History of the AAM

The original Academy of Ancient Music

Have you ever wondered how the AAM came to have such an unusual name? The answer is that we borrowed it! The original Academy of Ancient Music was founded way back in 1726 for the purpose of rediscovering “ancient music”, which was then defined as being music composed more than twenty years earlier.

1973

The Academy of Ancient Music is founded by Christopher Hogwood.

September: Under Hogwood’s direction the AAM makes its first recording – Arne: Eight Overtures – which is released the following year.

1974

First public concerts in the UK, in Birmingham, Kent and Devon.

1975

First festival appearance at King’s Lynn, UK; and first concert outside the British Isles, in Bruges, Belgium.

1976

November–December: First major international tour, organised by the British Council, which includes concerts in Egypt, India, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and Thailand.

1977

March: First concert in London at the South Bank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall.

October: First tour of Australia and New Zealand.

1978

Formation of the classical orchestra. Up to this time the AAM played only baroque repertoire with the baroque orchestra. The classical orchestra is formed with instrumentalists specialising in the classical period in order to play later repertoire such as Mozart and Haydn.

August: First appearance at the BBC Proms.  The programme is broadcast from the Royal Albert Hall, London on BBC radio — the orchestra’s first UK radio broadcast.

The AAM wins its first major recording industry award, the Grand Prix du Disque-Académie Charles Cros (France), for its recording of six overtures by JC Bach.

1979

The first release in the Mozart symphonies cycle wins a Gramophone Award.

March: The AAM makes its first television appearances in the UK, on BBC TV

1980

The recording of Handel’s Messiah wins an Edison Award (Holland) and a Caecila Prize (Belgium).

February–March: Tour of Germany followed by first concerts in Switzerland.

1981

First tours of Italy and Poland.

1982

Handel’s Messiah is filmed in Westminster Abbey. This is released internationally on video as well as being broadcast on UK television.

First tour of Portugal.

1983

June: First appearance in Finland at the Naantali Festival.

1984

The recording of Vivaldi’s Le quattro stagioni wins the Best British Classical Recording in the British Record Industry Awards, which leads to an appearance in the UK Music Week pop charts.

February: The classical orchestra tours Japan and Taiwan.

September: The baroque orchestra makes the first AAM tour of the USA.

Decca celebrates the AAM's acclaimed discography

1985

Release of first disc in the Beethoven symphonies cycle.

1986

The recording of Haydn’s Symphonies Nos 94 and 96 (‘Surprise’ and ‘Miracle’) wins an Edison Award (Holland).

February–March: Major tour of the USA with the classical orchestra.

May: First tour of Spain.

1987

The recording of Handel’s Athalia, with soloists including Dame Joan Sutherland and Dame Emma Kirkby, wins a Gramophone Award (UK).

October: The AAM tours South America for the first time with concerts in Brazil, and then continues the tour in North America.

1988

January–February: The AAM becomes the first period-instrument orchestra to play in Salzburg.

June: The AAM is the only British orchestra to be invited to take part in the Australian bicentennial celebrations. It goes on to tour Hong Kong and Japan.

1989

February: The AAM inaugurates the first major period-instrument education project, bringing together the skills of inspiring teachers from several early music groups.

April: Filming takes place in Esterháza for the South Bank Show and a commercial video on Haydn, narrated by H. C. Robbins Landon.

October–November: The Beethoven symphonies are toured in Japan and the USA.

AAM on tour

1990

January: The AAM records its first Mozart opera, Die Entfürhung aus dem Serail.

February: Haydn’s The Creation tours Europe.  It is recorded by Decca, and filmed in Gloucester Cathedral.

1991

September: The AAM’s recording of Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito marks the beginning of a long and successful collaboration with Cecilia Bartoli.

Christopher Hogwood conducts the AAM from a hot air balloon

1992

May: The AAM gives a special televised concert at Prague Castle for Czech President Vaclav Havel.

July: Christopher Hogwood and the AAM accompany Kiri Te Kanawa in a new video drama The Sorceress.

1993

August: The first recording session of the new Decca project to record the complete Mozart keyboard concertos with Robert Levin takes place. Like Mozart himself, Levin will improvise all the cadenzas.

1994

March: Major tour of the USA including the Kennedy Center, Washington D.C., Avery Fisher Hall, New York and Orchestra Hall, Chicago.

November: The AAM’s first collaboration with Catherine Turocy and the New York Baroque Dance company in a tour of Japan.

1995

The AAM receives a Gold CD for 15,000 copies sold in Holland of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater.

Paul Goodwin

1996

January: Paul Goodwin is appointed as Associate Conductor and Andrew Manze as Associate Director.

1997

February: The AAM appears at the Salzburg Mozart Festival, with Robert Levin playing Mozart’s own fortepiano in the Piano Concertos No. 15 and 26.  The concerts are filmed and are broadcast on television internationally.

