I went to an Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment concert last night for the first time since I got back to London in September. Time flies......it is hard to catch up with everything! The OAE is one of the most remarkable institutions to have emerged in London's musical life in the last 25 years. And I was glad to have been somewhat involved with them at an early stage in their life. In 1987, when I was General Administrator (now called General Director but the same job!) of Glyndebourne we invited them to play for one production the first of which was in 1989.
This was I think an important opportunity for this young orchestra which had only been established in 1986. The remarkable outcome for such a new orchestra was the result of two factors. We were planning a new da Ponte cycle with Peter Hall and Simon Rattle, and I attended the Idomeneo that Simon was conducting with the OAE at the Queen Elizabeth Hall that summer of 2007. This intersection was an inspiring coincidence - but one beset with potential drama.
The London Philharmonic Orchestra had been Glyndebourne's exclusive resident orchestra since 1964. I had lived through the painful break up of the relationship with the Royal Philharmonic at Glyndebourne when they were replaced by the LPO. So I was only too aware of the passionate feelings that could be aroused by such a move. So I had to tread very diplomatically with the management of the LPO at that time led by John Willan. There was tension, but we fundamentally had a good relationship and in the end it became clear that there were also advantages for the LPO not to be tied up with a commitment to six productions at Glyndebourne for a third of the year. But that was all 25 years ago!
In the intervening years the reputations of the OAE and the LPO have been hugely advanced, and they are now happy bedfellows both at Glyndebourne and as resident orchestras at the Royal Festival Hall/South Bank Centre. They are two of London's most precious musical crown jewels.
Last night was the enormous pleasure of a wonderful performance of Haydn's Creation. Adam Fischer is a passionate advocate for Haydn and his genial enthusiasm clearly works for the OAE, an orchestra of collaborative musicians if ever there was one. The splendid Schola Cantorum of Oxford (considerably expanded for this event from their normal chamber format) and a well chosen trio of soloists completed the line up.
Forthcoming concerts by the OAE on the South Bank (in the QEH) are on February 8 and 25 - the latter is András Schiff playing and conducting Mozart and Haydn - sold out of course! But I hope to be there.