The simplicity of their name says it all: I Musici.– The Musicians. They represent the epitome of chamber music – pure in style, perfect in technique and balance; they perform without theatrics and work together so intimately that although they are 12 in number, they have no conductor. They play with a flair and understanding possessed by those who have grown up amidst the music they have inherited.
I Musici was formed in 1952 by 12 musicians from Rome’s Accademia di S. Cecilia. When Toscanini heard them he described them as “a perfect chamber orchestra”.
It is a winning formula, because this year, I Musici celebrates 60 years of music making, and for the very first time, this Rome based ensemble will be performing in Sydney as part of the Utzon Music Series.
Calling their Sydney programme An Italian Summer, they’ve taken the performance outdoors, beyond the chamber theatre to the verdant setting of the Bennelong Lawn of the Royal Botanic Gardens overlooking the Sydney opera House and Sydney Harbour.
On the programme are the works of the great Italian masters, amongst them, two composers who are usually associated with the bel canto school, whose smaller but significant output of instrumental music is often overshadowed. Rossini’s Sonata a quattro No 1 in G major (Sonata for four) is scored for two violins, cello and double bass and was composed in 1804 when he was just 12! Rossini wrote the second violin part for himself and is said to be possibly the hardest of all the parts! Rossini’s Une Larme (A tear) in A minor was
written for piano and cello and is one of 150 cameos that he kept for his personal performances referring to them as “The Sins of My Old Age”.
The beauty of Donizetti’s bel canto writing is evident in his instrumental writing. His Allegro for Strings in C major is one of dozens of orchestral and chamber works. Paganini’s The Carnival of Venice – Theme and Variations for Violin and Strings is a athletic work typical of the violinist composer’s prodigious technique.
Finally, although considered overexposed by some, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons has to be heard live, as performed by I Musici. They are credited with re-discovering this Baroque classic and their performance of it is considered definitive. They’ve made six successive recording of this which have sold over 25 million copies worldwide.
The instruments played by I Musici are central to their sound. Dating from the 16th century, the strings derive from cities that were the hub of violin makers – Cremona, Mantua, Turin and Florence. The charm of Vivaldi and this chamber ensemble will not be lost in the al fresco setting. There may be subtle amplification to ensure the integrity of the sound and the blend.
As for the practicalities, there will be chairs for all, seating is unreserved and in the event that Sydney turns on one of now infamous summer storms, the concert will move indoors to one of the spaces within the Opera House.