Bringing fresh energy to the rich legacy of Baroque music that endures in Venice, the Venice Baroque Orchestra (= VBO) – the resident orchestra of the city’s Scuola Grande di San Rocco, one of Venice’s most venerable and respected cultural institutions - has become an important new force in the field of period-instruments performance. The VBO focuses on Italian music of the 17th and 18th centuries, and the ongoing rediscovery of Italian Baroque opera.
The founding of the VBO – the only Venetian orchestra specializing in the performance of early music with original instruments – grew out of a 1997 encounter between Andrea Marcon and the Accademia di San Rocco. The connection has an important link with Venetian tradition – the Scuola is home to the paintings of Tintoretto, with a history that echoes with the music of Giovanni Gabrieli, Giovanni Battista Grillo, Giovanni Picchi and Francesco Cavalli.
In the spirit of a true Baroque orchestra, the size and composition of the VBO varies, reflecting the demands of the repertoire, from a small chamber ensemble to the classic orchestra. The orchestra has already collaborated with a number of renowned soloists and presented the first modern performances of a number of forgotten Baroque works. At the Teatro Fenice in 1998, the orchestra gave the first modern performance of Francesco Cavalli’s opera L’Orione, revised and transcribed by Andrea Marcon.
The VBO serves as the resident orchestra for the International Festival of Baroque Music “Feste Musicali per San Rocco.” It has already performed throughout Europe, where critics have hailed its concerts as “the true expression of the new Italian style Baroque” and an “authentic revelation.” The VBO has also made a number of television appearances in Italy, including the 1998 RAI 2 broadcast of the traditional Christmas Concert from Venice’s Basilica San Marco.
Andrea Marcon & the VBO have performed throughout Europe and Japan. In March 2000, Andrea Marcon and the VBO performed Benedetto Marcello’s oratorio “The Triumph of Poetry and Music” in Milan to critical acclaim. Andrea Marcon, Baroque violinist Giuliano Carmignola and the VBO made their first USA appearance in August 2001, with a performance at New York’s Mostly Mozart Festival in Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center. Following their New York performance, Carmignola, Andrea Marcon and the VBO performed at Germany’s Schleswig-Holstein Festival and at Stuttgart’s Internationale Bachakademie. During 2001-2002 season, they appeared in over 35 cities, including New York, Tokyo, Milan, Paris, Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Aldeburgh, London, Lyon, Florence, Bolzano, Venice, Ferrara, and other cities throughout Europe.
Following their New York début at Lincoln Center in August 2001, The New York Times wrote that "the hottest groups no longer come from England and the Netherlands, but from Italy. One of the newest is the Venice Baroque Orchestra ... a youthful group that plays zestily and with a tightly drilled ensemble." The Guardian in London, reviewing their BBC Prom concert at the Albert Hall in August 2002, declared: "The VBO's instrumentalists function as a single organism that allows the music to live and speak ... Listening to this performance was like hearing The Four Seasons for the first time." And The Times critic wrote: "Not one note sounds dutiful; joy and a sense of discovery are everywhere."
The VBO's concerts have been filmed by the BBC and NHK, and it is also winning widespread acclaim for its opera performances. Andrea Marcon's dedication to the rediscovery of Baroque masterpieces has led to the first fully staged performances in modern times of Francesco Cavalli's opera L'Orione in 1998 and Händel's Siroe in 2000. In December 2001, he conducted the contemporary revival of Cimarosa's L'Olimpiade in Venice's Teatro Malibran.
During the 2002-2003 season the VBO under Andrea Marcon performed in cities including Rotterdam, Brussels, Cologne, Lisbon, Vienna, Barcelona, Venice, and Tokyo. Engagements for the 2003-2004 season include concert performances of Händel's Siroe in Paris, Hamburg, and Metz; tours of the USA including Los Angeles (the new Walt Disney Concert Hall), semi-staged performances of Siroe in Berkeley, and fully-staged performances of Händel's opera at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Andrea Marcon will also be conducting Händel's Ariodante at the Frankfurt Opera.
The VBO made its Sony Classical debut in 2000 with a critically acclaimed disc that featured Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons and the recording premieres of three other Vivaldi concertos with Carmignola as soloist. In August 2001 their second second recording for Sony Classical was released, featuring the recording premieres of six late Vivaldi concertos, with Carmignola as soloist. Recordings by Andrea Marcon and the VBO have received extraordinary praise and many have won special distinction, including the Diapason d'or, the Vivaldi Award of the Cini Foundation, and Germany's Echo Award (for The Four Seasons). In 2004 Andrea Marcon & the VBO signed an ecxlusive contract with Archiv Produktion/Deutsche Grammophone.