Ancient Music finds a leader

Ancient Music finds a leader


norman lebrecht

November 18, 2020

The Academy of Ancient Music has named Laurence Cummings, 52, to succeed Richard Egarr as music director from next September.

Both are noted Handelians.

Egarr, who led the AAM for 15 years, is now with the Philharmonia Baroque in San Francisco.


  • Will says:

    Fantastic news and a well deserved role for Laurence! ..

  • Sharon says:

    Is Handel considered ancient?
    Although he may have used Biblical lyrics did he ever incorporate what was then considered to be Biblical era melodies?

    • Marfisa says:

      Your second question is really fascinating. I hope somebody on this site can answer it. The Lutheran and the Anglican churches knew the Gregorian plainsong melodies and used them. I don’t know if Handel ever did; he never composed a Mass, and I think his Te Deums are the only Latin liturgical texts he set to music. But what about Synagogue Chants? Would eighteenth-century Christians have heard them?

      “The original Academy of Vocal Music was founded in London, England in 1726 for the purpose of studying and performing “old” music — defined initially as anything composed at least a century earlier. Around 1730/1 it was renamed the Academy of Ancient Music, and continued to grow in membership … George Frideric Handel was never a member, although the society studied and performed his music as well as their own, and that of other composers of the day. Directors of the organization included Johann Christoph Pepusch (from 1735 onwards), Benjamin Cooke and Samuel Arnold (from 1789 onwards).” (Wiki)

      • MWnyc says:

        Handel’s Te Deums are all in English and were written for Anglican services.

        He did write some sacred music in Latin: except for one setting of Laudate pueri and the Gloria (from Hamburg) and “Silete venti” (from London), all of it was from his time in Italy, mostly from his stay in Rome in 1707. These days one usually hears it collected in a program titled “Roman Vespers” or “Carmelite Vespers” (and the Dixit Dominus is frequently performed on its own).

        Did Handel ever hear synagogue chants? I’m inclined to doubt it; I think visits to another faith’s actual worship services were probably rare before the 20th century. He certainly heard “Gregorian” chant in Italy; he quotes a chant Psalm tone in Nisi Dominus, but I can’t think of any other time he actually used chant in his own music.

        (The tune in the chorus “Praise the Lord with harp and tongue” from Solomon, the one that’s often misidentified as “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”, is the Lutheran chant for the Sanctus, but I don’t think that melody came from the Roman church.)

        And yes, the Academy of Ancient Music that does concerts and recordings today is specifically named after the Academy of Ancient Music from 1730s London.

  • John Bickley says:

    He has also been appointed director of Cambridge Early Music’s Baroque Summer School from 2022