Artist Profile: I Fagiolini

The vocal group’s Director Robert Hollingworth tells us about their new series of Benevoli Masses

From the poignant to the polemical, I Fagiolini’s projects always surprise – and delight. 
Edward Breen catches up with the group’s director, Robert Hollingworth


Now, unbelievably, this power packed vocal ensemble is in the run up to their 40th anniversary in 2026 and with a characteristic burst of energy they are celebrating with a sequence of new albums on the Coro label. They invited me to their recording session of masses by Orazio Benevoli at St Augustine’s, Kilburn. Benevoli was an Italian composer based in Rome in the mid 1600s, writing multi-choir masses which balance florid passages with more obvious roots in the Palestrina tradition. As I walked to the venue I wondered briefly if that affluent, North London neighbourhood knew quite what was happening beneath the picturesque spire that enhances their property prices? A lazy feeling of an impending summer weekend had beset the streets but inside the cool church a festive atmosphere prevailed, that was until a JCB outside smashed some stones and the music was replaced by good natured laughter. I was struck by the modesty of the singers, seen together in a coffee shop, you might think they were a team of bright social-media advertising executives discussing Google analytics over a cold nitro brew and a gluten-free muffin. It amazed me how they could make such intricate and beautiful sounds so repeatedly, reliably, and uncomplainingly during long recording sessions and then just melt back into normal life afterwards. A few days later Robert remarked dryly that in choral music “no-one is being paid enough to be a diva” but during the session he was clearly moved, too.


For the full text of this feature please see Gramophone magazine (October 2023)


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