Wednesday 29 June 2016

AAM at the Barbican in 2016-17

In 2017 the Academy of Ancient Music (AAM), Barbican’s Associate Ensemble, continues its season of celebration and directorial debuts with two concerts directed by Richard Egarr who is celebrating his tenth anniversary as Music Director. On 5 May Egarr directs the orchestra in a concert exploring the classical style of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven and on 23 June he closes the season with a performance of Monteverdi’s Vespers, a culmination of the orchestra’s celebrations of Monteverdi’s 450th anniversary throughout the season. Renowned early music expert Jordi Savall directs the ensemble for the first time on 11 March for a programme of works by Rameau, Lully and Handel. On 7 April the AAM welcomes back Robert Howarth to direct Bach Reconstructed, a programme exploring Bach’s music in its original version and music that he subsequently revised and reconstructed."


Thursday 25 September 2014

Remembering Christopher Hogwood

"Following the news of Christopher Hogwood's death we are republishing the very special hour-long podcast we produced to celebrate the conductor's 70th birthday three years ago. With personal insights from Dame Emma Kirkby, Sir Neville Marriner and Catherine Bott, the podcast features many recordings from Hogwood's outstanding back catalogue. It's the perfect way to remember an outstanding musician and scholar."


Tuesday 12 November 2013

The best headphones — tested with the AAM

"'The better the source, the better the sound,' said Andreas Sennheiser, co-CEO of the eponymous audio company, when he first handed us a pair of audiophile grade IE 800 in-ear headphones. After hours of listening to the IE 800s, we understood what he meant: There's no limit to what these earbuds can do.

"Individual instruments are clearly discernible without seeming distant, harsh, or false. It's most obvious on classical discs. A recording of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos by Christopher Hogwood's Academy of Ancient Music, for example, was given new listening life with the IE800s, which could clearly enunciate the parallel runs of the recorder and flute, giving both winds a natural liveliness that wasn't lost inside the violin or harpsichord passages."


Saturday 09 November 2013

Harpsichord maker Carey Beebe goes for baroque on restored harpsichord

"When eminent British harpsichord player and early music specialist Richard Egarr takes to the stage at the City Recital Hall on Saturday night one member of the audience in particular will be on tenterhooks, despite the soothing sounds of baroque masters Handel and Purcell.

"The 1773 instrument on which Egarr will perform has been painstakingly restored by harpsichord maker Carey Beebe in a labour of love lasting more than a year.

"What will keep Beebe on the edge of his seat is whether the 240-year-old instrument will stand up to the rigours of performance.

"'These are fragile and precious instruments that are normally kept in museums,' Mr Beebe says. 'What is going to make the concerts in Sydney interesting is that we are actually wheeling it out and putting it in a modern concert situation. It's a big ask to have an instrument like this out with a full orchestra.'

"And just to add to the tension, Mr Beebe has discovered that the concert featuring the Academy of Ancient Music, which Egarr directs, and soprano Sara Macliver, will be broadcast live by ABC radio. 'If something does go wrong, everyone in radioland will hear it as well,' he says."


Tuesday 24 September 2013

Richard Egarr reflects on the AAM at 40

"This year the AAM is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a cycle of Monteverdi operas, beginning this weekend with Orfeo. Next month the first CD on its own label is released. Clearly the ensemble still feels there’s a job to be done, and Egarr has impeccable credentials for leading it...

"With his background, you’d expect Egarr to toe the orthodox line in early music. But he thinks in some ways the movement has got things wrong. 'There’s this idea that back in the 18th century and before, people played in a very strict and unsentimental way. Then along came Romanticism, and people started to play Bach and Handel in a more free and overtly emotional way, putting lots of their own character into the music. So this idea grew up that being true to old music meant getting rid of all that, and sticking to the written notes. It was all about being correct. To me this gets everything back to front.'"


Friday 29 March 2013

AAM to perform at National Gallery

"Live music in London’s art galleries and museums is not uncommon. The ICA hosts regular gigs and the National Portrait Gallery features live music as part of its Thursday and Friday night Late Shift series. Tate Modern has run the highest profile art-music love-in with the recent Kraftwerk gigs, while classical music has also featured at the gallery. In spring 2011, Daniel Barenboim played an impromptu concert in the Turbine Hall.

