Academy of Ancient Music Plays Bach's Orchestral Suites

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Every Tuesday this spring, we're re-broadcasting concerts from the Carnegie Hall Live 2014-15 season. Tune in May 26 at 9 pm for the Academy of Ancient Music performing Bach's Orchestral Suites Nos. 1-4 in Carnegie's Zankel Hall. Richard Egarr leads the program of these stately, elegant and festive works.

Jeff Spurgeon and WNYC's John Hockenberry host the broadcast.

Program:
Academy of Ancient Music
Richard Egarr, Director and Harpsichord

ALL-BACH PROGRAM

  • Orchestral Suite No. 4 in D Major
  • Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B Minor
  • Orchestral Suite No. 1 in C Major
  • Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major

Take our AAM Quiz and we'll reveal the answer at the end of the broadcast.
What inspired the Academy of Ancient Music's name?
A: 2. An 18th Century academy founded for the purpose of rediscovering older music.

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We asked you to share your thoughts during the concert on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #CHLive. Below is a collection of your tweets and photos.


Christopher Hogwood conducts the Poznan Philharmonic Orchestra

An Ensemble Carries On After Death of Prominent Founder
By Brian Wise

The death of prominent conductor and musicologist Christopher Hogwood on September 24 came just as the orchestra he founded in 1973, the Academy of Ancient Music, was set to take on one of his signature pieces: the Orchestral Suites Nos. 1-4 of J. S. Bach. Along with a new recording of the suites, the British ensemble is bringing them on the road, with a North American tour that includes a stop at Carnegie's Zankel Hall. WQXR and NPR Music will broadcast this concert live.

Led by Hogwood's successor, harpsichordist Richard Egarr, the Academy of Ancient Music (AAM) seems bent on refreshing the familiar Orchestral Suites. The rap on them is familiar: these well-constructed works were good for business but not known for their gravity or grandeur, particularly when compared with some of Bach's church works or fugal masterpieces.

Even so, the four pieces – each an amalgam of French, Italian and German styles – display some of the fascinating ways that Bach would approach the festive side of music-making. The suites usually begin with an overture, followed by a collection of dances. Suite No. 2 is a display vehicle for the transverse flute – a hot property in the 1730s – while the Suite No. 3 contains the famous "Air on the G String," often used in weddings and TV commercials. Suites Nos. 1 and 4 show the influence of French style, all grace and nuance.

In performance, AAM follows a practice established by Hogwood in the 1980s, presenting only one string to a part, so there are often more trumpeters than violinists. AAM arrives at Carnegie Hall after having played the suites in Paris and Montreal (the group tours constantly, in addition to holding residencies at the Barbican in London and at the University of Cambridge). The hometown critics have expressed their approval of the Orchestral Suites recording. "The rewards are glorious," writes Stephen Pritchard writes in the Observer, "with Egarr at the harpsichord driving the delightfully clean and springy rhythms, every detail sharply defined, each separate timbre there for us to enjoy."