I Fagiolini’s name has become a modern myth, with bizarre explanations for it offered worldwide wherever I Fagiolini has performed or its recordings been reviewed. Here is the unexpurgated truth.
By the time I Fagiolini gave its first concert in 1986, the revival in interest and period playing styles of early music was well under way. At New College, Oxford (the group’s home), early music was known as ‘beany’ music because most of the musicians that seemed to be interested in it (both amateur and professional) seemed to have an alternative lifestyle of knitted yoghurt and wholefood pullovers, living on a diet of nothing but pulses and beans. Stuck for a name at short notice, countertenor Richard Wyn Roberts proposed ‘the beans’; Robert Hollingworth suggested translating this into Italian as the first concert involved Monteverdi and it sounded nicer like that. This worked well until I Fagiolini first went to Italy and discovered the various slang connotations it has there. We don’t go to Italy much.
Different dictionaries tell you that fagiolini are ‘string beans’, ‘French beans’ or ‘little beans’. The last was the one intended.