In 1981, Frans Brüggen, in his time the world’s most famous recorder player, founded the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century, which consists today of some fifty members from 23 different countries. Three (or more) times a year the orchestra assembles to go on tour. In its structure and size, the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century resembles the luxurious “Classical” orchestras of the period as we know them from London, Paris and Vienna. The musicians, who are all specialists in eighteenth and nineteenth century music, play on period instruments, or on contemporary copies. It is their intention to try to achieve the most authentic as possible performances of the masterpieces of the late baroque and classical era.
In concert Frans Brüggen’s wide-ranging repertoire with his Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century includes works by Purcell, Bach, Rameau, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Mendelssohn. After nearly 50 CDs on Philips, the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century has been recording exclusively for Glossa since 1997, in co-production with their own production house, The Grand Tour. Notable recordings which have been produced so far include Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto and music by a composer who Frans Brüggen has often returned to throughout his career, Jean-Philippe Rameau.
At the time of its foundation the Orchestra was supported by friends throughout the world and the Prince Bernhard Foundation. From 1983 to 1988 the orchestra was sponsored by IBM Europe. From 1989 till 1997 Deloitte and the VSB Fonds took over the sponsorship. Subsidies from the Dutch Government guaranteed the Orchestra’s continuation from 1985 till now.
* * *
Frans Brüggen is considered among the foremost experts in the performance of eighteenth century music. He was born in Amsterdam and studied musicology at its university. At the age of 21, he was appointed professor at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague and later held a position as Erasmus professor at Harvard University and Regents professor at the University of Berkeley.
As Luciano Berio wrote of him, he is “a musician who is not an archaeologist but a great artist”. In August 1991, Brüggen made his debut at the Salzburg Festival with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, an orchestra with which he became (along with Simon Rattle) a principal guest conductor. His continuing work with this orchestra sees him hold the position of Emeritus Conductor.
Frans Brüggen’s conducting activities in recent seasons have included collaborations with the Philharmonia Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Orchestra Sinfonica dell’Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, New Japan Philharmonic, Chicago Philharmonic and the San Francisco Symphony.
The Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century continues along its vibrant music-making journey, very much in the spirit of its founder Frans Brüggen, but now with invited conductors. In order to tackle the mighty Missa Solemnis by Beethoven, the orchestra has gone into partnership with the highly-regarded Daniel Reuss, who has recorded a sizeable number of critically-acclaimed choral masterpieces, many of them with Cappella Amsterdam. This fine example of a Dutch chorus is possessed of all the right skills needed for climbing this glorious mountain of a work, notably vocal agility and stamina. The chorus is joined by an out standing quartet of soloists in Carolyn Sampson, Marianne Beate Kielland, Thomas Walker and David Wilson-Johnson. [read more...]
The music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has always been one of the raisons d’être of Frans Brüggen’s Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century since its foundation back in 1981. In this sense, it’s no wonder that Mozart is the most represented composer on the 20-title strong The Grand Tour collection, the series within the Glossa label on which the orchestra has been issuing all its recordings since 1997. The Mozart output encompasses 6 titles on 8 CDs, now included in a new boxed set appropriately titled The Mozart Recordings...[read more...]
The morning of August 19 was a cool and strange one, with sunshine and rain following each other in rapid succession. At the door of the imposing Oude Kerk, in the heart of the old part of Amsterdam, the hearse bearing the body of Frans Brüggen, heavily laden with floral tributes, was ready for its departure; two accompanying black cars for family members – with yet more flowers – stood at its side, adding further solemnity to the scene. The bells of the church were tolling slowly and sombrely whilst a crowd of passersby and tourist visitors who had gathered respectfully in the vicinity, were looking on at the densely-packed and silent group of friends and colleagues who were seeing Frans Brüggen off on his last journey, all conscious that, once the hearse had turned the corner of the church and had advanced into the surrounding network of narrow streets and canals, and had disappeared from view, Frans would never more be among us.[read more...]
The collective artistic endeavours of Glossa have recently been recognized with an award of Label of the Year for 2014 by a Europe-wide panel of classical music media organizations – print and online magazines, as well as radio broadcasters – who form the International Classical Music Awards (ICMA) jury. This is to be presented at the Award Ceremony and Gala Concert in the Philharmonic Hall in Warsaw in April 2014. The Glossa adventure began back in 1992, led by two pioneering Spanish instrumentalists – brothers José Miguel Moreno and Emilio Moreno – who set about creating a treasure trove of recorded excellence, notably in the ever-developing field of “early music”. To this day, the label remains focused on its artists, supporting their musical journeys and inclinations, with the artistic direction entrusted to Carlos Céster. With a small team around him Céster operates from San Lorenzo de El Escorial, surrounded by the abundant natural riches of the mountains around Madrid and with an austere Monasterio in sight to ever encourage him in the rigour of his work. [read more...]
How has the orchestra’s approach to the Beethoven symphonies evolved over the years?
This is a discussion that is very much alive in the orchestra: when we first started, we had no repertoire. So, with every piece that we were approaching we had to work and to discuss, in the old-fashioned way. For years we worked like this, never doing more than one Beethoven symphony in a year – and then we played it over and over again. So, it took us twelve years before we completed the cycle with the Ninth. If you play such pieces again after so many years, things start to change: tempi have changed and whereas we had always been arrogant about all those conductors, who after a certain period of time, decided to rerecord pieces, we – the orchestra members and me personally – now think that it is a good idea to do it again. [read more...]