The AAM story

Revolutionary beginnings

Back in 1973, most orchestras played old music in a modern style. Centuries of change had eroded the sound-worlds known to Bach, Handel, Haydn and Mozart: the instruments were different; the pitch was different; the number of players was different; the very essence and spirit of performances was different.

But change was in the air. Wouldn’t it be great, people asked, if we could turn the clock back; if we could find out more about composers’ original intentions and get closer to the style in which music was originally performed?

This was the spirit in which Christopher Hogwood founded the AAM. It was revolutionary. Centuries of convention were cut away as baroque and classical masterworks were heard anew. Music lovers worldwide were electrified. Ancient music got a thrilling new lease of life.

The stringed instruments in Hogwood’s new orchestra had strings made of animal gut, not steel. The trumpets had no valves. The violins and violas didn’t have chin rests, and the cellists gripped their instruments between their legs rather than resting them on the floor. 

The whole orchestra worked together to rediscover sounds which hadn’t been heard for hundreds of years — but it wasn’t just the sound of the music which changed; it was how it felt. AAM performances were full of energy and passion and joy.

Hogwood in the early years

One of the world’s great orchestras

From these revolutionary beginnings, one of the world’s great orchestras was born. Over the next three decades the AAM’s fame spread to every corner of the globe as it built up a huge discography which now totals over 300 CDs — Brit and Gramophone award-winning recordings of the great baroque masterworks; celebrated opera releases starring Cecilia Bartoli, Dame Emma Kirkby and Dame Joan Sutherland; pioneering cycles of the Mozart and Beethoven symphonies. The AAM has performed live on every continent except Antarctica, inspiring music lovers worldwide with the power of music as it was originally intended.

The future of ancient music

Richard Egarr — a leading light in the next generation of early music specialists — succeeded Hogwood as Music Director in September 2006. He has released numerous recordings with the orchestra, winning the Edison, Gramophone and MIDEM awards; and he has directed hundreds of performances across four continents. 

The orchestra continues to work with an increasingly diverse roster of guest directors — Japanese Bach expert Masaaki Suzuki, acclaimed Italian violinist-virtuoso Giuliano Carmignola; conductors Bernard Labadie, Paul Goodwin, Stephen Cleobury and Stephen Layton — ensuring that fresh ideas and approaches continually inspire the group.

In 2009 the AAM made history with the world’s first-ever live choral “cinecast”: its performance of Handel’s Messiah was beamed in real time from the chapel of King’s College, Cambridge to tens of thousands of people in cinemas in over 250 cities around the globe.

Today, the orchestra touches the lives of tens of thousands of audience members through its concert series in London and Cambridge and its global touring programme; and its recordings keep the music of the baroque and classical periods alive for music lovers the world over.