What is "period performance"?

Playing on period instruments is all about being inspired by the past. There's a lot that we can learn from the soundworlds Handel, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven knew: different instruments, a different way of giving concerts, and a different attitude towards performing music. We explore the past, and try to use what we find to make our music-making as immediate and exciting as it could possibly be.

So what’s different about the AAM? Partly it’s the instruments, which are originals (or faithful copies of them). The stringed instruments have strings made of animal gut, not steel; the trumpets have no valves; the violins and violas don’t have chin-rests, and the cellists cradle their instruments between their legs rather than resting them on the floor. The result is a sound which is bright, immediate and striking. Also, the size of the orchestra is smaller, meaning that every instrument shines through and the original balance of sound is restored.

But there’s also a difference in the way we approach our music making. Composers prized the creativity of musicians, expecting them to make the music come alive and to communicate its thrill to the audience — an ethos we place at the heart of all that we do. Very often we don’t have a conductor, but are directed by one of the musicians; the result is a close interaction within the orchestra, making for spontaneous and sparky performances. It’s not just about researching the past; it’s about being 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, the superb artistry and musical imagination of our players combined with a deep understanding of music as it was originally performed.

 


 

Views on period performance

"Corelli would have been appalled if he'd heard people playing his sonatas with his ornaments. I'm sure he would have just thought, 'What the hell are you doing? Make your own ornaments up, lazy git!' That was part of your skill as a performer, to add your own dimension to the music"

AAM Music Director Richard Egarr talks about why period performance is all about subjectivity and spontaneity

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"The ‘early days’ were also marked by a sense of connection between performers and audiences, as though both were embarking on a journey together, and this is being rekindled now”

AAM leader Pavlo Beznosiuk talks about the early days of period performance, and the challenges facing period-instrument orchestras in the 21st century

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