Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

Early Music Orchestra

• Founded 1986


The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment is a period-instrument chamber group that has pursued an innovative democratic structure with no permanent conductor. The group has worked with a great variety of collaborators, including the Royal Opera and Glyndebourne Festival Opera.

The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment was formed in 1986 by a group of young London musicians, all of whom had a deep knowledge of historical performance practices on their instruments. The group currently has 26 members who follow democratic procedures (the orchestra is formally a cooperative) in making performance decisions. There are, however, section principals and four leaders, as of 2021, violinists Huw Daniel, Kati Debretzeni, Margaret Faultless, and Matthew Truscott. There is no permanent conductor, but over the years, the orchestra has attracted such major conducting talents as Simon Rattle, Vladimir Jurowski, and Iván Fischer; Rattle and Frans Brüggen were named principal guest conductors. As the name suggests, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment focuses on the music of the 17th and 18th centuries and has performed music as early as Monteverdi and as late as Mahler on period instruments. The group has enjoyed long collaborations with several opera companies, including the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, where it has held the title of associate orchestra since 2002, and the Royal Opera, where it made its debut in 1995 performing in the original 1857 version of Verdi's Simon Boccanegra. The ensemble is also the resident orchestra at London's Southbank Centre, where it offers an annual season. It has appeared twice at the BBC Proms. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment also offers an informal concert series called "The Night Shift" and has toured the U.S., South America, and Southeast Asia. In September 2020, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment moved its headquarters to the Acland Burghley School campus in Tufnell Park, Camden, establishing a rehearsal hall, office, library, and recording studio there.

The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment has succeeded as a recording ensemble since 1992 when it released an album featuring C.P.E. Bach's little-known oratorio, The Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus. The group has recorded for Virgin Classics, Sony, Signum Classics, and many other labels. On an album released in the summer of 2021, the orchestra moved to the ECM label, backing pianist András Schiff in the piano concertos of Brahms.