Academy of Ancient Music Plays Bach's Orchestral Suites

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Friday, November 07, 2014

The Academy of Ancient Music at Zankel Hall on Nov. 7, 2014 The Academy of Ancient Music at Zankel Hall on Nov. 7, 2014 (A.J. Wilhelm for NPR)

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.

Academy of Ancient Music
Richard Egarr, Director and Harpsichord


  • 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.


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."

Comments [7]

Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

Like Shakespeare, JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH, had such comprehensive vision of the world he knew and such an imagination and compositional virtuosity to reach deep into many formats and get his message across. MOZART, BEETHOVEN and WAGNER IMHO are the only other musical geniuses that may still be as BACH widely played and appreciated one hundred years from now.

Nov. 11 2014 08:31 PM

@ The Truth -- Word! DD~~

Nov. 10 2014 02:44 AM
The Truth from LES

Please, WQXR, give us more than excepts of instrumental transcriptions during this festival. How about some harpsichord, which was actually played during Bach's day? Or some of his cantatas? Where have they been? Why not start the morning with the St. Matthew Passion rather than relegate it to the late night hours?

You call this "Bachstock," which suggests revolutionary fervor and upending the establishment but mostly, this sounds like WQXR's pandering, business-as-usual programming.

Nov. 07 2014 07:43 PM
Peter O'Malley from Oakland, New Jersey

J.S. Bach was pretty damned good, and I hope that this project will feature more of his vocal music than we are usually wont to hear on WQXR.

But, please, spare us the promo spots with Jeff Spurgeon, well armed with copy written to allow him to sound his most pompous, talking down to his benighted listeners about such basic stuff as what BWV means. I think the hardcore classical fans knew that before he did!

Nov. 01 2014 05:17 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

Great as BACH was/is each composer has his/her own style and format and content so it is not appropriate to claim the top of the totem pole to any one great composer, no matter how great. I am partial to RICHARD WAGNER because his music most touchest both my personal and professional life. But Mozart, Beethoven, Bellini, Verdi, Puccini, Berlioz, Saint-Saens, Gounod, Massenet, Giordano, Schubert, Arnold Schonberg, Brahms, Richard and Johann Strauss, Bizet, Meyerbeer and Hugo Wolf all have legitimate claims on my leisure as well as professional life. Ask a mother or father who their favorite child is if they have more than one and one will see it is not that easy to marginalize one's preferences. ALL deserve our attention and respect. There will always be time and devotion cheerfully dedicated to the presentation of this great master's ouevre. The test of time is virtually always the most respected judgment on the preciousness of anything. BACH's music has met that test. www.WagnerOpera

Nov. 01 2014 03:02 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH is one of the great titanic geniuses of music and his music and its influence will be forever with us no matter what the current fads that will turn up as certainly as day follows night. SIngers and instrumentalists and music lovers all clamor for more BACH. I am a Wagnerian heldentenor, an opera composer ["Shakespeare" and "The Political Shakespeare"], teacher of voice production and I train and coach big-voiced singers in the Wagner rep and actors in the Shakespeare oeuvre.

Nov. 01 2014 01:28 PM
patricia Cooper

THURSDAY is November 7th. Which night is performance?

Oct. 31 2014 09:56 AM

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