In 1981, Frans Brüggen and a group of friends founded the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century: fifty young pioneers from more than fifteen different countries came together in Amsterdam to join forces. The musicians were all specialists in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century music and played on historical instruments or contemporary copies.
Frans Brüggen, once the world’s most famous recorder player, became one of the leading experts in the performance of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century music. He was born in Amsterdam and studied musicology there. At the age of 21, he was appointed professor at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague and later held positions as professor at Harvard University and the University of Berkeley. But as Luciano Berio wrote, Brüggen was “a musician who is not an archaeologist, but a great artist”.
The broad repertoire that the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century has recorded for Philips Classics and currently for The Grand Tour / Glossa, includes works by Purcell, Bach, Rameau, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn and Chopin. Many of these recordings received worldwide acclaim and prestigious awards. Recent recordings include the clarinet concertos of Carl Maria von Webern played by Eric Hoeprich and the cello concertos of CPE Bach with Roel Dieltiens. With Daniel Reuss and his choir Cappella Amsterdam, the orchestra recently recorded Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis and Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem.
In August 2014, the orchestra had to say goodbye to Brüggen, their friend, conductor and founder. The orchestra decided to continue the tradition of seven projects per year and now invites guests as musical leaders. However, Brüggen’s inspiration will continue to play a prominent role and influence the Orchestra in the years to come.
In the recent past the orchestra has played with guest conductors such as Daniël Reuss, Kenneth Montgomery, Roger Norrington, Philippe Herreweghe, Sigiswald Kuijken, Marcus Creed, Jonathan Nott, Andrea Marcon, Jonathan Darlington and Ivan Fisher.
The Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century also tours in smaller formations, led by concertmasters Marc Destrubé from Canada and the Austrian violinist Alexander Janiczek.
The orchestra also cherishes the tradition of inviting like-minded soloists as musical directors. Kristian Bezuidenhout, Isabelle Faust, Alexander Melnikov and Maria João Pires led the orchestra in the recent past. A project with cellist Nicolas Alstaedt is planned for May next year.
300 compositions by 38 composers during 169 tours in 350 cities, 35 countries and 5 continents
The Orchestra recently invited Louis Andriessen to compose a piece for orchestra and choir in memory of Frans Brüggen. The premiere of May in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw marked the beginning of the Orchestra’s 40th anniversary: the first four happy decades with 50 friends performing 300 compositions by 38 composers during 169 tours in 350 cities, 35 countries and 5 continents.