Hebrides Ensemble

Hebrides Ensemble

With programmes that are diverse, imaginative and inspiring, Hebrides Ensemble has established itself as one of the foremost chamber music collectives in the UK.

Co-founded and led by its artistic director, the cellist and conductor William Conway, the Ensemble is renowned for its fresh and intelligent approach to programming, which places contemporary music at the heart of a diverse range of repertoire.

The Ensemble’s flexibility is its strength, drawing its performers from a pool of the most outstanding musicians in the UK and beyond, ensuring the exceptional performance standards for which it has become renowned. This is an international ensemble with its roots in Scottish culture, a collective which performs regularly at venues and festivals throughout the UK and Europe, and is regularly featured in broadcasts for BBC Radio 3.

In recent years, the Ensemble has given premieres at the Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam, London’s King’s Place, The Wigmore Hall, Aldeburgh Festival, and in 2018, made its debut appearance at the BBC Proms.

Hebrides Academy supports the next generation of performers, composers, artistic directors and cultural leaders through its mentoring programme and Hebrides Digital allows audiences around the world to be part of our performances, using live streaming, Twitter feeds and cutting edge digital technology.

In February 2019 Hebrides Ensemble will release its third disc in a series of composer-focused discs with Delphian. Sensations of Travel, chamber music by Niogel Osborne follows on from the success of The Last Island, chamber music by Peter Maxwell Davies and James MacMillan's Since it was the day of preparation..., which went straight to No 1 in the Specialist Classical Charts.



Psappha, Manchester's pre-eminent new music ensemble and one of the UK's leading contemporary music groups, was formed in 1991 by its Artistic Director Tim Williams and specialises in the performance of music by living composers and that of the 20th and 21st centuries. The group has an extensive and varied repertoire of hundreds of works and a reputation for technical assurance and interpretive flair. Attracting attention from audiences and from the music press internationally, Psappha won the Manchester Evening News Award for Opera in 2000 and has been shortlisted three times for a prestigious Royal Philharmonic Society award. Psappha has commissioned and premiered many works by a wide range of composers including the award-winning music-theatre work, Mr Emmet Takes a Walk, by its Patron, Peter Maxwell Davies, also recorded by the original performers.

Psappha has appeared throughout the UK, featuring regularly at most of the country's major music festival including the BBC Proms, special Henze, Maxwell Davies and Bernstein portrait series at London's Southbank Centre, and in residencies at the St. Magnus Festival, Orkney.

  • Total duration: 17'30
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Hebrides Ensemble

The word [Panopticon] generally refers to an 18th-century prison design in which cells were arranged around a circular central chamber from where a governor could keep an eye on prisoners at all times. In Fennessy’s piece, the cimbalom becomes the governor at the heart of a string ensemble arranged in a semicircle. Every hammer stroke sets off a ripple, like a stone dropping into water, and when the ripple reaches the rest of the ensemble they reflect it back and magnify the sound. The cimbalom dictates everything about the music: the pulse, the dynamics, even the harmony, because the ensemble’s notes are derived from the cimbalom’s natural harmonics. Fennessy describes “living in the world of the piece, opening up the overtones and climbing inside them, everything becoming heightened, everything getting magnified and kaleidoscopic. I have this image of the cimbalom string as six metres in diameter.” The enveloping simplicity, the total commitment to concept without losing track of the humanity – it’s classic Fennessy. – Kate Molleson


This piece is part of PRS Foundation's New Music Biennial 2019. For more information about the project and to download the New Music Biennial album, please visit our project page:

Commissioned by Psaphha and Hebrides Ensemble.



NMC Biennial is generously supported by the following committed patrons, funders and partners:

NMB funders


Panopticon was recorded at Stoller Hall, Manchester on 2-5 June 2018.

DAVID LEFEBER Recording Engineer & Producer

Catalogue number:
NMC DL201919
Release Date:
14 August 2019