I Fagiolini gave its first concert in 1986 while its members were students at Oxford University. It has earned a reputation as one of Europe’s most inventive vocal ensembles and in 2006 was awarded the Ensemble prize by the Royal Philharmonic Society, the first time the prize has been given to any early music group.
I Fagiolini is grounded in the classics of Renaissance and twentieth-century vocal repertoire. In recent years its name has become synonymous with innovative staged productions of Renaissance music-theatre works. L’Amfiparnaso by Orazio Vecchi, issued on DVD by Chaconne in 2004, was the group’s first permanent record of such a production. In the same year, it began The Full Monteverdi, a dramatised account by John La Bouchardière of the composer’s Fourth Book of Madrigals (1603), which caused a sensation wherever it went. It has since been turned into a film now available on DVD. Other productions include masked performances of Handel, semi-opera by Purcell with puppets, The Birds, a new opera for vocal ensemble by Ed Hughes, with The Opera Group, and in 2009 ‘Tallis in Wonderland’, an aural fantasy with six live singers and 100 speakers.
I Fagiolini also gives regular recitals and has recorded nine other CDs for Chandos, focussing on neglected English and north Italian Renaissance repertoire. Its busy diary of live performances has taken it to the BBC Proms and prestigious festivals across western Europe, to Lincoln Center, New York, the Far East and both ends of Africa.
Collaborations with other musicians have included works by Byrd and Gibbons with Concordia and Fretwork, solo-voice performances of Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers with The English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble, and, most unusually, Simunye, part-improvised repertoire with the SDASA Chorale of Soweto. In 2008, with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, the group performed and filmed Berio’s Sinfonia for the first time. www.ifagiolini.com