June: The AAM under Christopher Hogwood makes its debut at the Halle Handel Festival, performing Handel’s Joshua.

1998

The recording of Haydn’s opera Orfeo ed Euridice receives the Premio Internazionale del Disco ‘Antonio Vivaldi’ (Highly Recommended).

The 25th anniversary of the AAM’s foundation is celebrated with projects with each of the AAM’s three directors: Paul Goodwin conducts the premiere performance and recording of John Tavener’s Eternity’s Sunrise, the first work the AAM has commissioned from a living composer; Andrew Manze directs the AAM in the opening concert of the York Early Music Festival; Christopher Hogwood conducts an expanded AAM, joined by the Choir of New College Oxford, in a packed Royal Albert Hall for the BBC Proms.

September: Fourth tour to Brazil.

1999

The AAM gives performances of and records Handel’s first London opera, Rinaldo, with Christopher Hogwood and Cecilia Bartoli.

April: Official AAM 25th anniversary concert celebrating the 250th anniversary of Handel’s first concert in 1749 for the Foundling Hospital, directed by Christopher Hogwood, Andrew Manze and Paul Goodwin.

June: First recording (for EMI) with the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge. This recording of JS Bach’s Magnificat and other works is followed by recordings of Vivaldi’s Gloria and of Handel’s Coronation Anthems. It marks the start of an enduring relationship between these two Cambridge-based organisations.

July: First BBC Prom under Paul Goodwin, including Tavener’s Eternity’s Sunrise.

August: Historical recreation of Mendelssohn’s 1829 performance of JS Bach’s St Matthew Passion at the Ansbach Bach Festival under Christopher Hogwood.

November: The AAM Society is launched to encourage private support of the AAM.

2000

June: Premiere performance and recording of John Tavener’s Total Eclipse, a new work which has been written for the AAM.

July: First recording under Edward Higginbottom with the Choir of New College, Oxford.

November: Seventeen-concert tour of the US directed by Andrew Manze.

November: The AAM launches its first London season as Resident Period-Instrument Orchestra at St. John’s, Smith Square.

2001

February: AAM Music Director-to-be Richard Egarr records the complete Bach harpsichord concertos with the orchestra.

June: Tour of Japan and Korea performing Mozart’s last three symphonies.

The Decca recording of Handel’s Rinaldo wins a Gramophone Award.

2002

This year includes two major US tours: with Robert Levin and Christopher Hogwood in February and March; and with Andrew Manze in October.

March: The AAM works with the choir Polyphony under director Stephen Layton for the first time, in a performance of JS Bach’s St John Passion.

October:Launch of first season at the University of Cambridge, and the third London season.

November: The AAM makes its first visit to the Megaron in Athens, Greece, in a programme of Handel’s Chapel Royal Anthems conducted by Paul Goodwin.

The Decca recording of Handel’s Rinaldo wins a Cannes Classical Award at MIDEM.

2003

March and April: The AAM bids a fond farewell to Andrew Manze, its Associate Director of seven years, with a major tour of the USA.

October: The AAM launches its 30th anniversary season, with expanded London and Cambridge series featuring a wide variety of guest directors and soloists: violinists Giuliano Carmignola, Daniel Sepec and Pavlo Beznosiuk; harpsichordist Richard Egarr; the wind principals of the AAM; and a number of vocal soloists including Patricia Rozario in a special Tavener 60th birthday concert; all in addition to appearances by Director Christopher Hogwood and Associate Conductor Paul Goodwin.

November: the official 30th anniversary concert takes place in St. John’s, Smith Square, London, with a programme of Gade, Schumann, Weber and Mendelssohn conducted by Christopher Hogwood.

2004

The AAM is appointed as Orchestra-in-Residence at the University of Cambridge.

October: Renowned conductor and harpsichordist Masaaki Suzuki makes his UK debut with the AAM.

2005

September: The harpsichordist Richard Egarr takes up his appointment as Associate Director of the AAM.

2006

April: The AAM’s live recording from January 2005 at the Wigmore Hall of Handel, JS Bach and Vivaldi is released on the Wigmore Hall Live Label to critical acclaim.

April: The AAM’s long-term future is secured when it is announced that Richard Egarr will succeed Christopher Hogwood as Music Director from September 2006. Christopher Hogwood assumes the title of Emeritus Director.

August: The AAM performs in the inaugural BBC Proms Matinée series at London’s Cadogan Hall, directed by Richard Egarr.

2007

April: The AAM tours the United States under its new Music Director, Richard Egarr.

May: Emeritus Director Christopher Hogwood conducts Handel’s Amadigi di Gaula — the first in his series of three annual Handel opera productions leading up to the 250th anniversary of Handel’s death — at London’s Barbican Centre and at Symphony Hall in Birmingham.

