In 1983, Accademia Bizantina was founded in Ravenna, Italy, with the intention of "making music like a large quartet." Then, as now, the group was managed autonomously by its guardian members, ensuring that the chamber-music approach to its performances has remained a distinguishing feature.
Over the years, a number of prominent personalities in the musical world have supported the orchestra's development and growth, including Jörg Demus, Carlo Chiarappa, Riccardo Muti, and Luciano Berio. The orchestra also has enjoyed the collaboration of many fine musicians like Stefano Montanari, who was an integral part of the group for more than 20 years. This has allowed the ensemble--which plays on period instruments--to specialize even more in 17th-, 18th-, and 19th-century repertoire. Gradually, the orchestra has developed a distinctive voice by adopting its own interpretation style based on a common language and shared performance practice, thus reflecting the noblest tradition of Italian chamber music.
In 1989, Ottavio Dantone joined the group as a harpsichordist, and in 1996, he became both musical and artistic director, charged with the task of guaranteeing the prestige and artistic quality of the ensemble. Under his expert guidance, Accademia Bizantina has merged historical research with an artistic approach to the interpretation of music from the Baroque period. Mr. Dantone's intelligence, imagination, and sophistication join with the enthusiasm and artistic sensibilities of each member of the group, giving depth to the orchestra's interpretations and making it one of the most prestigious ensembles on the international musical scene today.
In 1999, Accademia Bizantina performed its first staged opera, Sarti's Giulio Sabino. Since then, the orchestra has come to specialize in the rediscovery and performance of Baroque operas, from major works to those that have never been performed in modern times.
The ensemble performs in concert halls and festivals worldwide. Its many recordings--especially those for Decca Records, Harmonia Mundi, and Naïve--have won several awards, including the Diapason d'Or de l'Année, an International Midem Award, and a Grammy nomination for O Solitude, its recording of Purcell songs and arias with countertenor Andreas Scholl. Of particular significance are the orchestra's collaborations with violinists Viktoria Mullova and Giuliano Carmignola.
Among the orchestra's new project for the 2016-2017 season are Vivaldi's L'incoronazione di Dario, Handel's Alcina and Belshazzar, and J. S. Bach's The Art of Fugue.
While still quite young, Ottavio Dantone received a performance degree with a specialty in both organ and harpsichord, immediately launching into a concert career and winning the praise of critics as one of the finest players of his generation.
In 1985, his continuo performance was awarded a prize at the International Harpsichord Competition in Paris, and he was the highest prize winner at the Musica Antiqua Festival in Bruges, Belgium, the following year. As the first Italian to receive the latter award, he quickly gained international recognition.
His collaboration with the Baroque orchestra Accademia Bizantina began in 1989, and his profound understanding of historical performance practices in the Baroque period led, in 1996, to a promotion to music director of that group. Under his direction, Accademia Bizantina has secured a position as one of the most outstanding Baroque orchestras on the international scene today.
Gradually throughout the last 20 years, Mr. Dantone has expanded his repertoire as soloist and director of chamber music and small orchestras, becoming a major conductor and diversifying his performance repertoire to include the music of the Classic and Romantic periods.
As an opera conductor, he made his debut in 1999 in the first modern performance of Sarti's Giulio Sabino (1781) in Ravenna's Alighieri Theatre with Accademia Bizantina. From that time on, he has conducted well-known operas and rediscovered operas rarely heard, giving them their first modern performances. He performs often in some of the world's most celebrated theaters, like Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Teatro Real in Madrid, Théâtre du Palais-Royal in Paris, and the Zurich Opera House, and at the acclaimed Glyndebourne Festival Opera in East Sussex and The Proms in London.
Mr. Dantone has recorded as both soloist and conductor with such noted record companies as Decca Records, Deutsche Grammophon, Naïve, and Harmonia Mundi, winning numerous international awards and receiving high critical acclaim.
Viktoria Mullova studied at the Central Music School of Moscow, before finishing her training at the Moscow State Tchaikovsky Conservatory. Her extraordinary talent stirred international attention when she won first prize at the 1980 International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition in Helsinki and the grand prize at the International Tchaikovsky Competition two years later. Soon thereafter, she defected from the USSR. Known the world over as a violinist of exceptional versatility and musical integrity, she has since appeared with many of the world's greatest orchestras and conductors, and at major international festivals. Her curiosity spans the breadth of musical development from the 18th century right up to today's fusion and experimental music.
Ms. Mullova's interest in historically informed performance practice has led to collaborations with the period-instrument ensembles the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Il Giardino Armonico, Venice Baroque Orchestra, and Monteverdi Choir's Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique. She feels a great affinity with Bach, his work comprising a large portion of her recording catalogue. Her interpretations of Bach have been acclaimed worldwide. She has received high praise for her most recent disk of Bach concertos with the Accademia Bizantina under the direction of Ottavio Dantone. Ms. Mullova's personal journey into Bach's music continues with a recording of the composer's solo sonatas and partitas.
Moving beyond early music, she has ventured into creative contemporary music with her albums Through the Looking Glass, in which she played world, jazz, and pop music arranged for her by Matthew Barley; The Peasant Girl, which she has toured around the world with the Matthew Barley Ensemble; and her most recent project, Stradivarius in Rio, which is inspired by her love of songs by Brazilian composers Antônio Carlos Jobim, Caetano Veloso, Cláudio Nucci, and others.
Ms. Mullova's extensive discography for Philips Classics and Onyx Classics has garnered many prestigious awards. Her recording of the Vivaldi concertos with Il Giardino Armonico, conducted by Giovanni Antonini, won the Diapason d'Or de l'Année for 2005, and her recording of Beethoven with historical keyboard player Kristian Bezuidenhout was met with immense critical acclaim.
Ms. Mullova either plays on her 1723 "Jules Falk" Stradivarius or a Guadagnini violin.