The Academy of Ancient Music has always been a pioneer. Established to make the first British recordings of orchestral works using instruments from the baroque and classical period it has made more than 300 more, many of which are still considered definitive performances and keep the music of the baroque and classical periods alive for music lovers the world over
Back in 1973, most orchestras played old music in a modern style. Centuries of change had eroded the sound-worlds known to Bach, Handel, Haydn and Mozart: the instruments were different; the pitch was different; the number of players was different; the very essence and spirit of performances was different.
But change was in the air. Wouldn’t it be great, people asked, if we could turn the clock back; if we could find out more about composers’ original intentions and get closer to the style in which music was originally performed?
This was the spirit in which Christopher Hogwood founded the AAM. It was revolutionary. Centuries of convention were cut away as baroque and classical masterworks were heard anew. Music lovers worldwide were electrified. Ancient music got a thrilling new lease of life.
The stringed instruments in Hogwood’s new orchestra had strings made of animal gut, not steel. The trumpets had no valves. The violins and violas didn’t have chin rests, and the cellists gripped their instruments between their legs rather than resting them on the floor.
The whole orchestra worked together to rediscover sounds which hadn’t been heard for hundreds of years — but it wasn’t just the sound of the music which changed; it was how it felt. AAM performances were full of energy and passion and joy.
One of the world’s great orchestras
From these revolutionary beginnings, one of the world’s great orchestras was born. Over the next three decades the AAM’s fame spread to every corner of the globe as it built up a huge discography which now totals over 300 CDs — Brit and Gramophone award-winning recordings of the great baroque masterworks; celebrated opera releases starring Cecilia Bartoli, Dame Emma Kirkby and Dame Joan Sutherland; pioneering cycles of the Mozart and Beethoven symphonies. The AAM has performed live on every continent except Antarctica, inspiring music lovers worldwide with the power of music as it was originally intended.
The future of ancient music
Richard Egarr — a leading light in the next generation of early music specialists — succeeded Hogwood as Music Director in September 2006. He has released numerous recordings with the orchestra, winning the Edison, Gramophone and MIDEM awards; and he has directed hundreds of performances across four continents. In 2013 AAM stablished its own record label, AAM Records.
Today, the orchestra touches the lives of tens of thousands of audience members through its concert series in London and Cambridge and its national and international touring programme , and is proud to be the most listened-to orchestra of its kind online.
AAM’s education and outreach programme, AAMplify, nurtures the next generation of audiences and musicians. With this expanding programme, working from pre-school through tertiary education and beyond, AAM ensures its work reaches the widest possible audience and inspires people of all ages, backgrounds and cultural traditions.
The AAM resides in the historic city of Cambridge and is Orchestra-in-Residence at the city’s university. Its London home is the Barbican Centre, where it is Associate Ensemble, it is Orchestra-in-Residence at The Grange Festival, Chiltern Arts Festival, Music at Oxford and the Apex, Bury St Edmunds and a City of London Culture Mile partner.
Richard Egarr, Music Director