"Rarely though, if ever, does a gallery programme live music as an ongoing part of an exhibition. For its upcoming show on 17th-century Dutch master Vermeer, the National Gallery has invited the Academy of Ancient Music, one of Britain’s finest baroque orchestras, to perform hourly sets in the gallery for three days a week, as well as two curator-led concerts."


Thursday 06 December 2012

Vivid colours added to 18th-century Venice

"For Egarr, the important thing in any music is colour. 'Music should be full of colour. I’m a great fan of conductors like Stokowski who used his Philadelphia Orchestra to colour the music he was performing, especially Bach. There are even recordings of him from the 1950s doing Monteverdi’s Orfeo and Vespers, which are so full of colour you cannot dismiss their relevance.'”


Friday 16 November 2012

Handel in the big city

"With about six hundred thousand citizens, the largest city in Europe was – more or less like today – a magnetic storm made of experiences, opportunities, mayhem; a chosen destination for all spirits craving growth and restlessness (and, when things work out, money). Today a luxury stronghold, Mayfair was still a middle-class area when, in these times of rebirth and turmoil, George Frideric Handel moved into 25 Brook Street...

"To celebrate his deep connection with the capital's history and culture, the Academy of Ancient Music has organised a two-day festival on the composer. Handel the Londoner will enliven, on the coming 16th and 17th of November, three locations of great importance. These are his home in Mayfair, now Handel House Museum; the church of St. George's Hanover Square, where Handel played the organ; and finally, the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury..."


Wednesday 18 July 2012

Bach’s Mysterious Fugues Get Persian Remix at Proms

"As enigmas go, Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” has nothing on Bach’s The Art of Fugue.

"The 1751 work (published posthumously) might or might not be for keyboard, is tantalizingly unfinished, and may contain a coded philosophical message. Riddle hunters have produced theory after theory to explain its meaning.

"Now the dynamic Iranian-American musician Mahan Esfahani is about to unlock some of its secrets. His arrangement for the Academy of Ancient Music will premiere at the BBC Proms in London on July 21.

"I meet up with the 28-year-old harpsichordist in Oxford, where he lives. In slacks, casual blue shirt and dark jacket, he looks like a young Oxbridge don. When he speaks in a passionate rapid-fire fashion, with ideas pouring out of him, he sounds like an evangelist. Which, in a sense, he is.

“How can you ever be sure of anything when you play music as great as Bach’s?” he says. “I love that sense of frustration. Bach is the best lesson in dedicating your life to something you probably won’t ever fully understand. I think of it as a calling.”

"It’s just as well. The Art of Fugue has enough mystery to last several lifetimes."


Saturday 07 April 2012

Why do Bach's Passions still speak to modern man?

"On Tuesday night I sat in King’s College, Cambridge, listening to a powerful performance of Bach’s St Matthew Passion. Presented by the Chapel Choir, other Cambridge choristers, the Academy of Ancient Music, a squad of first-rank soloists and conducted by Stephen Cleobury, we were once again confronted with one of the greatest artistic achievements in history.

"Why do the Bach Passions still speak to modern man? And why was the death of Jesus – rather than His joyous resurrection – the prime motivation for these masterpieces? St Paul writes, “if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain”. With that in mind, what is it about his death that has so gripped our culture?

"I have just received John Butt’s book Bach’s Dialogue with Modernity. Here he examines the Bach Passions in the context of modern man’s fascination with glories past. Such masterpieces provide a firm challenge to the contemporary conceit that the modern world is always improving. The growing popularity of hearing the Bach Passions leading up to the Easter season in our “post-religious” culture is an intriguing and exciting one."


Saturday 06 August 2011

Noteworthy: A private AAM recital

"Earlier this year the virtuosic Japanese-American violinist Shunske Sato, who has performed with major orchestras across the US and Europe, made his London debut. Ordinarily you might expect an artist of his calibre to perform at, say, the Barbican or Festival Hall. Indeed, when Sato next plays here, it will be at Cadogan Hall, which has a capacity of nearly 1,000. Last April's concert, however, took place in the elegant and expansive drawing rooms of Sir Vernon Ellis' London home before an invited audience of 100 or so friends, philanthropists and figures from the music world."


