Watch an exclusive video interview with members of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Listen to an audio version
ORCHESTRA OF THE AGE OF ENLIGHTENMENT - Synopsis of the interview:
The orchestra was formed in the mid 1980s following a concert with the Academy of Ancient Music under the direction of the Belgian conductor Sigiswald Kuijken. The success of the concert prompted a number of players to form an ensemble that was to be fronted predominantly by guest conductors.
Whilst some performers were affiliated with other groups such as Christopher Hogwood's Academy of Ancient Music, and John Eliot Gardiner's English Baroque Soloists, the concept of forming an orchestra that was both player-led, and a vehicle for guest conductors, was most inspiring.
Sir Simon Rattle and Frans Brüggen are the two Principal Guest Conductors for the orchestra, and there are eight or nine other conductors that they work with on a regular basis, including Sir Charles Mackerras. To maintain the freshness and diversity for which they are known, they also try and work with at least one new director each year.
The orchestra enlists the services of conductors from various backgrounds, as well as period instrument conductors. Holland is a great center for period instrument playing, and in addition to their regular conductors, the orchestra has brought in several specialists from there.
Because of the player-led nature of the orchestra, the conductors they employ are always prepared to listen to input by the performers, and this is particularly relevant in period music because the instrumentalists will often know more about their instrument, and its capabilities than the conductors. As a result, there is a lot of interaction between the leaders, the sections and the conductors.
The members say it is an exciting and stimulating group to play with, and being able to contribute ideas makes it a most rewarding and unique experience.
The wind principals for the orchestra rarely change, and there are few vacancies, but if there were, the members have definite thoughts on the players they would want to have join the group.
Nearly all the members who were there from the start remain with the orchestra, but it has grown in size considerably, and they have taken on many new players.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
The Board of Directors is responsible for the business side of the orchestra - the 'nuts and bolts'. The Artistic Direction Committee is part of the board, and takes the ideas that the orchestra has come up with, and does their best to make them work.
A discussion on the origins and prospects of the orchestra is undertaken by the General Manager: 'it is a young orchestra that is constantly moving in new directions, and is developing and expanding all the time'.
The board has the responsibility of the long-term interests of the orchestra. They delegate responsibilities to the artistic directions committee who make the ultimate decisions.
Typically, the audiences that attend Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment performances are eclectic - there is a big crossover with the London Sinfonietta in particular, as well as jazz and dance company audiences.
Ultimately, people want to hear something different presented in a new, exciting way, but it is largely the vitality and enthusiasm of the group that makes it the success it has proven to be.