Stile Antico is firmly established as one of the world’s most accomplished and innovative vocal ensembles. Working without a conductor, its twelve members have thrilled audiences on four continents with their fresh, vibrant and moving performances of Renaissance polyphony. Its bestselling recordings on the Harmonia Mundi label have earned accolades including the Gramophone Award for Early Music, Diapason d’or de l’année, Edison Klassiek Award, and Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik. The group has received three Grammy® nominations, and performed live at the 60th Grammy® Awards at Madison Square Garden.
Based in London, Stile Antico has appeared at many of the world’s most prestigious venues and festivals. The group enjoys a particularly close association with the Wigmore Hall, and has performed at the BBC Proms, Buckingham Palace, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Cité de la Musique, Luxembourg Philharmonie, and Leipzig Gewandhaus. Stile Antico is frequently invited to appear at Europe’s leading festivals: highlights include the Lucerne Easter Festival and the Antwerp, Bruges, Utrecht and York Early Music Festivals.
Since making its North American debut at the Boston Early Music Festival in 2009, Stile Antico has enjoyed frequent tours to the US and Canada. The group performs regularly in Boston and New York, and has appeared at Washington’s National Cathedral and Library of Congress, Vancouver’s Chan Centre, the Quebec Festival of Sacred Music, and in concert series spanning twenty-four US states. Stile Antico has also appeared at the Cervantino festival in Mexico, and in 2018 made its South American debut with performances in Colombia.
Stile Antico’s performances are often praised for their immediacy, expressive commitment, and their sensitive and imaginative response to text. These qualities arise from the group’s collaborative working style: members rehearse and perform as chamber musicians, each contributing artistically to the musical results. The group is also noted for its compelling programming, which often draws out thematic connections between works to shine new light on Renaissance music. In addition to its core repertoire, Stile Antico has premiered works by John McCabe, Huw Watkins, and, most recently, Nico Muhly, whose Gentle Sleep was written to mark the group’s tenth birthday. Stile Antico’s diverse range of collaborators includes Fretwork and the Folger Consort of viols, pianist Marino Fomenti, orchestra B’Rock, and Sting.
Alongside its concert and recording work, Stile Antico is passionate about sharing its repertoire and working style with the widest possible audience, and its masterclasses and workshops are much in demand. As well as leading regular courses at the Dartington International Summer School, the group has been resident at Zenobia Música, and is often invited to work alongside ensembles at universities, festivals, and early music forums. The support of the charitable Stile Antico Foundation has enabled Stile Antico to expand its work with younger people, and to offer annual bursaries to talented consort singers.
Highlights of Stile Antico’s 2018-19 season include the group’s first concerts in Hong Kong, Macau, and South Korea, the premiere of a new work by Joanna Marsh as part of the Venus Unwrapped festival at London’s Kings Place, and a return to the Boston Early Music Festival. The group’s thirteenth recording for Harmonia Mundi, In A Strange Land, is released early in 2019.
Unlike other ensembles of its type, Stile Antico has no conductor. Its twelve members work as chamber musicians, rehearsing intensively together to arrive at the group’s musical interpretations, and listening closely and responding to one another’s voices in performance.
The term ‘stile antico’, pronounced STEE-lay an-TEE-co, literally means ‘old style’. It was coined during the seventeenth century to describe the style of Renaissance church composition epitomised by the music of Palestrina – polyphonic and imitative in texture, even in rhythm, strictly controlled in its use of dissonance – as opposed to the modern developments in the works of Monteverdi and his contemporaries. Over the centuries, the ‘stile antico’ came to be seen as an ideal of musical purity, and composers such as Beethoven, Schumann, Liszt and Bruckner studied it as part of their training. It is still taught in universities today.
Stile Antico’s repertoire focuses on the astonishingly rich legacy of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century polyphonic composition. It encompasses not only the music of Palestrina and his Italian, Flemish and Spanish contemporaries, but also the fascinating and diverse English school, from the dazzling complexity of the Eton Choirbook to the masterpieces of Taverner, Sheppard, Tallis and Byrd, and the Elizabethan madrigalists. Just as no single voice predominates in the polyphonic style, Stile Antico’s collaborative working method allows all its members to contribute artistically in crafting its performances. The results have been described as ‘wonderfully vivid’ – a direct, personal interpretative approach to the choral repertory, conveying both the beauty and the drama of the finest polyphonic music of the Renaissance.