Just over two decades ago, a group of London musicians took a good look at that curious institution we call the Orchestra, and decided to start again from scratch. They began by throwing out the rulebook. Put a single conductor in charge? No way. Specialise in repertoire of a particular era? Too restricting. Perfect a work and then move on? Too lazy. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment was born.
Since then, the OAE has shocked, changed and mesmerised the music world. Residencies at the Southbank Centre and Glyndebourne haven’t numbed its experimentalist bent. Record deals haven’t ironed out its quirks. Period-specific instruments have become just one element of its quest for authenticity.
Today the OAE is cherished more than ever. It still pushes for change, and still stands for excellence, diversity and exploration. And over two decades on, there’s still no orchestra in the world quite like it.