I Fagiolini

David Barmby

A highly competent British instrumental and vocal ensemble performing well-known Italian Renaissance repertoire.
I Fagiolini

Album cover: I Fagiolini via DECCA.

York-based ensemble I Fagiolini (or ‘little green beans’) has recently recorded a CD called ‘Monteverdi: the other Vespers’ to honour the 450th anniversary of the composer’s baptism, the precise date of his birth not being known.  The reasoning behind the italicised ‘other’ is that the famous and often-performed Vespers of 1610 is but one version provided by the composer.  His later great body of work Selva morale e spirituale (1640-41) is the source for this enjoyable recording that includes further contributions by Viadana, Donati, Palestrina, Castello [please add recent Castello review link here], Frescobaldi and Giovanni Gabrieli.


This instrumental and vocal ensemble directed by Robert Hollingworth is highly competent. The director takes justifiable pride in I Fagiolini’s reputation for thoughtfully questioning custom.  My only strong reserve here is with Hollingworth’s experiment in slowing triple sections to half the speed of that expected.  Despite the earnest and highly musical endeavours of soloists to compensate the concept failed to convince.  In sum, the recording is a fine achievement but no longer the best extant.

In his liner notes the director gives special thanks for the vocal beauty of his two, high-tenor soloists (Nicholas Mulroy and Hugo Hymas) and nobody could argue with that.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars out of 5

I Fagiolini

Robert Hollingworth, director
The English Cornett & Sagbut Ensemble
The 24 (University of York)

Released 28 April, 2017


What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

David Barmby is former head of artistic planning of Musica Viva Australia, artistic administrator of Bach 2000 (Melbourne Festival), the Australian National Academy of Music and Melbourne Recital Centre.