June: AAM General Manager Christopher Lawrence leaves the orchestra after ten years at the helm. Peter Ansell joins the team as Chief Executive.

October: The AAM and Richard Egarr win the Gramophone Award for baroque instrumental music for their recording of Handel’s Concerti Grossi Op.3 — the first release in their Harmonia Mundi series of the complete Handel instrumental music Op.1–7.

2008

June: Hogwood conducts the second in the series of three Handel operas — Flavio

September: the AAM gives the UK premiere performances of works by Christopher Gibbons — the son of Orlando — which have been discovered by Richard Egarr in manuscripts at the Bodleian Library and at Christ Church, Oxford.

October: the AAM makes its Libyan debut, performing Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas at the Roman amphitheatre at Sabratha.  It goes on to Beijing, where it makes its Chinese debut with two performances at the Beijing Music Festival.  China Daily hails it as “one of the world’s great orchestras”, and the Choir of the AAM is awarded the Beijing Choir of the Year award for its performance of Handel’s Messiah.

2009

The AAM celebrates a year of anniversaries — the 250th anniversary of Handel’s death, the 350th anniversary of Purcell’s birth, and the 200th anniversary of Haydn’s death — with a major programme of concerts and recordings.

April: the AAM makes history when its performance of Handel’s Messiah with the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge becomes the first choral concert ever to be broadcast into cinemas. The performance reaches live cinema audiences in over 250 cities around the world, and is subsequently released on CD and DVD by EMI.

May: Hogwood conducts the final instalment in his triptych of Handel operas — Arianna in Creta.

June: AAM gives the setpiece performance of Messiah at the anniversary Handel Festival in the composer’s hometown, Halle.

October: the final instalment in the AAM’s cycle of Handel’s instrumental music Op.1–7 is released to critical acclaim.

2010

January: Michael Garvey, former General Manager of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, succeeds Peter Ansell as Chief Executive.

February: Richard Egarr plays his first Beethoven Piano Concerto with the AAM. He plays No.4 in Groningen, and conducts Beethoven’s Symphony No.6 ‘Pastoral’.

August: The AAMplify scheme is launched, placing a new generation of concertgoers, players and arts managers at the heart of the AAM’s work. Benefits include £3 tickets to AAM concerts in London and Cambridge.

September: The AAM launches The Bach Dynasty, a year-long concert series exploring the music of JS Bach and his lesser-known relatives.

November: The AAM is directed by leader Rodolfo Richter in a programme of music from and inspired by South America, which includes the first performance for centuries of several undiscovered works.

2011

February: The AAM gives what is thought to be the first performance of the complete Brandenburg Concertos in China, to a packed Shanghai Concert Hall.

March: The AAM enters another new phase of its history when it is announced that the orchestra will receive regular public funding in the UK for the first time.  Arts Council England grants totalling over £500,000 will support the orchestra's development between 2012 and 2015.

May: A nine-concert tour of the Far East with Korean soprano Sumi Jo takes the AAM to China, Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea.

November: The AAM holds its first-ever AAMplify side-by-side workshop at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. Directed by AAM leader Pavlo Beznosiuk, Guildhall students and AAM musicians explore music by Charpentier.

First-ever AAMplify workshop at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama (November 2011)

2012

January: It is announced that the AAM will become Associate Ensemble at the Barbican from September 2012 onwards, giving the orchestra a world-class London home.

February: Violinist Alina Ibragimova makes her AAM debut performing music by Biber, JS Bach and Vivaldi at venues throughout the UK. The performances also mark Alina's first time directing a period-instrument orchestra.

June: The AAM appears as part of Her Majesty The Queen's Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant, performing Handel's Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks in front of a live and televised audience of millions. The performance is followed by a European tour to Symphony Hall, Birmingham; Usher Hall, Edinburgh; Chapelle Royale, Versailles; and Philharmonie, Luxembourg.

July: The AAM gives the world-premiere performance of a new arrangement of JS Bach's The Art of Fugue at the BBC Proms. The work is orchestrated for strings and wind instruments by Mahan Esfahani, who directs the performance from the keyboard.

September: The AAM celebrates the beginning of its Association at the Barbican with a performance of Handel's royal music. AAM Chief Executive Michael Garvey describes the significance of the moment: "Over the past four decades period performance has grown from a revolutionary movement to become a key part of the musical mainstream. Our Association with the Barbican celebrates that, putting period performance at the heart of one of the world's most diverse and vibrant arts centres".

Performing at the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant (3 June 2012)

2013

January: The AAM launches its first-ever crowdfunding campaign, with 170 people giving over £7,000 to complete the funding needed for a recording of JS Bach's St John Passion. The recording is due for release in February 2014.

