Accademia Bizantina: where does the name come from?
We started out in Ravenna, the ancient capital of the Eastern Roman Empire known for its magnificent multicoloured mosaics. We like to think of ourselves as many tiles of different shades and shapes that come together to form a more complex and intriguing image. At the same time, we pursue a genuine academic activity of disseminating musical culture.
Does it have anything to do with being “Interpreters of Baroque Suggestion”?
Yes, it does. Through our work as scholars and performers, we give voice to the suggestions of the Baroque era so that modern listeners can experience the atmospheres and feelings of that time. After all, emotions are ageless.
Everyone pictures the rock band starting out in a garage… but where and how does an early music ensemble come into being?
Well, in our case, everything started at a bar table. It was 1982 and three classmates at the conservatory, with uncommon talent and resourcefulness, got together for a coffee: they were Angelo Nicastro, a viola virtuoso and now the director of the Ravenna Festival, Romano Valentini, a pianist, organist and harpsichordist, as well as the orchestra’s general manager in the 1990s and 2000s, and Luciano Bertoni, a world-renowned double bass virtuoso.
And then what happened?
They were very driven and inspired: they decided to call in the best students from the Ravenna Conservatory and in 1984, together with cellist Paolo Ballanti and violinist Paolo Zinzani, they founded an association by the name of Accademia Bizantina. They set to work right away – indeed, the first official concert was held on the 2nd of June of the same year, in the Church of San Giuseppe in Marina di Ravenna, conducted by Filippo Maria Caramazza, AB’s first permanent conductor, and accompanied by A. Patrignani as vocal soloist.
When did you first meet baroque music?
It all happened quite gradually. Mauro Valli, then first cello, gave much momentum to this change of direction, so much so that in 1989 Accademia Bizantina recorded Corelli’s Opera Omnia, led by the then conductor and violinist Carlo Chiarappa. On that occasion, we also met Ottavio Dantone for the first time, who was invited to play in Op. 3. and later became the main force behind our baroque breakthrough.
Was it love at first sight?
Exactly, we instantly liked and understood each other. Ottavio soon became the orchestra’s harpsichordist, then gradually became concertmaster and conductor, alternating in this role with Chiarappa until 1996, when the orchestra decided to fully entrust him as our conductor and maestro, as well as the founder of our interpretative method. Since then, we have focused entirely on the Baroque repertoire.
What constitutes the Ottavio Dantone – Accademia Bizantina method?
Ottavio Dantone is not only one of the best harpsichordists and organists in the world, he also has a profound knowledge of the expressive codes of the Baroque era. His system, shaped by experience and an ongoing philological research, allows him to read ancient scores as if he were a contemporary of the time, i.e. taking into account practices and performance canons that were then considered implicit and, therefore, unwritten. The result is a more three-dimensional music, rich in nuances, that can touch the soul.
Is this the secret of “The Exciting Sound of Baroque Music”?
Exactly. This is how we are able to recreate the composer’s original intent, the sounds he imagined, the effects he sought: ultimately, we release the authentic and exciting sound of Baroque music in all its original expressive power.
What is the Accademia Bizantina today?
We are a big family that flies in from all over the globe to get together! Some from South America, some from Europe, some from Russia… And let’s not forget the outstanding Italian talents, such as our first violin Alessandro Tampieri, concertmaster since 2011.
From Ravenna to the world?
Music truly is a universal language that allows us to make our approach known everywhere and to find significant recognition for our work. Just think of the 2nd place as orchestra of the year at the 2021 Gramophone Awards, or the major acknowledgements we have received from Diapason d’Or, Midem, Choc de Classica, Opus Klassik and Grammy Music Awards.
What about collaborations?
If we look back at our first 40 years, we see they were filled with precious and essential encounters: the maestros Riccardo Muti, Luciano Berio and Stefano Montanari, violinists Viktoria Mullova and Giuliano Carmignola, countertenor Andreas Scholl, contralto Delphine Galou…
What does the future hold for Accademia Bizantina?
We are more and more in love with music and determined to share it with an even wider and more diverse audience. Alongside the concert activity, which remains the heart of our work, we will be engaged in a wide-ranging cultural project to bring the treasures of early music back to everyone.
Accademia Bizantina has recorded for Decca, Harmonia Mundi, Deutsche Grammophon, Naïve, Alpha, Onyx, HDB Sonus.
Accademia Bizantina has performed in the world’s most prestigious theatres and festivals, such as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center (New York), Wigmore Hall and Barbican Centre (London), Théâtre des Champs Elysées (Paris) and Opera Royal (Versailles); Concertgebouw (Amsterdam), Bozar (Brussels), Pierre Boulez Saal / Staatoper (Berlin) Kölner Philharmonie, Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, ENCPA Beijing, Shanghai Concert Hall, Walt Disney Hall (Los Angeles), Theater an der Wien (Vienna), CNDM Madrid and Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome.
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