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The English Concert

One of England's earlier period-instrument ensembles devoted to Baroque repertory, The English Concert remains a premier orchestra. The group's bright, lively sound has influenced several generations of Baroque ensembles, and it has spawned several important careers. The English Concert was founded by harpsichordist Trevor Pinnock in 1972 when he gathered a group of seven players to explore Baroque repertory. The ensemble grew as more players showed interest, and by the following year, it had assumed its current orchestral shape, with about 20 players. The English Concert made its debut in 1973 at the English Bach Festival, and its sound, fresh at the time with Bach-era historical instruments and little string vibrato, made a splash and led to the group's signing with Archiv Produktion, the historical-performance arm of the Deutsche Grammophon label. In 1983, the group established the English Concert Choir, and since then, the massed ensemble has frequently performed 18th century choral works. The English Concert's sound was largely defined by Pinnock, who conducted from the harpsichord; he remained the group's music director until 2003 when he was succeeded by violinist Andrew Manze. Harpsichordist Harry Bicket succeeded Manze in 2007 and remains music director. The English Concert has performed frequently at major London venues, including Wigmore Hall, Cadogan Hall, and the BBC Proms, and has made several foreign tours, including a 25th-Anniversary tour of Asia. The ensemble has shown a flair for popularizing historical-instrument performances; under Manze, the group re-created the original performance of Handel's Water Music on a barge in the Thames River for a performance recorded by the BBC and issued in DVD form. The English Concert is perhaps best known for its recordings, which as of 2021, numbered well over 130, with as many as a half-dozen albums appearing in a single year. The group's contract with Archiv continued for many years; Manze made several albums with the orchestra on Harmonia Mundi, and it has also recorded for Decca, Deutsche Grammophon, and other labels. In 2021, The English Concert backed a production of Handel's opera Rodelinda, recorded on the Linn label.
© James Manheim /TiVo
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