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Benjamin Britten rehearsing the ECO at the King’s Lynn Festival in 1970

English Chamber Orchestra archive acquired by MOMH

We are delighted to announce that we have acquired the archive of the world-renowned English Chamber Orchestra. The ECO was founded more than 60 years ago, rapidly gaining worldwide recognition for its recordings and concert tours. It is still the most recorded chamber orchestra in the world, with a discography containing 860 recordings of over 1,500 works by more than 400 composers. From its earliest days it worked closely with major musical figures such as Benjamin Britten, Daniel Barenboim, Mstislav Rostropovich, Jacqueline Du Pré and Pinchas Zukerman, and it is not much of an exaggeration to say that most of the UK’s leading instrumentalists played with the orchestra at some point in their careers. The ECO enjoyed the patronage of Charles, the former Prince of Wales, since 1977 and continues to thrive, with a busy schedule of concerts in the UK and abroad.

Britten with the ECO at Kings Lynn in 1970
Benjamin Britten rehearsing the ECO at the King’s Lynn Festival in 1970

We recently completed the transfer of over four tons of archival material from the orchestra’s office to temporary storage, and have already started to preserve, digitise and catalogue some of the earliest documents. The archive contains detailed management records ranging from significant correspondence with conductors, soloists, promoters, the BBC and funding organisations, to players’ schedules, payslips and cheque book stubs, and we believe that there is a continuous thread of documentation from the earliest days of the orchestra in 1959 until close to the present day. The breadth of the material in the archive provides an invaluable insight into the day-to-day operation of a world-class orchestra, sustained over more than half a century, that is perhaps unique in its scale and scope. We are looking forward enormously to working with the orchestra to bring its remarkable history to a wider public, and have already assisted with several enquiries from authors and academics.