I Musici

Once famously described by the great Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini as "the finest chamber orchestra in the world", I Musici have long since justified the claim and, albeit with a constantly changing line-up, remain an influential and iconic name. Initially formed in Rome in 1952 by Spanish-born Felix Ayo with fellow students at Rome's Accademia Santa Cecilia, he chose the name I Musici to emphasize their commitment to Italian music. Sometimes known as I Musici de Roman to differentiate themselves from other orchestras with similar names, they were originally made up of six violinists, but soon expanded into a line-up of 12, adding cello, viola, double bass and harpsichord as they gained a reputation for their Baroque interpretations and a concentration on the works of Vivaldi and Albinoni. They also caused some controversy by their policy of not using a conductor, a stance justified by Felix Ayo on the basis that historically conductors had not been used in chamber orchestras and he wanted to maintain historical accuracy and the purity of their sound. Followers insist their enduring influence and appeal through the years is a result of their regularly changing personnel. However, it was the original line-up which first achieved major breakthroughs all over the world, making their first international impact with a South African tour in 1956. Felix Ayo was the group's leader, first violin and featured soloist for 16 years and in 1970 formed the Quartetto Beethoven di Roma, often considered one of the world's finest modern piano quartets. The group's other leaders through the years since Ayo's departure include Roberto Michelucci, Salvatore Accardo, Pina Carmirelli and Federico Agostini. The ensemble’s recorded legacy includes albums such as Vivaldi: 4 Concerti (1954), Corelli: Concerti Grossi, Op. 6 N° 4, 7, 8, 9 & 10 (1956), Corelli: Concerto de Noël, Op. 6 N° 8 (1957), Handel: Concerti Grossi, Op. 6, Nos. 9, 10 & 12 (1961), L'École de Naples (1962), Vivaldi: Le Quattro Stagioni (1982), and Vivaldi: The Four Seasons - La Tempesta di Mare - Il Piacere (2016). The ensemble’s founder, Felix Ayo, died on September 24, 2023, at the age of 90.

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