This society was first established in London, England, specifically for the performance and study of music that was no less than 100 years old. It had originally been the Academy of Vocal Music co-founded in 1710 by the German composer Johann Christian Pepusch, the composer and oboist John Earnest Galleard and Bernard Gates who was employed at the Queen’s Chapel amongst others and renamed the Academy of Ancient Music in 1726.
The century-old rule didn’t continue though as the works of more and more composers that were active in more recent years crept in and enlarged their repertoire. Johann ChristophPepush became a director of the Academy in 1735 and remained there until his death in 1752 with Benjamin Cooke, who had previously sung as a boy soprano at the Academy, becoming his successor. He, in turn, was succeeded by the composer and organist Samuel Arnold in 1789.
The Academy seemed to dissolve during the early 19th century but more than 150 years later in 1973 the harpsichordist and conductor Christopher Hogwood decided to revive it and use period instruments to give performances of compositions from predominantly the 18th century. He also brought in choirs to accompany them when necessary and these came from colleges or cathedrals or by their own Academy of Ancient Music Chorus.
23 years after he brought the Academy back and directed them, Christopher Hogwood brought in Andrew Manze to act as his Associate Director and also Paul Goodwin who became their Associate Conductor and brought in many commissions of new works by contemporary composers such as David Bedford, Thea Musgrave, John Woolrich and John Tavener. Andrew Manze was succeeded in 2005 by Richard Egarr after he had resigned the post two years previously in 2003.
In 2006 Christopher Hogwood left his position as Music Director and became an Emeritus Director of the Academy.
They have been the orchestra-in-residence at the University of Cambridge and are known for their many live performances where they have given concerts at several acclaimed international venues with Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Barbican, Wigmore Hall as some of many and also featuring at the BBC Proms.
From their revival in 1973 the Academy of Ancient Music has been extremely active in the studio and totting up over 300 pioneering recordings to date. They have regularly won awards since 1978, including a 1995 Grammy Award, and are recognised for their recordings of all of Beethoven’s symphonies and piano concertos and also being the first to use period instruments to record Mozart’s entire catalogue of symphonies. They have made recordings of many other acclaimed works by composers that include J.S. Bach, Geminiani, Handel, Haydn, Pergolesi, Purcell, Schutz and Vivaldi.
Here they are giving a performance of Handel’s “Zadok the Priest”…