Since his resignation from The English Concert in 2003, Pinnock has continued his career as a conductor, appearing with major orchestras and opera companies around the world. He has also performed and recorded as a harpsichordist in solo and chamber music and conducted and otherwise trained student groups at conservatoires. Trevor Pinnock won a Gramophone Award for his recording of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos with the European Brandenburg Ensemble, an occasional orchestra formed to mark his 60th birthday.
What I really had in mind was a journey of discovery into the unknown. Although I felt there were excellent interpretations of baroque music performed on modern instruments, I sensed that we'd come to the end of the road – and yet I knew that there were still discoveries to be made. I was thinking about the interesting experiments made by Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Gustav Leonhardt, although I knew we'd have to experiment in our own way. It was a huge challenge; playing period instruments wasn't as easy as it is today, and finding out their secrets was a difficult process. Nowadays an extraordinarily high technical level has been achieved and the upcoming generations don't have any of the problems we pioneers faced. We cleared the way.
Pinnock at the harpsichord
Pinnock was at the forefront of the period performance movement and the revitalisation of the baroque repertoire; the reaction of Leonard Bernstein to his performances is typical: "In my opinion, the work of the conductor Trevor Pinnock in this area is particularly exciting – his performances of Bach and Handel make me jump out of my seat!"
The English Concert's London debut was at the English Bach Festival in 1973. In 1975, Pinnock played the harpsichord in the first ever performance of Rameau's last opera, Les Boréades, under John Eliot Gardiner.
He toured North America with The English Concert for the first time in 1983; he had earlier spent two periods as Artist in Residence at Washington University, St. Louis. His debut at The Proms was in 1980; he later directed Handel's oratorio Solomon in 1986 and many other large-scale works with his orchestra. They toured worldwide and made numerous recordings, Pinnock directing "with a characteristic energy and enthusiasm which are readily communicated to audiences." The Choir of the English Concert was at first an ad-hoc group of singers assembled as needed, originally in 1983 for the first 20th century performance of Rameau's Acante et Céphise; it became an established choir for a period from the mid-1990s at the time they were performing Bach's Mass in B minor. This allowed the ensemble to regularly perform baroque operas, oratorios and other vocal works; a series of Bach's major choral works followed.
He directed The English Concert, usually from the harpsichord or chamber organ, for over 30 years, deciding, with the other orchestra members, to hand it over to violinist Andrew Manze in 2003. He explained the decision as follows:
There are other things I want to develop – or rather come back to. Having done The English Concert for 18–20 weeks per year, and guest conducting the rest of the time, I'd sacrificed playing the harpsichord rather more than I wanted to. I had to make a decision to move forward: there were certain solo projects I wanted to do, and I wanted to make the decision now rather than wait until after I am 60 and it's too late to do half of them. [...] There's a wealth of keyboard repertoire I want to revisit. I especially want to go back to the rich English repertoire such as Tomkins, Byrd, Bull and Gibbons.
From 1991–1996 he was artistic director and principal conductor of the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, a group he had first directed in 1985. He subsequently served as its artistic advisor during the 1996–1997 and 1997–1998 seasons, including a tour of the US with the performance and recording of Beethoven's1st and 5th piano concertos with Grigory Sokolov as soloist. He has made occasional return visits to the orchestra since relinquishing his formal position with them.
Pinnock directs the European Brandenburg Ensemble.
Since resigning his position with The English Concert, Pinnock has divided his time between performing as a harpsichordist and conducting both modern- and period-instrument orchestras. He has also taken an interest in educational projects.
In 2004 he commissioned modern harpsichord music by English composer John Webb, whose Surge (2004) "is built up over an implacable rhythmic repeat-figure. Though neither is explicitly tonal, each skilfully avoids the merely percussive effect that the harpsichord's complex overtones can all too easily impart to more densely dissonant music." He has also played the same composer's Ebb (2000), which "comprises a spasmodic discourse against a manic background of descending scale patterns like a kind of out-of-kilter change-ringing".
He toured Europe and the Far East in 2007 with the European Brandenburg Ensemble, a baroque orchestra, formed to mark his 60th birthday by recording Bach's Brandenburg Concertos and performing popular baroque music. Its recording of the concertos won the Gramophone Award for Baroque Instrumental in 2008. The band was not a permanent orchestra, but planned to reconvene in 2011 when Bach's St John Passion was to be the focus of their work.