Winner of the Royal Philharmonic Society Ensemble Award, 2005
Grounded in the classics of Renaissance and Twentieth-century vocal repertoire, I Fagiolini is renowned for its innovative and often staged productions of this music. It has staged Handel with masks, Purcell with puppets, and in 2004 premiered The Full Monteverdi, a ground-breaking dramatised account of the composer’s Fourth Book of Madrigals (1603) by John La Bouchardière, since turned into a highly successful film shown all over the world. In 2006 I Fagiolini toured its South African collaboration Simunye and in 2009 created Tallis in Wonderland, a new way of hearing polyphony with live and recorded voices.
I Fagiolini’s next recording on Decca Classics, Monteverdi: The Other Vespers, will be released in April 2017. Amuse-Bouche (French Choral Delicacies) was released in April 2016, was CD of the Month for Gramophone Magazine and shortlisted for a Gramophone Award. It includes the world premieres of Roderick Williams arrangement of the Adagio from Ravel Piano Concerto in G and Ode à la gastronomie with an accompanying film by Jean Françaix: “entirely fresh and unexpected, a recording that’s a bit sexy, a bit silly and absolutely, unmissably superb.” (Gramophone)
In 2011, I Fagiolini semi-staged Purcell King Arthur with the English Concert and released the world premiere recording of Striggio Mass in 40 Parts on Decca which stayed at the top of the specialist classical chart for nearly four months and won the 2011 Gramophone Early Music Award and a Diapason d’or de l’année.
2012 featured a Royal Albert Hall Prom debut, a new production for Opera North with shadow puppetry, The Little Match Girl Passion by David Lang, and the release of 1612 Italian Vespers (Gramophone CD of the Month) premiering multi-choir music by Viadana and a reconstructed Gabrieli Magnificat. It also saw the launch of yet another unlikely collaboration, How Like An Angel (HLAA), this time with Australian contemporary circus company, C!RCA. HLAA premiered as part of the Perth International Arts Festival, premiered in New York and continues to tour throughout the UK and EU.
2014-15 included debuts at the new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse (Shakespeare’s Globe), Carnegie Hall and I Fagiolini’s first tour of Australia with Musica Viva, as well as another collaboration with John La Bouchardière, Betrayal: a polyphonic crime drama. Sung to the music of Gesulado, this immersive theatre work with dancers and singers was set in ‘crime scenes’ and premiered at the Barbican in May 2015.
Forthcoming projects and performances include the return of Striggio 40 Part Mass to Florence, a year-long celebration of Monteverdi’s 450th anniversary, Living Monteverdi, featuring Flaming Heart, 1610 Vespers, The Other Vespers, and L’Orfeo along with a virtual reality project, films, and education work.
The name I Fagiolini continues to be misspelt and mispronounced wherever it goes from Africa to Australia. I Fagiolini has recorded 22 discs and five films and is delighted to be Ensemble-in-Residence at the University of York.
Robert has spent much of his life looking for ways to share his love of Renaissance and 20th/21st century music, often by creating ground-breaking projects which present music to audiences in innovative ways. He founded I Fagiolini in 1986; with them he has presented their signature projects including Simunye, The Full Monteverdi, Tallis in Wonderland, and How Like An Angel (with Australian contemporary circus group C!RCA), and Betrayal: a polyphonic crime drama (for singers and dancers based on the music of Gesualdo), which premiered at the Barbican in May 2015.
Robert has directed the English Concert (Purcell), the Academy of Ancient Music (Bach), Accentus (France), Norddeutscher Rundfunk Chor, Nederlands Kamerkoor, Narodowe Forum Muzyki, Wrocław (Acis & Galatea), Symphonieorchester Wuppertal (Judas Maccabeus) and Monteverdi L’Orfeo in Venice. In 2016 he conducted the Danish National Vocal Ensemble in a new conceptual project, Angels and Demons, and makes his debut with RIAS Kammerkoor in 2018.
In 2011, his world premiere recording of Striggio Mass in 40 Parts was released on Decca with an all-star UK line-up, remaining at the top of the specialist classical chart for nearly four months and winning the 2011 Gramophone Early Music Award and a Diapason d’or de l’année. 1612 Italian Vespers was released on Decca in June 2012 and was chosen as Gramophone CD of the Month and was performed live in the 2012 BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall. Robert arranged the music for the album Shakespeare: The Sonnets and appeared extensively on BBC TV and radio discussing the disc. Amuse-Bouche (French Choral Delicacies) was released on Decca Classics in April 2016, was CD of the Month for Gramophone Magazine, and shortlisted for a 2016 Gramophone Classical Music Award. It includes the world premiere and film of Jean Françaix 12-voice Ode à la gastronomie: “entirely fresh and unexpected, a recording that’s a bit sexy, a bit silly and absolutely, unmissably superb.” (Gramophone) 2017 album releases include Peerson Grave Chamber Music with Fretwork and Monteverdi: The Other Vespers, in collaboration with Monteverdi’s 450th anniversary and the 2017 tour, ‘Living Monteverdi’.
Robert has worked on a number of films and writes and presents for BBC Radio 3 (CD Review, The Early Music Show, The Choir and Discovering Music). In 2012 he ran a conducting masterclass and lecture for the American Choral Directors’ Association conference and was the Special Guest Director & speaker at the Association of British Choral Director’s 30th annual convention (2015). His MA in solo-voice-ensemble singing at the University of York (where he is a Reader in Music) is now in its fourth year.