In mythology, La Fenice – the Phoenix – is a fabulous bird, which was celebrated for consuming itself in flame then rising from its ashes. La Fenice is used here as a symbol of the influence of Italian music in Baroque Europe. It was also the title of a work by Giovanni Martino Cesare, an Italian composer and cornett player who moved north of the Alps in the early 17th century. Today this name has been adopted by a group of musicians, whose common desire is to share their passion for the sumptuous Venetian music of that time and bring out all its extraordinary vitality.
The ensemble’s repertoire nevertheless includes works by composers from all over Europe and covers more than two centuries of music; indeed, the cornett was commonly used in the early 16th century by Josquin Desprez and his contemporaries and it was still in use at J.S. Bach’s time and Bach himself included it in several of his cantatas.
The cornett can be found alongside the voice in sacred music throughout the Baroque period; it is mentioned in the registers of the Royal Chapel at Versailles until 1733. As for the sound it produces, Mersenne, tells us in his Harmonie universelle (Paris, 1636) that « it is like a sunbeam shining through the shadows or through the darkness when it is heard among the voices in churches, cathedrals or chapels…“.
Anxious to respect the original instrumentation, particularly in vocal music, where the instruments shed light on the text through their symbolical import, the ensemble adapts to fit in with each programmes it performs. Coming from all over Europe, the Ensemble’s musicians are all internationally renowned soloists, playing with the best Early music ensembles in the world.
Just after its establishment, the Ensemble La Fenice has won the first prize in two international competitions (Bruges, 1990 and Malmö, 1992). Since then, it has played in the most important festivals in France, Europe and all over the world. La Fenice’s recordings – Opus 111, Virgin Classics, Ricercar – are regularly awarded the most prestigious distinctions (Choc Monde de la Musique, Diapason d’Or, 10/10. Répertoire, 5 Etoiles. Goldberg…).