With plans firmly in place to move to Kings Place in 2008, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment will have come of age. Inhabiting a place of oneís own is what every child aspires to, and in this the OAE is no different from any other orchestra. Born to the aristocracy of historically informed performance groups (Academy of Ancient Music, the English Concert, the English Baroque Soloists, London Classical Players), the OAE was determined to be independent from the outset.

Throughout its 21 years, the OAEís pioneering spirit has reasserted itself repeatedly. It was the first orchestra to invite ëmoderní conductors who wanted the experience of working with period instruments but had no vehicle with which to work. Rattle, Mackerras and Elder were three of the first to be invited. Rattleís affiliation with OAE in particular has been one of the few constants that withstood his move from Birmingham to Berlin. The presence of such top-flight conductors not only provides liberating experience for the players but also attracts other top players who want to carry on learning.

All the while, decisions of what to programme and whom to invite remain the prerogative of a continually rotating group of players, whose desire to explore the boundaries brought them into previously uncharted territory: period instrument performances of Mozartís Da Ponte trilogy at Glyndebourne, 19th century opera under Mark Elder, and Wagner under Rattle at the Proms.

Since those heady years, the players have experimented with myriad ways to expand their knowledge and understanding of the repertoire. Most recently a one-week residency in Aldeburgh enabled them to study the St. John Passion from the perspective of the Evangelist, Mark Padmore. In Dartington, the orchestraís residency led by Rachel Podger gave the players the opportunity for concentrated work with amateur musicians.

The prospect of a permanent home for both musicians and administration brings with it a whole raft of new questions and challenges. Typical of the orchestraís foresightedness, the OAE has invited into its ranks Ivan Fischer, Vladimir Jurowski and Sir Simon Rattle as Principal Artists, and Frans Br¸ggen, Sir Charles Mackerras and Sir Roger Norrington as Emeritus Conductors, while snapping at the heels of the founder members are new generations of OAE players, many of which have graduated from the Jerwood/OAE Experience.

  • The OAE announces today a 6-year cultural exchange programme with SimÛn BolÌvar Youth Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, in collaboration with FESNOJIV (Stateís Foundation for the National System of Youth and Childrenís Symphony Orchestras of Venezuela). Spanning from 2006 to 2012, the scheme will comprise of teaching, learning, and performing ñ resulting in joint performances and residencies by the OAE and Orquesta Sinfonica in both the UK and Venezuela. Starting this year, OAE musicians will visit Venezuela, and a return visit by the Orquesta Sinfonica to the UK has been planned for 2007.

  • The OAE opens its 21st birthday year on 19 September at the Queen Elizabeth Hall with an evening of music and drama chronicling Haydnís first visit to London in 1791. For the OAEís latest experiment of ìenlighteningî the music it performs, Simon Callow and Emeritus Conductor Frans Br¸ggen will devise dramatic interludes that illustrate Haydnís relationship with the German/British impresario Johann Salomon who brought the modestly-known Haydn to London and made him the musical superstar of Europe.

  • Two further new presentation initiatives of the 21st Birthday season include a live musical dissection of Mozartís Jupiter Symphony with Robert Levin and Annette Isserlis (12 December) and an opportunity for audience members to be coached and then participate in a performance of Bachís St. Matthew Passion conducted by Principal Artist Iv·n Fischer (2 April).

  • Also part of the OAEís South Bank season are a Handel arias concert featuring Ian Bostridge and Harry Bicket (12 October), Thomas Zehetmairís conducting debut with the OAE (22 November), Vladimir Jurowski and Christian Tetzlaffís virtuosic encounter (25 January), Mark Elderís latest bel canto discovery with Opera Rara ñ Donizettiís Imelda deí Lambertazzi (10 March), and the Bohemian leg of the Baroque Journeys with violinist/director Rachel Podger (24 May). These concerts are supplemented with an all-Dvoř·k concert with Sir Simon Rattle and Steven Isserlis at the Barbican (15 May) and a return visit to the Royal Opera House working with Sir Charles Mackerras in Handelís Orlando (26 Februaryñ13 March).

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