Monday 13 June 2011

James Gilchrist discusses Mozart and the AAM

"Ahead of performances of Mozart's La Finta Giardiniera with the AAM in June 2011, tenor James Gilchrist spoke to BBC Music Magazine. "The period-instrument movement has been with us for some time now – AAM is in its fourth decade and I think the two schools have really cross-fertilised one another. It’s rare nowadays to hear Baroque music played on a modern instrument without a better understanding of phrase and shape, and similarly I think that the earlier music ensembles have mellowed with age. There’s less of a ‘pickled-in-aspic’ reverence for the music and much more of a visceral engagement with it. The AAM has a great history of playing Classical music on Classical instruments and Richard Egarr never wants to play things with a straight bat – he enjoys quirkiness and surprises."


Wednesday 25 May 2011

The Great Communicator

"Despite catching Richard Egarr just an hour before he flies to the Far East, I find the conductor bubbling with enthusiasm. The Academy of Ancient Music is embarking on a seven-concert tour on the other side of the world - its second this year, after a visit to China in February. 'I think it was the first-ever performance of the Brandenburg Concertos on old instruments,' he says, 'and what was amazing was the number of young people who came. Some people flew hours by plane to get there, and we could sense that there's a real enthusiasm for old music and wanting to be involved with it. What was happening in Japan 20 years ago I think is now coming very much into China.'"


Wednesday 18 May 2011

Ancient Music Academy

"AAM Music Director Richard Egarr doesn't think it's a problem that people in Beijing know little about baroque music, a Western style of classical music that's only toured to China in recent years. In his understanding, baroque music is an immediate music. 'People will respond to any music from pop music to classical music, as long as it is human music. We are playing old music for people living now.'"


Tuesday 12 April 2011

Sumi Jo and the Academy of Ancient Music

“I am very excited to tour with the Academy of Ancient Music, which is a world-class ensemble. While studying the period, I was struck how Vivaldi is truly an absolutist when it comes to capturing his era. But his pieces, such as ‘Nulla in Mundo pax sincera’ (In This World There Is No Honest Peace), really speak to us today — think of the situation in Libya, for example. It really inspires me to turn back to my own life.”


Tuesday 19 April 2011

Easter is a time for Passion

"Footballers play with passion, chefs cook with passion, and no doubt philatelists collect stamps with passion. Often the word means little more than 'enthusiasm', but talk of Johann Sebastian Bach's Passions doesn't usually concern his hobbies. His St John Passion, first performed in 1724, and the St Matthew Passion of 1727, are consummate expressions not only of his Lutheran faith but of his towering musical genius."


Thursday 17 March 2011

Now that's what I call a masterclass

"The sublime Radio 3 presenter Sara Mohr-Pietsch unpicked the Brandenburg Concertos phrase by phrase with the orchestra of the Academy of Ancient Music. The effect was that at the end of the programme your correspondent was acutely aware, possibly for the first time, that the Brandenburg Concerto No 1 is basically, in a nutshell, epistemologically speaking, etc: an awful lot of musical instruments playing together at once. Now that's what I call a masterclass."


Wednesday 09 February 2011

The sound of ancient dreams

"It has been a dream of music lovers for a long time - to be able to listen to recordings made by Mozart, Bach and Haydn. Baroque music remains hugely popular - but it was never heard exactly the way the composer intended. In 1973, Christopher Hogwood decided to solve this problem and founded the Academy of Ancient Music”


Sunday 02 January 2011

How Mozart got his groove back

“Mozart symphonies played by the Academy of Ancient Music were up there in the Billboard charts with Pavarotti recitals...”


Wednesday 20 October 2010

Reassessing Bach’s CV

“the Academy of Ancient Music, a small band stuffed with the superstars of the historically-informed style of playing; a band that, for nearly 40 years, through live performance and more than 250 recordings, has consistently breached the walls of ignorance, prejudice and misinformation to establish a benchmark of veracity and authority in getting composers’ music played as it was intended to be played: free of accretions, stripped of varnish, and as straight and true as an arrow."


Saturday 17 October 2009

Cruising with the Romans in Africa

"Even for the well-travelled Academy of Ancient Music, this was no ordinary performance of Dido & Aeneas. The cellos had cloths safety-pinned under their strings to stop the varnish melting in the African sun. The harpsichord had been impounded by customs and only released at the last minute. And in the middle of Dido’s lament there was a buzz of walkie-talkies as two policemen strolled behind the backdrop – the gaping, golden wreckage of the Roman theatre at Sabratha, Libya – dramatically silhouetted against the sky and sea."