Looking back on 10 years with The English Concert, it is fascinating to see how much has changed and how much has stayed the same in the intervening period. The orchestra still plays to a higher and higher level, as exemplified in the Medici broadcast of Ariodante with Joyce DiDonato from Carnegie Hall last season, though there are of course many new faces. In fact over 50% of the orchestra have been appointed since the beginning of my time as Artistic Director, and we continue to fill positions with the best young players from around the world.
Our theatrical collaborations continue with Tom Morris and the Bristol Old Vic (Messiah, available on Apple music), as well as in our semi-staged, though no less theatrical, performances of Handel operas and oratorios commissioned by Carnegie Hall, in what has become a sold-out annual event in New York City. This year it is the turn of Rinaldo, with Iestyn Davies taking time off from his Broadway run of Farinelli and the King to play the errant knight. As in all our US activities, we are hugely grateful to our American Friends (TECA) for the extraordinary fundraising and audience building they do on our behalf. Our series of operas at the Buxton Festival continue this year with Mozart’s Lucio Silla, conducted by Laurence Cummings, performed in Frank Matcham’s gem of an opera house in the Peak District.
The history of The English Concert has always to some extent reflected the backgrounds of its Artistic Directors; Trevor Pinnock’s origins as a harpsichordist, Andrew Manze’s as a violinist and mine as an opera conductor. The one area that has not been deeply explored by us has been that of chamber music and Classical keyboard repertoire, and so it is with enormous pleasure that I welcome Kristian Bezuidenhout as our new Principal Guest Director. He is well known to all our players, and I know they are as thrilled as I am that they will have a regular collaboration with one of the greatest fortepianists, harpsichordists and directors of his generation.
One of the attractions of the orchestra for Kristian is that, as well as being an extraordinary chamber orchestra, all our players are superb soloists in their own right, and this season offers the chance to hear them not only in chamber concerts at the Wigmore Hall, King’s Place and Buxton Festival, but also in concerti throughout the year. Our next recording will be of virtuoso concerti highlighting these wonderful players, a fitting tribute to the musicians who in every concert set the standard for baroque orchestras around the world.