Franck, Fauré, Korngold, Dohnányi, Elgar, Shostakovich, and Tavener commonly heard. But it is also well known for its advocacy of contemporary music; it has commissioned and premiered a spate of new works, more than 80 by 2008, from some of the most prominent composers in the U.K. and abroad, including Colin Matthews, Judith Weir, John Woolrich, Pável Novak, Martin Butler, and Edward Rushton. The ensemble has performed throughout the U.K. and has made many tours across Europe, Asia, the Americas, and elsewhere. It typically performs more than 60 concerts yearly and has made more than a dozen recordings for a variety of labels, including ASV, Hyperion, Resonance, NMC, Chandos, and Champs Hill.
The Schubert Ensemble of London was formed in 1983. The current membership of the group is as follows: William Howard (piano), Simon Blendis (violin), Jane Salmon (cello), Douglas Paterson (viola), and Peter Buckoke (double bass). The group steadily built its reputation in its early years and by the late '80s had become one of the more prominent chamber groups in England. Its first major recording was, not surprisingly, the Schubert Trout Quintet, coupled with the Hummel Op. 87 Quintet, released on a 1988 Hyperion CD. However, the ensemble does not limit itself to quintets, performing everything from solos to octets.
Throughout the 1990s and into the new century the Schubert Ensemble concertized regularly abroad, including at major venues like the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, and it performed in many broadcast concerts over BBC 3. Around the turn of the century, members of the ensemble founded Chamber Music 2000 in order to commission a large body of piano and string works whose technical demands would be within reach of both amateur and young musicians.
The Schubert Ensemble has made several successful tours of the U.S, including a winter 2008 series of concerts in Oregon and California, where the group presented the American premiere of David Knotts' On such a night as this is! It made its first tour of China in October, 2010, and also performed in the United Arab Emirates. Among the ensemble's recordings is the 2007 CD on NMC of nine Martin Butler works, entitled (after the leadoff piece) American Rounds, and the music of Martinu, Fauré, and Dvorák all on Chandos.