Performance Friday, November 7, 2014 | 7:30 PM

Academy of Ancient Music

Zankel Hall
In his four orchestral suites, Bach revealed the expressive potential of the Baroque orchestra and created the finest purely instrumental music of his day. It’s music that is festive (the First Suite’s exuberant bourrées), elegant (the stately menuets of the Fourth Suite), tender (the famous Air from the Third Suite), and virtuosic (the Second Suite’s Badinerie). The Academy of Ancient Music, lauded by The Times (London) for its “spunky, beautifully polished performances,” is led by director Richard Egarr.


  • 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

Event Duration

The printed program will last approximately two hours, including one 20-minute intermission.


  • Academy of Ancient Music

    For more than 40 years, the Academy of Ancient Music has enriched the lives of thousands the world over with historically informed performances of Baroque and Classical music of the highest calibre. Founded in 1973 by Christopher Hogwood, the orchestra has since performed on all six inhabited continents and recorded an unrivalled catalogue of more than 300 CDs.

    In 2006, Richard Egarr succeeded Mr. Hogwood as music director, and has since led the orchestra on tours of Europe, Australia, Asia, and the US. His notable recordings with AAM include J. S. Bach's "Brandenburg" concertos; Handel's complete instrumental works, opp.1-7; music by the 17th-century English composer Christopher Gibbons, and Birth of the Symphony: Handel to Haydn, the first release on the orchestra's in-house record label AAM Records.

    The AAM's artistic excellence has long been fostered by a range of guest artists. Pianist Robert Levin and singers Dame Emma Kirkby, Dame Joan Sutherland, and Cecilia Bartoli were among those who performed regularly with the AAM in the early days, and ongoing relationships with mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly, countertenor Iestyn Davies, and violinist Richard Tognetti lie at the heart of the AAM's present-day artistic success.

    The AAM's 2014-2015 season takes listeners on a musical grand tour, from Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea to Mozart's magisterial piano concertos via Venice and the North African coast. There are also plans for a tour of the US and Canada, with performances at the Music Center at Strathmore in Maryland and Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Planned releases on AAM Records this season include recordings of J. S. Bach's orchestral suites and the 1727 version of the St. Matthew Passion.

    The AAM is Associate Ensemble at the Barbican in London and Orchestra-in-Residence at the University of Cambridge. Visit for more information.

    Richard Egarr

    Richard Egarr brings a joyful sense of adventure and a keen, enquiring mind to all his music making. He is renowned for directing from the keyboard, conducting, playing concertos (on the organ, harpsichord, fortepiano, or modern piano), giving solo recitals, playing chamber music, and indeed talking about music at any available opportunity.

    Since 2006, Mr. Egarr has been Music Director of the Academy of Ancient Music, with whom current plans include a three-year Monteverdi opera cycle at the Barbican in London, where the orchestra is Associate Ensemble. In 2006, Mr. Egarr established the Choir of the AAM, and opera and oratorio lie at the heart of his repertoire.

    Mr. Egarr regularly appears as guest director with other leading ensembles, ranging from Boston's Handel and Haydn Society to the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and The Philadelphia Orchestra. He is currently principal guest conductor of the Residentie Orchestra in The Hague and Associate Artist of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. He holds teaching positions at The Juilliard School and at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam.

    During the 2014-2015 season, Mr. Egarr's plans in North America include an eight-concert tour with the Academy of Ancient Music, with appearances at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, his debut with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, a return to the Handel and Haydn Society, and a harpsichord recital at Carnegie Hall in February.

    Mr. Egarr's extensive recording output, mainly for Harmonia Mundi, includes solo works by Gibbons, Couperin, Purcell, Mozart, and J. S. Bach; an inspired collaboration with violinist Andrew Manze; and numerous discs with the AAM, including J. S. Bach's harpsichord concertos, "Brandenburg" concertos, and a MIDEM, Edison, and Gramophone award-winning series of Handel discs. His latest releases are of J. S. Bach's St. John Passion and orchestral suites with AAM on their own label, AAM Records, as well as Handel's harpsichord suites for Harmonia Mundi.

    Mr. Egarr trained as a choirboy at York Minster and Chetham's School of Music, and as an organ scholar at Clare College in Cambridge and with Gustav and Marie Leonhardt, who formed the inspiration for his work in historical performance.

    More Info


Bach's Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1068 (Air)
Academy of Ancient Music

At a Glance

Although Bach had access to top-notch instrumental ensembles both early and late in his career, the competing demands placed on him as a court and church musician meant that he wrote comparatively few works for orchestra. The varied instrumentation of his six “Brandenburg” concertos—which date from his short but conspicuously happy tenure as Kapellmeister to Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen—is mirrored in the orchestration of the four suites, or “ouvertures,” that he composed between the early 1720s and the late 1730s and showcased on the famous public concerts that he presented for patrons of Zimmermann’s coffeehouse in Leipzig.

Bach became director of the Leipzig Collegium Musicum in 1729 and served in that capacity on and off until the early 1740s. As a master keyboard player and highly proficient violinist, he was well equipped to fill the role of orchestra conductor. His son Carl Philipp Emanuel testified that he “could take in all the simultaneously sounding parts” of an orchestral score “at a glance”; moreover, his ear was so acute that he could “detect the slightest error even in the largest ensembles.”

The orchestral suites combine Bach’s contrapuntal genius with the lighter touch illustrated by the incorporation of traditional and contemporary dances. Above all, they demonstrate his gift for formal invention and shapely melody, notably in the ever-popular “Air” for strings from the Third Suite.
Program Notes
This performance is part of Baroque Unlimited.

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