Fabio Biondi and his Europa Galante at the Walt Disney Concert Hall

Violinist Fabio Biondi. Photo courtesy of Ana da Labra

Violinist Fabio Biondi. Photo courtesy of Ana da Labra

In order to grasp the scope of the unique musical event, to be hosted at the Walt Disney Concert Hall on January 20th, we need to go back to 16th century in Venice, Italy.
Back then, numerous charitable associations, composed of lay men and women alongside religious ones, were formed.
 
Among those, the oldest one, the Ospedale della Pietà (Hospice of Piety), used to give recovery to the orphans, the sick, the old, the impoverished, in a word “the outcast”.
The most gifted girls, who showed a clear predisposition for music, trained to become “Figlie di Coro” (Choir Girls), within the former, as well as other institutions alike.
 
The young women’s cloister-like seclusion, along with their rigorous education, left no room for even the smallest reward. Enough to say that their audience was forbidden to clap their hands, at the girls’ performances.
 
However, the Choir Girls acquired a great prestige, within the musical landscape. In the eighteenth century, Vivaldi’s and Antonio Martinelli’s pupil and muse, Chiara, aka “Chiara the violin”, to whom the two instructors and composers dedicated some of their sonatas and concertos, was an extremely talented violinist.
She meticulously kept a journal, including musical annotations, which has inspired the internationally acclaimed violinist and director, Fabio Biondi (Palermo, March 15, 1961) and his Baroque formation, called Europa Galante, to release the album, Il Diario di Chiara (2014).
 
The upcoming concert, featuring several pieces from the album, is going to be both a philologically accurate and enthralling journey into the female artist’s musical sensibility.
 
Here is a human and artistic profile of Maestro Biondi, whose mission is to bring back to life for us, that extraordinary era in the musical history.
 
Let’s go back together over your earliest approach to the violin and music, in general. Was it “love at first note”, so to speak, or you had doubts about your life path?
I have never had any doubts. My first love was St. Matthew Passion by Johann Sebastian Bach. I listened to that wonderful piece on LP. 
Every single day, my father, a real classical music enthusiast, used to put on an infinite number of pieces. With a father like that, one could not do otherwise than love music.
 
What’s the most memorable lesson, passed down to you by your instructor, Maestro Salvatore Cicero?
Salvatore Cicero was not only a technical master, essential to perfect my instrumental technique. He was also an extraordinary violinist: accurate, intense, uncompromising and pure. Exactly what Sicily needed, as he became Concertmaster of Sicilian Symphonic Orchestra.
However his major lesson was a moral one, made of passion, perseverance and honesty towards oneself and the others. 
I highly treasure his life model of never feeling accomplished, but, with modesty, to work every day to perfect oneself, “both in one’s minds and one’s fingers”. 
 
What memories do you have about your first international performance, at a prestigious venue, like Vienna’s Musikverein?
I was yawning repeatedly, before going on stage. I said someone: “I must be sleepy!”. They answered back to me: “No way! That’s fear!”
I was extremely anxious. 
 
Looking at your repertoire, it looks like, among Baroque composers, you have a special taste for Scarlatti, Vivaldi and other, less known among the general public, Italian musicians (especially from the Eighteen Hundred Century). What’s their most unique musical quality, which differentiate them from German composers like Bach? 
Italian music is vivacity, narcissism and virtuosity. Often you have to look for what is not written on the page.
Looking at Bach, we can see how his lesson is different: we still find vivacity, but everything is more complex and profound, thus enabling much less alteration and elaboration. 
Let’s say that Italian music and its need to be reinterpreted, offers more opportunities for improvisation and modernity.
 
In 1990 you founded the Baroque ensemble, Europa Galante and since then, in the vest of musical director, you quickly notched up a series of prestigious recognitions, including two Grammy’s nominations. Do you have the perception that audiences around the world have a deeper appreciation for Baroque music now, in comparison with when you started?
Yes, I do. There’s been a huge increase in audience’s size, as well as an ever growing interest and appreciation for Baroque music and Early music, in general.
That’s both due to the repertory’s “freshness” and to the opportunity, in these kind of concerts, to observe first-hand the musicians’ ability in altering, “embellishing” the same pieces. Exactly like Jazz!   
 
Tell us more about the album, Il Diario di Chiara, from whom your formation will execute some pieces, in the upcoming concert, on January 20th, at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Il Diario di Chiara is an exciting exploration into the life of a Venetian girl from the eighteenth century, named Chiara, who, thanks to her performing talent, was able to witness, as well as be part of the major stylistic change, occurred during her sixty years’ lifespan. 
Mostly, the album enables us to depict Venice, essential hub in Northeastern Italy, not only for Vivaldi, but also for all the composers, who worked after him at the orphanage, Ospedale della Pietà, one of the major musical centers in Europe during the Baroque Era.
Moreover, it’s the perfect way to portray an exceptional woman, and not a man, as we normally experience in music.
 
Besides your activity, with the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra (since 2006) and your worldwide tour with Europa Galante, what are your current and upcoming responsibilities/positions and projects?
Since 2015, I’ve been appointed as joint music director with Roberto Abbado, at the Opera House, in Valencia, Spain. I also hold a similar position, both at the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra and the Paris Chamber Orchestra. 
I love to share my knowledge and expertise with other cultural realities, and music, to me, represents the best way to express myself and communicate.  
 
In conclusion, did you perform in Los Angeles in the past? Did you have time for some sightseeing? Do you like the city?
Yes, I’ve been in Los Angeles, in the past. What can I say? The musician’s life is often restricted to hotel and concert hall. 
Other musicians from my ensemble, who have more free time, love L.A. That doesn’t surprise me!
I hope to be able one day to stay longer after a concert and, finally, enjoy the beauties of this city.

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