KALAMAZOO – The instruments and music used by the Italian ensemble Il Giardino Armonico date back to the 17th and 18th centuries, but their performance style is far from dated.
“These performers sometimes dance around the stage like rock stars,” said Abhijit Sengupta, chief executive officer and musical director of the Fontana Chamber Arts, which is bringing the ensemble to Kalamazoo for a February 25 concert at 8 p.m. at the Dalton Center on the Western Michigan University campus.
“They don’t even sit in the traditional way. If they get excited, they jump right up and really get into it,” Sengupta said. “You can hear so much joy in their music-making.
The Grammy-award winning group based in Milan, Italy, turned down requests to appear in bigger cities such as New York and San Francisco, prompting Sengupta to say it’s a coup for the Kalamazoo area to have them perform here. He said Dalton is an ideal venue for the performance because it’s a more intimate setting.
“This is the first time they’ve been to Kalamazoo and it’s been maybe a decade since they’ve been to North America,” Sengupta said. “We are one of only four cities included on their tour.”
Il Giardino was founded in Milan in 1985 by Luca Pianca and Giovanni Antonini. The ensemble brings together a number of graduates from some of Europe’s leading colleges of music, all of whom have specialised in playing on period instruments. Depending on the demands of each program, the group will consist of anything from three to 30 musicians.
Although not the only group to perform historical musical pieces on period instruments, Il Giardino is among the most highly regarded in national and international music circles. Their music is based on treatises written by composers such as Vivaldi to be played on instruments of a particular time period.
Sengupta said people are learning how to play modern versions of these instruments.
The ensemble began releasing recordings in the 1980’s which showcased this music and what it could have sounded like. Its various recordings of works by Vivaldi- among which the Four Seasons – and other 18th-century composers have met with widespread acclaim on the part of audiences and critics alike and have received several major awards.
“They read these treatises and applied their imagination,” Sengupta said of Il Giardino. “Many of the instruments have been preserved in museum settings around the world.”
The ensemble’s performance here will include an abundance of music from Vivaldi and other Venetian composers.
“Their approach and the kind of music they’ll be performing will appeal to veteran music lovers as well as people who are not frequent concertgoers,” Sengupta said. “You don’t need to have any prior experience or knowledge of music.”
The unconventional performance technique used by Il Giardino attracts college-age and younger individuals.
Sengupta said Fontana events often attract upwards of 75 college-age and younger.
“Many of these ensembles are their heroes,” he said. “There have been concerts where we’ve had hundreds of students.
“When I hear their recordings, I can’t imagine playing any other way.”