The main emphasis is on contemporary music, from both Denmark and abroad. During the lifetime of the ensemble they have given some 350 performances of works from the last half of the twentieth century, including many premieres, often written specifically for Athelas.
The ensemble has performed works by important Nordic composers such as Magnus Lindberg, Kaija Saariaho, Arne Nordheim, Sven-David Sandström, Per Nørgård, Poul Ruders and Anders Nordentoft.
Among other reasons because of their great efforts for brand new contemporary music, in the period 2000-2002 Athelas was appointed “Danish State Ensemble”, which led to a number of representative engagements for the Danish State and the Danish Royal Family.
Their consistent focus on high quality has led to co-operation with many prominent soloists and conductors including Christian Lindberg, Rebecca Hirsch, Reinbert de Leuw, Thomas Adès, Ilan Volkov and George Benjamin.
In recent years Athelas has increasingly been involved in music drama productions (for example Anders Nordentoft’s On this Planet, nominated for the Nordic Council’s Music Prize in 2004), and in projects that integrate different creative disciplines like film, recitation, drama, dance and music, for example Maurice Weddington’s The Art of Unfolding, which is being performed in among other places Beijing in the spring of 2005.
This is an example of a new field of activity for Athelas Sinfonietta: international co-operation, where, by virtue of partnerships with foreign artists and ensembles, new goals are set for the ensemble’s constant artistic efforts. The name Athelas comes from the name of a healing plant in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.