London Mozart Players
• Founded 1949
Often appears with
Among London's many small orchestral ensembles, the London Mozart Players are perhaps the oldest and certainly among the most prestigious. The group specializes not only in the music of Mozart but also in other works of the Classical period, featuring small forces similar to those that would have played the music in its own time, although modern rather than historical instruments are used.
The London Mozart Players were formed in 1949 by conductor and string player Harry Blech, who gathered musicians from the National Gallery Concerts he had mounted in the empty museum during World War II. Blech remained conductor until 1984. At the time, it was Britain's only orchestra specializing in Classical-period music. The orchestra was popular from the beginning, partly because Blech insisted on touring smaller venues in rural Britain where top-notch orchestral playing was hard to find in the difficult postwar years. In London itself, the group appeared annually for many years at the Royal Festival Hall. It has served since the late 1980s as the official resident ensemble of the Borough of Croydon, and in 2016, it took up residence at the borough's Fairfield Halls. Blech was succeeded in 1984 by Jane Glover, by Matthias Bamert in 1992, by Andrew Parrott in 2000, by Gérard Korsten in 2010, and by Howard Shelley in 2014. The orchestra enjoys noble patronage from the Earl of Wessex but, uniquely among British professional orchestras, delegates both financial and artistic leadership to the players themselves. Britain-wide tours have been followed by worldwide ones, including a tour in 2018 that included stops in Dubai and Hong Kong. The orchestra has long attracted prestigious soloists, from flutist James Galway in his heyday to Nicola Benedetti, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, and Thomas Trotter in the 2010s.
The London Mozart Players have recorded prolifically, mostly for the Chandos label, often committing to disc the music of rarely heard composers such as Leopold Kozeluch and Adalbert Gyrowetz. They rarely venture beyond the Classical and early Romantic periods but did join the Colla Voce Singers for a recording of Roxanna Panufnik's Love Abide on the Signum Classics label in 2019.