The Akademie für Alte Musik, Berlin was perhaps the first period-instrument orchestra founded behind the Iron Curtain, and it remains a leader in the field today. The group has specialized in the music of Bach and other composers of the German Baroque but has also performed and recorded Italian and French music, both instrumental and operatic.
The Akademie für Alte Musik, Berlin (the Berlin Academy of Early Music) arose in 1982 in what was then East Berlin. Its members were young local players who had become interested in the burgeoning historical performance scene in the West and sought to emulate it by experimenting with old instruments. After a prolonged rehearsal period, they made their debut in 1984 at Berlin's Schauspielhaus theater. Organized as a cooperative, they stood partially outside East Germany's cumbersome state musical bureaucracy, and they soon found bookings beyond Berlin at such events as the Handel Festival in the city of Halle. After German reunification, the group's fame became international, and their performances and recordings were marked by collaborations with such international stars as Dutch keyboardist Ton Koopman, soprano Cecilia Bartoli, and Belgian conductor René Jacobs. The group has appeared on tour at Carnegie Hall in New York, and the orchestra earned a Grammy award in 2002 when it backed Bartoli on an album of arias by Christoph Willibald Gluck. At home, the orchestra, often using the acronym AKAMUS, is a major part of Berlin's cultural life, presenting some 100 concerts a year. The group varies in size but has a core membership of about 30 players.
Another by-product of German reunification was a rapid expansion in the orchestra's recording career. AKAMUS recorded for Berlin Classics and Capriccio in the early 1990s and then was signed to the French label Harmonia Mundi, releasing a recording of Bach's secular cantatas relating the story of Phoebus und Pan, with Jacobs as conductor, in 1996. That recording, like several others by the group, was made with Berlin's RIAS Kammerchor. The orchestra has recorded more than 50 albums for Harmonia Mundi, including a set of Bach violin concertos with German violinist Isabelle Faust in 2019.