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The Berlin Phil, the Gewandhaus, and the CBSO have long done it, and now the Mariinsky are doing it too: sending a posse of top instrumentalists as chamber-music outriders to their main orchestral push. Making their British debut under Valery Gergiev in the Guildhall's new Milton Court auditorium, the Stradivarius Ensemble went through their paces with three works which showcased their instruments as much as their talent. For these were no ordinary instruments: Strads and Guarneris, Guandinis and Amatis, all from the golden age of string manufacture.

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Britain’s first Academy of Ancient Music was founded in 1726 as a private club of singers meeting in a London tavern to entertain each other: ‘ancient’ meant anything not in the contemporary repertory. Britain’s second AAM was founded in 1973 by harpsichordist Christopher Hogwood, to perform what was now called ‘early music’ on original instruments. Over the past four decades they have helped revolutionise early-music performance, blazing a trail followed by Baroque ensembles everywhere.

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