When Christopher Hogwood, a prominent exponent of early music, founded the Academy of Ancient Music (AAM) in the 1970s, his goal was to create an orchestra with a difference. Turning his back on the trend at the time for playing classical music in a modern style, his gaze was fixed firmly on the past, on rediscovering sounds unheard for hundreds of years and deep diving into the context and history of classical masterworks so that he might recreate them, with reverence and passion, in the truest possible fashion.
It’s an ethos that the AAM, now an internationally acclaimed period instrument orchestra, has stayed true to in the intervening years. Looking beyond the sheet music and capturing the essence of works by great composers, they imbue ancient music with an exhilarating new lease of life.
Through exploring the sound-worlds known to Bach, Handel, Haydn and Mozart and using authentic traditional instruments (strings made of animal gut not steel, wooden flutes, violins minus chin rests), they are able to resurrect and reinvigorate baroque and classical music, so that the audience can enjoy it in the style and spirit it was originally performed.
Based in Cambridge, the AAM present a rich programme of concerts throughout the year, offering a chance to see some rarer classical delights. For example, next April, immerse yourself in the music world of 18th century London – and get acquainted with its resident bad boy, Jan Ladislav Dussek.
Putting the ‘lad’ into Ladislav, this notorious seducer of princesses and rumoured revolutionary was responsible for the fashion of solo pianists sitting sideways on to the audience. The reason? So that the assembled crowd might admire his handsome face…
This December meanwhile, the oft-overlooked genius of Telemann will be in the spotlight. History may favour his contemporary Bach, but things weren’t always that way – in fact, three centuries ago it was Telemann who was the flavour of the hour, being offered positions in preference to Bach.
Fast-forward to 2017, can Telemann’s work still stand up to Bach’s celebrated Brandenburg Concertos? Find out in Telemann & Bach – Reversed Fortunes on 12 December at West Road Concert Hall. Tickets are available from cambridgelivetrust.co.uk.