For more than 40 years the ACADEMY OF ANCIENT MUSIC has enriched the lives of thousands the world over with historically informed performances of Baroque and Classical music of the highest caliber. Founded in 1973 by Christopher Hogwood, the orchestra has since performed on all six inhabited continents and recorded an unrivalled catalogue of over 300 CDs.
In 2006 Richard Egarr succeeded Hogwood as Music Director, and has since led the orchestra on tours of Europe, Australia, the U.S.A., and the Far East. His notable recordings with AAM include J. S. Bach’s “Brandenburg” Concertos, Handel’s complete instrumental works Opp.1-7, music by the 17th-century English composer Christopher Gibbons, and Birth of the Symphony: Handel to Haydn, the first release on the orchestra’s in-house record label AAM Records.
The AAM’s artistic excellence has long been fostered by a range of guest artists. Pianist Robert Levin and singers Dame Emma Kirkby, Dame Joan Sutherland, and Cecilia Bartoli were among those performing regularly with the AAM in the early days, and ongoing relationships with mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly, counter-tenor Iestyn Davies, and violinist Richard Tognetti lie at the heart of the AAM’s present-day artistic success.
The AAM’s 2014/15 season will take listeners on a musical Grand Tour, from Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea to Mozart’s magisterial piano concertos via Venice and the North African coast. International plans include a major tour of the United States and Canada, with performances at Washington DC’s Strathmore Center, Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, and Carnegie Hall in New York. Planned releases on AAM Records in 2014/15 include recordings of Bach’s Orchestral Suites and the 1727 version of the St. Matthew Passion.
The AAM is Associate Ensemble at London’s Barbican Centre and Orchestra-in-Residence at the University of Cambridge. Visit aam.co.uk to find out more.
The history of the Academy of Ancient Music is the history of a revolution. When Christopher Hogwood founded the group in 1973, the world’s orchestras performed old music in a thoroughly modern style. The works of Bach, Handel, Haydn and Mozart were unrecognizable, enshrouded by the accumulation of centuries of shifting tastes and incremental developments in instrument building and design.
But change was in the air. Wouldn’t it be great, people asked, if we could turn back the clock, if we could strip away modern fashion and artifice to approach music as it was originally conceived? This was the spirit in which the AAM was founded, and it was revolutionary. Centuries of convention were cut away as Baroque and Classical masterworks were heard anew. Music-lovers the world over were electrified, and ancient music got a thrilling new lease of life.
So what’s different about the AAM? Partly it’s our instruments, which are originals, or faithful copies of them. Our strings are made of animal gut, not steel; our trumpets have no valves; our violins and violas don’t have chin-rests, and our cellists cradle their instruments between their legs rather than resting them on the floor. The result is a sound that is bright, immediate, and striking. Additionally, the size of our orchestra is often small by modern standards, meaning that every instrument shines through and the original balance of sound is restored. Finally, where possible we play from first-edition scores, stripping away the later additions and annotations of editors to get back to composers’ initial notes, markings and ideas.
There’s also a difference in the way we approach our music making. Composers prized musicians’ creativity and expected them to make music come alive and to communicate its thrill to audiences. This spirit is at the heart of all we do. Very often we don’t have a conductor, but are directed by one of our musicians, making for spontaneous, sparky and engaged performances.
We believe it’s not enough to research the past; musicians have to be creative in the present. In everything we do, we aim to recapture the intimacy, passion and vitality of music when it was first composed. The result? Performances which are full of energy and vibrancy, and which combine the superb artistry and musical imagination of our players with a deep understanding of music as it was originally performed.