KNOW THE SCORE; Academy of Ancient Music / Hogwood

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The Independent Culture
"Historically informed", "period instrument"; call it what you will, but this dynamic and forward-thinking policy has enhanced both the performance and reception of Baroque and Classical repertoire over the last 50 or so years. One of the leaders in that field has been our own Academy of Ancient Music, founded in 1973 by the conductor and musicologist Christopher Hogwood (above).

From the outset, his key concept has been "to allow modern audiences an opportunity to experience music as it might have sounded at the time it was written". Notice the strategic "might": Hogwood is simultaneously far too learned and down-to-earth to believe he has got the formula exactly right.

"'Authentic' is a very misleading word," he says, "because there is no one single and correct way of doing what we're doing. To give one example - take a Baroque vocal or choral work. We can employ 18th-century instruments but not 18th-century singers. Yet, through scholarship, one can also approach the issue via a healthy and hopefully revealing approximation."

Hogwood, and the Academy's judicious and informed approach has certainly paid off. Now celebrating its silver anniversary, the orchestra goes from strength to strength, having recently expanded to appoint Hogwood acolytes Paul Goodwin as Associate Conductor and Andrew Manze as Associate Director and Concert Master. An impressive triumvirate; and, in the midst of a hectic anniversary tour which takes in concerts in both Europe and South America, the Academy graces the Royal Albert Hall this week.

The concert is entitled "Music for Monarchs" and juxtaposes three rousing and large-scale Handel settings, with Water Music by him and concertos by Bach and Vivaldi, plus a Vivaldi motet. "With the Water Music, we do a suite comprising movements in their original order, rather than following the standard, 'modernised' division. In the case of the Bach Violin Concerto, Andrew Manze plays the solo and directs at the same time. And both the Vivaldi motet and concerto, plus Handel's 'Sing unto God', will, perhaps surprisingly, all be receiving their Proms premieres."

Looking back and looking forward at the same time has become their message. It is a smart way to operate. Happy 25th Birthday, Academy of Ancient Music.

Royal Albert Hall, London SW7 (0171-589 8212) 17 Aug, 7.30pm.

Duncan Hadfield