Early Music Ensemble
• Founded 1984
The Concerto Italiano is a Baroque music group consisting of both a vocal and an orchestral ensemble. After gaining recognition in Europe, it has toured throughout the world and taken on major recording projects.
The Concerto Italiano was founded in 1984 by harpsichordist Rinaldo Alessandrini. The group gave its debut concert in Rome in 1984 in a performance of Francesco Cavalli's opera La Calisto, under the direction of Alessandrini, who has served as the group's music director since its founding. For the first decade of its existence, it was a vocal group only, known for performances of Monteverdi madrigals, and the operas and oratorios of Handel, A. Scarlatti, and other Baroque composers. During this decade, the group gradually built up a reputation in Europe as one of Italy's finest Baroque vocal ensembles. It drew broad international notice for a recording of Monteverdi's Fourth Book of Madrigals, which received a 1994 Gramophone Award, the first of five. The following year, Alessandrini formed the orchestral ensemble. In 1997, the vocal ensemble debuted in Japan, drawing lavish reviews. The orchestral ensemble drew an equally enthusiastic response for its American debut in 1999 at Lincoln Center. That tour also included concerts in South America, Japan, and parts of Europe.
After the orchestral arm of Concerto Italiano was founded, the ensemble began taking particular interest in the instrumental and operatic works of Vivaldi. In the 2000s, Concerto Italiano engaged in a massive project with the label Naïve to record all the operas and concertos of Vivaldi. The ensemble has also devoted time to the works of J.S. Bach, Pergolesi, and lesser-known composers such as Giovanni Legrenzi and Francesco Cavalli. In 2000, the group drew acclaim for its J.S. Bach performances at the Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall. On rare occasions, the group has ventured beyond Baroque repertory, most notably in an acclaimed 2001 recording of Rossini arias with soprano María Bayo.
Concerto Italiano recordings have primarily been released by Naïve and its subsidiary Opus 111, although some of the older recordings are available on Brilliant Classics. The ensemble's four additional Gramophone Awards were in 1998, 2002, 2004, and 2015. The first of these was for Monteverdi's Eighth Book of Madrigals; the next for Marenzio madrigals; third for the Vivaldi collection, Vespri Solenni per la Festa dell'Assunzione di Maria Vergine; and last for Monteverdi: Vespri solenni per la festa di San Marco, all of which were issued on Naïve or Opus 111. In 2019, Concerto Italiano released an album of Bach overtures on Naïve.