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Villa Pisani ‘La Rocca’, Lonigo
I Fagiolini, Robert Hollingworth (director)
With its striking hilltop site, La Rocca (designed 1576) is perhaps the most famous of Italian Palladian villas not by Palladio himself, being the creation of his best pupil and assistant, Vincenzo Scamozzi (1548–1616). Open to the elements through an oculus in the dome and intended only for occasional entertainments, this remarkable building approaches the status of pure architecture, untrammelled by functional compromises. It remains privately owned.
Exactly 400 years ago in 1614, recently arrived in Venice, Monteverdi (1567–1643) published his last book of five-voice madrigals. Having been increasingly discontent with his employment at the Gonzaga court in Mantua, his book bowed to no patron and underlined his status as occupant of Europe’s top musical job. It includes the great madrigal cycle, Incenerite spoglie, written on the death of a soprano friend, and presented works for solo voices and accompaniment in a new musical style.
By contrast, the music by Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa (1566–1613), a Neapolitan aristocrat with connections to the court at Ferrara, stayed firmly in the a capella tradition, but pushed the boundaries of harmonic daring to completely new limits.
Founded in 1986 while its members were students at Oxford (the name a satirical reference to the Early Music world), I Fagiolini have achieved world-wide fame with performances memorable as much for their drama as for musical excellence. Their repertoire is mainly Renaissance, and mainly Italian, but also encompasses the twentieth century. In addition to 19 CDs they have released three DVDs, L’Amfiparnaso, the sensational The Full Monteverdi and How Like An Angel.
Chiesa di San Filippo Neri, Vicenza
Andreas Scholl (counter-tenor)
Sonatori de la Gioiosa Marca
Antonio Vivaldi (1678–1741) was as accomplished a composer of spiritually uplifting devotional music as of instrumental compositions and opera – after all, he was a priest. The programme includes Vivaldi settings of Nisi Dominus and Stabat Mater. They were composed while he was maestro di concerti at the Ospedale della Pietà, the orphanage for girls in Venice to which Il Prete Rosso (The Red Priest) brought Europe-wide fame through his musical activities.
‘It might be a new Golden Age of the counter-tenor, but few can equal the sheer beauty of tone and dramatic instinct displayed by Andreas Scholl’ (BBC Music Magazine, February 2012). For over two decades he has thrilled audiences worldwide with his opera and concert performances, and dazzled with a series of extraordinary recordings. He brings to his art not just a voice of incomparable beauty and expressiveness but also an acute intelligence allied with historical understanding. A versatile and experimental artist – his latest acclaimed recording is of German Lieder – but with this programme he happily returns to his core repertoire, the Italian Baroque.
Founded in Treviso (a city in the Veneto awarded during the Renaissance the epithet ‘Marca Gioiosa’), the Sonatori de la Gioiosa Marca have become one of the most acclaimed period instrument groups in Italy, renowned both for their Vivaldi interpretations and for their study of lesser-known composers of the Veneto.
The Church of St Filippo Neri is situated in Corso Palladio, the main street of Vicenza. Though it was built in 1730, a century and a half after Palladio’s death, and the façade was added a hundred years after that, essentially it is Palladian in style, demonstrating the extraordinary longevity of the great architect’s influence in the Veneto.
Villa Contarini, Piazzola sul Brenta
I Fagiolini, Robert Hollingworth (director)
Venice at Carnival: six to ten weeks of misbehaviour between Christmas and Lent. The population doubled in size and the best musicians and commedia dell’arte groups consorted with patricians and princes in whose palazzi their ticketed performances took place. I Fagiolini re-create an evening of mascarate, madrigals and musical mayhem by Giovanni Croce’s own close harmony group of St. Mark’s singing men. Caricatures by Croce himself; a trip along the Brenta canal courtesy of a supposed Benedictine monk; Andrea Gabrieli’s dialect lament calling on the lagoon’s seafood to bewail the death of Willaert; excerpts from Vecchi’s madrigal comedy L’Amfiparnaso (Twin Peaks).
The Contarini were one of the richest and most powerful of Venetian clans, and their villa at Piazzola sul Brenta spreads around courts and gardens and canals with commensurate splendour. At its heart is a villa of the 1540s, controversially attributed to Palladio, but it was much extended and ornamented in several campaigns in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, resulting in the most Baroque of the great villas of the Veneto. The concert takes place in a purpose-built music room.
The tragic mode is a necessity for vocal ensembles specialising in Renaissance music, and I Fagiolini are no exception, but they are distinguished also by their talent for comedy.
