The Four Nations Ensemble takes its name The College of Four Nations that France’s Louis XIV, the Sun King, established as a centralized bureau for the arts. “Four Nations” alludes to the four monarchies that were considered legitimate by the French crown at the time: France, Spain, Austria and Savoy. It was at the college that the academies of poetry, music, dance and painting flourished. Founded in 1986, the Four Nations Ensemble brings together vocal and period instrument soloists to present music dating from the Renaissance through the Viennese classical masterpieces of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. The ensemble consists of a harpsichord or fortepiano, violins, flute, and cello performing in the trio sonata to piano trio and quartet configurations.
Four Nations presents two concert series annually: one in New York City and the other upstate. Representative performances have included the evening entitled Nature Refined: The French Classical Garden, which featured the works Ouverture–La Françoise Sonade, Music for the coucher du Roy and Air-Modéré dans ces lieux, all by François Couperin; Les Roseaux–Flammende Rose by G. F. Handel; and Cantata–L’Isle de Délos by L. N. Clérembault. This performance was one of three presented in select historic structures along the Hudson River, in this case Fawn Hall in Ghent, New York.
The concert entitled Music For Hamilton: The Lure of Freedom was given in association with the New-York Historical Society’s exhibition Alexander Hamilton: The Man Who Made Modern America. It featured Quartet in D for flute, viola and piano by C. P. E. Bach; Trio for clarinet, viola and piano by Mozart; Oxford Symphony by F. J. Haydn; Trio for flute, violin and cello by François Devienne; and Sonata for violin and piano by Chevalier de St. Georges.
Other highlights include performances at the Metropolitan Museum of Art which reflect the ensemble’s interest in the interrelationships between music, art and literature; return engagements at Lincoln Center’s Great Performers and Mostly Mozart series; ongoing performances at the historic New York Friends’ Meeting House in Stuyvesant Square; and the presentation of Acis and Galatea to critical and popular success at the HandelWorks series at Merkin Hall, where the ensemble has often performed in the series On Original Instruments.
The ensemble’s education programs include Noteworthy, which affords players a weeklong residency with elementary or middle school children in underserved communities.
Recording projects are a regular activity. Research into new repertoire and the relationship of music to the other arts and history is an important element of the ensemble’s mission and a characteristic of virtually all its concerts and presentations. The ensemble tours throughout the U.S. and South America.