Ensemble X was founded in 1997 by a group of performers who share a passionate commitment to new music. There were eleven founding members: Wendy Herbener Mehne, Richard Faria, Gordon Stout, Ellen Jewett, and Elizabeth Simkin from Ithaca College, and Judith Kellock, David Conn, Xak Bjerken, David Borden, Edward Murray, Mark Davis Scatterday, and artistic director Steven Stucky from Cornell University. The ensemble’s core membership has since grown to about twenty players.
The ensemble’s mission is to perform both very new music of the “classical” tradition — typically music written within the past five to ten years — and established works from earlier in the twentieth century. The group performs a series of concerts each season in Ithaca as well as touring and recording.
Among the Ensemble X career highlights are regional premieres of John Adams’s clarinet concerto Gnarly Buttons and his Hallelujah Junction for two pianos; Jacob Druckman’s last major work, the song cycle Counterpoise; Roberto Sierra’s Cuentos; Stephen Hartke’s The Horse with the Lavender Eye; Christopher Rouse’s Compline; and Leon Kirchner’s Piano Trio No. 2. Twentieth-century “classics” in the group’s repertoire include Schoenberg’s Pierrot lunaire, Robert Palmer’s Piano Quartet No. 1, Revueltas’s 8 x Radio, Karel Husa’s Sonata a tre, and a memorable staging of Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du soldat, directed by Rachel Lampert in April 1999.
Recent milestones include the release of the first Ensemble X recordings (an album of music of Steven Stucky on Albany Records, and a compact disk of music by Scottish composer Judith Weir); the group’s first concert appearances in New York City, at Merkin Concert Hall and Weill Recital Hall; and collaboration with the celebrated Danish recorder virtuosa Michala Petri.