Villa Godi Malinverni, Lugo di Vicenza
Sonatori de la Gioiosa Marca
Nestling in foothills twenty miles north of Vicenza, the Villa Godi Malinverni is the earliest major villa design attributable to Andrea Palladio. The monumentality of its impact arises from its simple, almost cuboid massing and sophisticated set of proportions. Inside it is richly frescoed by Giovanni Battista Zelotti. The concert is by kind permission of Christian G. Malinverni.
The programme consists of music for strings composed by contemporaries of Andrea Palladio who worked in the Veneto. These include Andrea Gabrieli and Giovanni Gabrieli, Giorgio Mainerio, Gioseffe Guami, Cesario Gussago, Cipriano de Rore, Tarquinio Merula and Giovanni Battista Fontana. The intention is to provide the aural counterpart to Palladio’s architecture, thereby to enhance the appreciation of both arts.
Along with their interpretations of masterpieces by Vivaldi, the Sonatori have devoted themselves to the re-discovery of the great musical tradition of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Italy. They have performed in most of the major festivals and concert halls in Europe and a few beyond. They have made many recordings, some for the project ‘Musiche per Archi della Repubblica di Venezia’ (‘Music for Strings of the Republic of Venice’). They have won a Diapason d’Or and received the Premio Vivaldi.
Teatro Olimpico, Vicenza
La Venexiana, Claudio Cavina (director)
Designed in 1580, the year of his death, the Teatro Olimpico was Palladio’s last major project. It was also the first purpose-built theatre of modern times. Clearly based on his studies of Ancient Roman theatres (though with the semicircular bank of seating squashed by the refusal of the neighbour to sell some land), a roof adapts the model to modern conveniences. Construction continued for five years under the supervision of Vincenzo Scamozzi, who also designed the splendid backdrop of perspectival streets which represented Thebes for a performance of Oedipus Rex. This is a unique survival, and can now be viewed as an image of the ideal Renaissance city.
L’Orfeo, favola in musica was composed by Claudio Monteverdi to a libretto by Alessandro Striggio for a performance at the Mantuan court in 1607. It is generally considered to be the first fully-fledged opera, yet continues to be rated as one of the finest operas of all time.
The convergence of these phenomena of the highest historical and artistic importance makes this concert an exceptional cultural occasion.
This is a concert version of L’Orfeo, performed in two halves (with an interval between) of about 45 minutes.
La Venexiana, directed by Claudio Cavina, is one of the most celebrated Renaissance and Baroque vocal ensembles in the world today. Beginning primarily with madrigals, they established a new style in the performance of Italian early music, a warm, truly Mediterranean blend of textual declamation, rhetorical colour and harmonic refinement. They have recorded all three of Monteverdi’s surviving operas.
Villa Pisani, Stra
La Serenissima, Adrian Chandler (violin, director)
The concert is preceded by dinner for everyone in the seventeenth-century hall of the adjacent Villa Foscarini Rossi.
Built 1735–60 by Alvise Pisani, Venetian ambassador to France, the Villa Pisani at Strà is perhaps the grandest villa in Italy, palatial in its scale and ambition. Nevertheless, architecturally it is still firmly rooted in the Palladian tradition. It overlooks the Brenta Canal, the locus classicus of Venetian villa life. The ballroom, location of the concert, is a magnificent space with a ceiling fresco by Gianbattista Tiepolo.
The programme features a wealth of Vivaldi’s concertos written for multiple string soloists in various permutations – for two violins, for violin and cello, for violin and two cellos and for two violins and two cellos. The concertos display Vivaldi’s amazing mastery of writing for stringed instruments and without exception display the jubilance for which Il Prete Rosso has become famous.
British ensemble La Serenissima was formed in 1994 and is now firmly established as one of the leading exponents of the music of Antonio Vivaldi and his Italian contemporaries. Under the leadership of virtuoso violinist Adrian Chandler they perform with verve and passion, imparting their joy in the music to delighted audiences. Their CD Vivaldi: the French Connection won a Gramophone award in 2010. Nearly the entire repertoire of La Serenissima is edited by director Adrian Chandler from manuscript or contemporary printed sources.
Exclusive access. All the concerts are planned and administered by Martin Randall Travel, and the audience consists exclusively of those who have taken the full festival package. The concerts are therefore effectively private.
Seating. Specific seats are not reserved. You sit where you want. Some seating may not be very comfortable.
Acoustics. This festival is more concerned with authenticity than with acoustical perfection. Some venues have idiosyncrasies or reverberations of the sort which are not found in modern purpose-built concert halls.
Heating/air-conditioning. None of the venues has efficient heating or air-conditioning.
Capacity. There will be about 140 participants on the festival. Three villas are too small to accommodate this number so the audience is divided and the concerts repeated.
Changes. Musicians may fall ill, venues may have to close for repairs, airlines may alter schedules: there are many circumstances which could necessitate changes to the programme. We ask you to be understanding should they occur.