AAM #SpotifySundays: Richard Egarr picks his favourite recordings

A weekly ‘concert’ taken from the finest recordings in the extensive Academy of Ancient Music catalogue: join us each Sunday at 3pm on Spotify as we unveil a new playlist of music, personally chosen by AAM players, directors, soloists and guests.

On 21 June 2020, we’re delighted to be joined by AAM’s Music Director Richard Egarr as he picks his favourite recordings from across AAM’s collection of albums on Spotify. Showcasing some truly exceptional discs from nearly a half-century of music-making, Richard had this to say about his chosen programme:

‘Overall, this programme really emphasises what the Academy of Ancient Music is all about; reassessing everything to do with performing old or new music, and asking yourself ‘how did this actually go?’ The recordings I’ve chosen here really demonstrate AAM’s take over the course of nearly fifty years, breathing life into new and old with historical investigation and historical tools, but also keeping it real…’

 

Antonio Vivaldi – ‘L’Estro Armonico’, Op. 3, Concerto No.1 In D Major Con Quattro Violini Obligati, RV 549
Violins: Catherine Mackintosh, Monica Huggett, John Holloway, Elizabeth Wilcock
Director: Christopher Hogwood

‘As with all three of my Hogwood choices here, these recordings redefined how people approach this repertoire. The Vivaldi Op.3 was done with single players, not by a big orchestra and No.1 featured at Christopher Hogwood’s memorial service in 2015, with former and then-current leaders of AAM (Catherine Mackintosh, Monica Huggett, Pavlo Beznosiuk and Simon Standage) performing the violin parts.’

John Tavener: Eternity’s Sunrise (1999)
Soprano: Patrica Rozario
Director: Paul Goodwin
Academy of Ancient Music Chorus

‘AAM and I have always enjoyed a lovely relationship with John Taverner, and the recording of this AAM commission was particularly stunning, further demonstrating that the Academy could do this stuff really, really well. A fine commission and a really successful production.’

(This work for soprano and baroque chamber orchestra, using text by William Blake, was commissioned by the Academy of Ancient Music on the occasion of its 25th anniversary. The piece is dedicated to the memory of Diana, Princess of Wales. For Taverner, ‘the concept of solo soprano (representing earth) at ground level, handbells (representing the angels) at an intermediate position, and the main baroque ensemble at a high level (representing heaven) fitted exactly with the Blake text which I had decided to set. When seen as things truly are, the earth is a mirror of the Eternal World, and when seen correctly, it is possible in this world to live in Eternity’s sunrise. God does not exist in the world. And yet at the same time He is reflected in it, giving it form and structure. The music should be played with quiet joy, as a day of sunshine and calm, full of gentleness and radiance.’)

GF Handel: Concerto grosso Op. 6, No. 6, HWV 324
Director: Andrew Manze

‘A glorious concerto grosso, this work was something that Andrew (Manze) and I both performed several times before we were involved with AAM. There’s something very dark about the sound world and really demonstrates what Handel could bring out of a bunch of strings. A very special recording and a true highpoint of Andrew’s tenure with the Academy.’

FJ Haydn: Symphony No. 104 (H. 1/104)
Director: Christopher Hogwood

‘What’s particularly special about Christopher’s recordings of the late Haydn symphonies are the ways in which they highlighted the wonderful wind players that the Academy has, and this particular one really shows the orchestra off for what it can do and what Chris could do with the orchestra at that time. I think it’s a very fine example of what was going on and the exceptional players active with AAM.’

JS Bach: Concerto for Two Violins in D minor, BWV 1043
Violin: Rachel Podger
Violin and director: Andrew Manze

‘I myself have fond memories of performing this work with Andrew and violinist Marie Leonhardt in the late 1980’s. Here Andrew and Rachel Podger took a piece that everybody knows backwards and really shook it up, doing things that people really wouldn’t have expected, particularly in the slow movement. It truly shows what the orchestra is about, looking at established repertoire and giving it a new lease on life by breathing in new and interesting ideas – another particularly momentous piece of AAM’s discography.’

GF Handel – Messiah, HWV 56; ’Worthy is the Lamb’, ‘Amen’
Sopranos: Emma Kirkby and Judith Nelson
Mezzo Soprano: Carolyn Watkinson
Tenor: Paul Elliott
Bass: David Thomas
Director: Christopher Hogwood
Christ Church Cathedral Choir

‘If any recording has changed the public’s perception of a work (in the manner of Glen Gould’s Bach interpretations), this one is probably on most people’s list. Most listeners of classical music will have probably heard it, and it’s important to appreciate the impact this recording had on what Messiah was about and how to do it. Add in the wonderful soloists on the disc, and you have one of those glittering moments of recording history that changed fundemental attitudes – an extraordinary milestone in the Academy’s history.’

(‘This is the Messiah that started it all, the first period instrument performance recorded with a choir of men and boys. It introduced music lovers the world over to Christopher Hogwood, Emma Kirkby, and a whole host of performers who have since become ubiquitous as the “English Early Music Mafia,” appearing as they do under zillions of different ensemble names on a variety of labels. Hogwood’s performance still holds its own, however, as one of the finest and freshest available.’ – David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com)

*Encore* JS Bach – Overture (Suite) No. 3 in G Major, BWV 1068: II. Air, ‘Air on a G String’ (arr. L. Stokowski)
Director: Richard Egarr
Brussels Philharmonic

‘Performing this work with AAM at the Proms in 2016 was great fun, sneaking Stokowski arrangements into a programme of Handel Coronation Anthems! A Stokowski nut myself, there’s nothing quite like a big baroque string band playing this repertoire – quite sinful behaviour, but I think everyone enjoyed shlurping around!’