Fires of London
The Fires of London, originally known as the Pierrot Players, was a British chamber music ensemble which was active from 1965 to 1987.
It was dedicated to the performance of contemporary classical music. It was founded in London by Harrison Birtwistle, Alan Ray Hacker, and Stephen Pruslin. From 1967 it was under the joint direction of the composers Peter Maxwell Davies and Harrison Birtwistle, and was an English chamber ensemble. The ensemble was originally created in order to play Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, scored for reciter, flute, clarinet, violin doubling viola, cello, and piano. A percussionist would often join the group. In 1970 Birtwistle left the group, and under the new name Maxwell Davies became sole director. The group was disbanded by Maxwell Davies after its 20th anniversary concert in 1987.
During its existence, The Fires of London was particularly associated with Maxwell Davies' music, and gave first performances of many of his works, including Eight Songs for a Mad King, Vesalii Icones, The Martyrdom of St Magnus, Ave Maris Stella and Revelation and Fall. However it also premiered works by other composers, including Elliott Carter's Triple Duo, I Met Heine on the Rue Fürstenberg and The Viola in My Life 1 by Morton Feldman, Ocean de Terre by Oliver Knussen, and Der langwierige Weg in die Wohnung der Natascha Ungeheuer by Hans Werner Henze.
The Fires of London was just one of many ensembles created to play Pierrot Lunaire, and the presence of these ensembles led to many new works being written for the same instrumentation. This in turn led to the formation of yet more groups, leading to the establishment of the "Pierrot ensemble" (flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and piano) as a standard instrumentation in contemporary music.
- Who’s Who 1975, page 1302, (A&C Black: London)
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