January-March: The AAM spends three months performing the music of JS Bach: the Orchestral Suites on tour of Britain and The Netherlands and live on BBC Radio 3; the St Matthew Passion with the Choir of King's College, Cambridge in King's College Chapel, Cambridge and Kings Place, London; and the St John Passion with the Choir of the AAM at a sold-out Barbican Hall, London. Richard Egarr also directs recording sessions for the Orchestral Suites and St John Passion.

April: The AAM's collaboration with the Choir of King's College, Cambridge continues with the release of a new recording, 'Mozart Requiem: Realisations', exploring the history and influence of Mozart's Requiem with a complete performance, audio documentary and completions by composers including Michael Finnissy and Duncan Druce. 

May: Emeritus Director Christopher Hogwood returns to conduct performances of Handel's Imeneo in London and Madrid, continuing his cycle of Handel operas with the AAM.

June: The AAM begins its summer-long residency at London's National Gallery, accompanying the exhibition 'Vermeer and Music: The Art of Love and Leisure' with regular performances within the gallery. It is thought to be the first time that the music has featured as an ongoing part of a major art exhibition.

July: The AAM appears at the BBC Proms, performing music by Handel and Corelli with soprano Sophie Bevan. The concert sells out within two hours of booking opening.

July: The AAM performs as part of David Starkey's new television documentary 'Music and Monarchy', which is broadcast on BBC 2.

July: The launch of AAM Records, the orchestra's new in-house record label, is announced, building on the AAM's distinguished recording legacy. The first release will be 'Birth of the symphony: Handel to Haydn' in October 2013.

October: Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, the first of the AAM's 3 year Monterverdi opera cycle, opens the 40th anniversary season at the Barbican.

October: Alina Ibragimova's debut was also the AAM's first concert in the new Milton Court Concert Hall. The concert was a culmination of a highly successful tour to Italy and the UK.

October: The AAM goes on a three week tour to Australia performing music from the English Baroque Golden Age with acclaimed Australian soprano Sara Macliver.

November: The AAM launches its own record label, AAM records. Birth of the Symphony: Handel to Haydn, the AAM's first recording was revealed as BBC Radio 3’s disc of the week during the first week of its release.

December: The AAM celebrates Christmas with Bernard Labadie conducting two festive performances of Handel’s Messiah at Barbican Hall and King’s College Chapel, Cambridge.

2014

January: World famous counter-tenor Andreas Scholl and notable Swedish soprano Klara Ek sing Pergolesi with the AAM at the Barbican Hall. The 2000-seat capacity hall is sold out completely.

March: AAM Records releases JS Bach's St John Passion to great critical acclaim. BBC Music writes "there are riches at almost every turn" and the The Observer advises "if you want a scaled-down, intimate version of this work ... this is recommended."

April: The AAM is nominated for best ensemble at the 2014 RPS Music Awards.

May: Back in the studio, the AAM records JS Bach's St Matthew Passion (1727 version) will an impressive cast including tenor James Gilchrist, mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly and baritone Christopher Maltman. The disc — to be released in March 2015 — will be the fifth recording on AAM Records.

June: The Marquess and Marchioness of Salisbury host AAM's 40th Anniversary Gala Dinner and Auction at Hatfield House. The evening — emceed by BBC Radio 3's Sean Rafferty — features a recital by international mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, a keynote speech by Dr David Starkey CBE and performances by AAM musicians throughout the evening. The event raises over £61,000 for AAMplify, the AAM's education scheme.

June: Richard Egarr conducts Three last symphonies at the Barbican to close the AAM's 40th anniversary season. The evening begins with the inaugural performance of the AAMplify Orchestra. Performing the first symphonies of Mozart and Haydn on the Barbican Free Stage, the concert forms the perfect preamble to AAM's star-studded performance of the final symphonies of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven in the Barbican Hall.

July: JS Bach's St John Passion, released on AAM Records in March 2014, is nominated for a 2014 Gramophone Award for best baroque vocal recording. In the short-list review, Lindsay Kemp writes, "The chuntering orchestral disquiet and smooth choral lines of Egarr's reading give it a sympathetic, aching kind of tragedy that contrasts with those readings that focus more on the sharp, stabbing agony of the cross ... In short, this is a St John with a distinct character of its own."

August: AAM Music Director Richard Egarr and counter-tenor sensation Iestyn Davies win a 2014 Gramophone Award for their CD "Arise, my muse", recorded live at London's Wigmore Hall. Featuring a number of AAM principal players, the players get special mention in Gramophone's review of the disc, which notes as a particular highlight "the Suite from Blow’s Venus and Adonis, in which Egarr’s band impersonates a cheeky Cupid and a heavy-footed huntsman with equal verve."