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.
Former Chairman of the Academy of Ancient Music Terence Sinclair joined us Sunday 09 August at 3pm to share his favourite recordings on our #SpotifySundays playlist. About to retire from AAM after joining as a trustee in 2011, Terry took time away from his day job as an investment banker to discuss his choicest AAM selections and the many memories of both experiencing and working with the ensemble.
Terry thinks music is the food of everything, not just love. He has used his lockdown to ‘explore Elliott Carter (who claimed that Corelli was his favourite composer), Scriabin (fabulous and increasingly bonkers) as well as Beethoven’s less well-known works.
I have been listening and watching the AAM since I was in short trousers and have been lucky enough to go to a good hundred or so AAM concerts in recent years, under Richard Egarr, Christopher Hogwood, our principals or visiting artists. I think the band is playing better than ever.
My playlist comes from just five of the composers with which our orchestra and choir is most associated. It celebrates the scholarship and showmanship that marks us.’
‘Beethoven is central to my love of music, although he is late in the range of music the AAM plays. We were meant to have heard a lot of live Beethoven in his 250th birthday year and the AAM kicked off the season with a complete Egmont, with Stephen Fry narrating excerpts of Goethe’s rather ridiculous text. Coriolan is one of the most visceral orchestral shorts I know and used to be a Carlos Kleiber staple.’
‘I used to perform this suite (very badly) when I was at school, as I think did Richard Egarr, an ex-flautist and our chairman Philip Jones. Playing it was a bigger test of lung capacity and control than I ever had in the gym. It’s hard enough on a flute with keys, let alone a baroque flute. Rachel plays it better than anyone, anywhere.’
JS Bach, St. John Passion, BWV245, Pt. 1: ‘Ich folge dir gleichfalls’
Elizabeth Watts, Richard Egarr
‘Bach got into trouble with the Leipzig authorities in 1724 who thought their new music director’s Passion music too operatic. I suppose we have to be grateful for their philistinism since the revision seven years later brought in some wonderful music. Thank God he didn’t think of jettisoning ‘Ich folge dir gleichfalls’, which sits at that place where Bach combines the devotional with dance music. It is sung here by the wonderful Elizabeth Watts, whom we usually hear in more robust, less naive music than Bach gives her here.’
‘Bach never heard these concertos as he sent them off as part of an unsuccessful job application to the Margrave of Brandenburg. They were discovered in 1849 by Siegfried Dehn, a musicologist who was rooting around the big Prussian libraries to see if there was anything interesting gathering dust. Richard Egarr recorded these concertos shortly before I joined the AAM board. Here we use a very low pitch (A=392) that gives the set a very different sound to other recordings. I am not entirely at home down there but the last concerto, with violas the highest strings, comes over marvellously, as if written in dark red ink.’
Mozart, La clemenza di Tito, K.621, Act 1: ‘Deh prendi un dolce amplesso’
Diana Montague, Cecilia Bartoli, Christopher Hogwood
‘This little duet was apparently Mozart’s favourite from this coronation opera that he wrote in a hurry while he was finishing the Magic Flute. In the theatre La clemenza can be a long evening unlike Idomeneo, the great opera seria of a decade before, which we need the AAM to perform. La clemenza’s plot advances only during recitatives, none of which Mozart had time to write. But any aria out of context is wonderful.’
‘The only live performance of the AAM under Christopher Hogwood that I remember was a Handel opera a year before he died. I didn’t know him well but each time we met he talked to me about Handel and Mendelssohn. This is an aria that everyone knows. Handel wrote it for an oratorio in 1707 and reused it for Rinaldo four years later. On the page it looks utterly simple. The hit of 1711 and 2020.’
‘Andrew Manze has conducted some wonderful Brahms and Vaughan Williams – though of course not with us! In his earlier incarnation as a violinist he made a super set of the Bach concertos that we have recorded and played with other artists such as Rachel Podger and Alina Ibragimova. Each movement of each concerto is a jewel.’
‘Mozart’s C minor Mass is one of those pieces I prefer at home than in concert, partly because (sorry Wolfgang) it can add up to less than its parts. There are large chunks incomplete. I am very keen that we perform and one day record Robert Levin’s lovely completion reconstructed quite freely from the surviving sketches. It adds about 30 minutes to what we know and puts this Mass as a third 90-minute masterpiece between the Bach B minor Mass and the Beethoven Missa Solemnis. Christopher Hogwood’s recording uses the Richard Maunder completion, which I find a bit academic, but it’s sung by Arleen Auger so all is forgiven.’
‘Robert Levin recorded almost all the Mozart concertos with the AAM a little while ago and we hope to complete the set soon. The 22nd isn’t played as often as it should be. It’s one of his longest and it can be tricky for period orchestras to programme other pieces around Eb. But it’s one of his most interesting – with a surprising diversion into minuet territory for one of the rondo episodes. He wrote it in 1785 alongside the six “Haydn” quartets, K466 and K467 and the beginnings of Figaro. His second child Karl was at the crawling stage and yet surprisingly he had some time to have fun – 1785 was the year he bought his own billiard table.’
‘Richard Egarr has performed and recorded too little Haydn with us. Our performance of Symphony 104 at the “Three Last Symphonies” concert six years ago was one of my all-time AAM half hours and had not a shred of warhorse routine. This Sturm und Drang symphony rounded off our first recording on the AAM label.’
‘Beethoven to finish. I associate the slow movement of this piece with my eldest son, so it’s a personal as well as musical choice. Beethoven dedicated this to his friend, pupil and patron Archduke Rudolf who also played the first performance in 1811. (LvB had been forced to give up performing in public three years before). One of my neighbours is the editor Jonathan del Mar and he tells me that many of the Archduke’s own scores of Beethoven are still preserved in the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna, many with LvB’s notes on fingering and dynamics to the pupil, often at variance to early editions; only a few have been opened and studied.’
‘Four years ago, the AAM played Stokowski’s rendition of this piece (with the violin part given to the cellos) at the Proms. There is probably a postmodern essay to be written about how a period band, led from the keyboard by one of the most authentically aware musicians alive, gave a twenty-first-century interpretation of Stokowski’s twentieth-century romantic, free-bowing, big-vibrato recomposition of an eighteenth-century masterpiece, never before played at baroque pitch on instruments Stokowski would not have known. But until that essay is written, it’s time to spend Sunday afternoon with this clotted cream tea version of Bach.’