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The Academy of Ancient Music will be conducted by Richard Egarr with Korean soprano Sumi Jo in a breathtaking showcase of English and Italian Baroque music at the Esplanade Concert Hall for two evenings on 16 and 17 May. The first programme features a set of luminous arias composed by Handel, Purcell, and Vivaldi, and also includes chamber works from Albinoni’s Concerto for 2 Oboes to Handel’s The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba. After a pre-show talk at 5pm on 17 May, the Academy of Ancient Music will perform an impeccable selection of solo and ensemble pieces in programme that includes Handel’s Organ Concerto, Bach’s perennially beloved Concerto for Violin and Oboe, and Handel’s Overture to Saul.
The Academy of Ancient Music, formerly directed by Christopher Hogwood, has long received wide and critical acclaim for its impeccable period performances. Musicians of the Academy also perform on a stunning collection of early Baroque instruments. In a recent interview, Richard Egarr, Music Director of the Academy of Ancient Music, spoke with Singaporean musicologist Jun Zubillaga-Pow on what audiences can expect from the showcase.
Q: How does the quality of period instruments affect the way a new member of audience might come to perceive the sound of the Academy of Ancient Music? Is this sound more European, possibly?
A: “Baroque instruments have colours inherently connected to their time and place of origin. A seventeenth-century violin from Mittenwald is discernibly different from a late eighteenth-century Italian violin, and Baroque wind instruments vary according to their place of origin likewise. A significant part of the creation of an ‘authentic’ Baroque sound involves the apprehension of such acoustic variegations and in light of the incorporation of said differences.”
Q: Does the Academy of Ancient Music acknowledge, approach and interpret English, Italian, and German music in discernibly distinct ways likewise?
A: “Yes! Each musical language has its own characteristic inflections, and such stylistic variations should be reflected in any given concert.”
Q: Do you suppose a period performance that reflects an understanding of historically-informed Baroque style and technique is a means by which instrumentalists might seek to remember the past?
A: “Musicians of the Academy use period instruments to understand the music that was written for them. This is coupled with a historical and technical understanding, and such is reflected in the music we perform for modern audiences today.”
Q: How might a new member of the audience come to approach a period performance?
A: “This music was written by incredible composers like Bach, Purcell, Vivaldi, and Handel; people who wrote music for communities from several walks of life. This is music that people can and will respond emotionally to. I’m sure that this great music can connect with any audience!”
Q: What special arrangements or care has the chamber ensemble taken in light of shaping and shading its performances for a venue as large as the Esplanade Concert Hall?
A: “We have to use everything we have to create maximum expression. That means playing as loudly as possible, but also, (and more importantly), playing as softly as possible – always the most special moments in a concert for me.”
Written and compiled by Duana Chan