The Athena Ensemble was formed as a wind quintet in 1969 and quickly established itself as the leading group of its kind in London. Its members were among the most outstanding exponents of their instruments in the country and their polished and exciting ensemble playing won wide-ranging critical approval. Later the members of the quintet decided to widen the repertoire open to them and joined forces with several other distinguished musicians to make a larger ensemble, which rapidly developed a style and a sense of unity.
The Athena Ensemble played music of all periods from the eighteenth century to the late twentieth century. It toured extensively and made numerous BBC broadcasts; among the latter were the first broadcast performances of the complete works for wind quintet by Elgar which the Ensemble subsequently recorded for Chandos. It commissioned works by Bernard Rands and Simon Bainbridge, while such distinguished composers as Luciano Berio, Hans Werner Henze and Paul Patterson offered to write for it. Besides the complete works for wind quintet by Elgar the Ensemble recorded works by Poulenc, Gounod, Ibert, Nielsen and Mozart.