Armoniosa was founded in 2012 by the artistic and cultural activities experienced within the Diocesan Institute for Liturgy and Music of the Diocese of Asti, thanks to the ideas of the artistic team, Francesco and Stefano Cerrato, Marco Demaria and Daniele Ferretti.
- Michele Barchi, harpsicord
- Stefano Cerrato, violoncello
- Francesco Cerrato, violin
- Marco Demaria, violoncello
- Daniele Ferretti, organ
The ensemble aims to be an excellence in the international panorama, and adopts a rigorous method of study and work concerning style and interpretation. The ensemble chose to use original instruments in order to have the best sound result and apply to a veritable interpretation, creating a job ”environment” based on the friendship between the members and the sharing of ideas and professional experience.
Armoniosa was invited by Reinhard Goebel for a collaboration and a superior course in the Universität Mozarteum Salzburg (Austria), during the Academic Year 2013/2014. In September 2016 Trevor Pinnock worked with Armoniosa on the Händel, Concerti Grossi op.6 during a special Masterclass in Asti. These important meetings are a true “luggage” for the artistic growing of the Ensemble.
Armoniosa was invited to join the prestigious catalogue of the German record label MDG – Musikproduktion Dabringhaus und Grimm with Italian repertoire of the XVIII century. “La Stravaganza” op. 4 by Antonio Vivaldi (2015) had a dazzling debut and wonderful reviews from the most important international press, like Gramophone (UK), Fanfare Magazine (USA), Klassik.com (D).
In 2016 Armoniosa released the second production, the “TrioSonatas for violin, violoncello and continuo” by Giovanni Benedetto Platti, with very successfull reviews around Europe.
In 2016 Armoniosa was congratulated by Trevor Pinnock who added that "The ensemble comes across with a really nice character: good sound, good rhythm, good intonation and, most importantly, with real humanity."
In 2017 Armoniosa performed at the Innsbrucker Festwochen der Alten Musik, Austria and the Casa dei Mezzo Music Festival, Crete, Greece.
Armoniosa's latest CD (Graziani, C: Sonatas (6) for Violoncello and Basso Continuo, Op. 3) has been released by Rubicon Classics, the exciting new label offering a truly collaborative partnerships for musicians.
No cuts or alterations of any kind should be made to this biography without the consent of Armoniosa.
17 January 2019: "Estri&Follie" – Staatstheater Darmstadt , Darmstadt (Germany)
Music by G. B. Platti, H. von Biber, J. S. Bach, A. Vivaldi
- Innsbruck Concert, 7 August 2018
"... Unbelievable is the high art of playing by Francesco Cerrato on the violin. Apparently effortlessly he gets from his instrument the most difficult solo passages. His brother Stefano, on the five-stringed cello, lets you listen to the music in the truest sense of the word: his playing is wonderfully precise and sensitive. In addition, Marco Demaria (cello) makes the continuo as the rhythmic-fiery backbone of the ensemble. And the two keyboard players Michele Barchi (harpsichord) and Daniele Ferretti (organ) complete - in the background, but still very present - a formidable soundscape. ..."
- Markus Schramek, Tiroler Tageszeitung 9 August 2018
- Armoniosa enchants the Alfieri's audience
"... The virtuosity in the Sonatas op. 3 by Graziani has been enhanced by variations in the refrains, according to the use, proposed with taste and fun by Stefano Cerrato, magnificently supported by Barchi and Demaria."
- Carlo Francesco Conti, La Stampa, 19 January 2018
- Magico violoncello
"... The result of the recording is excellent and offers a very brilliant portrait of Carlo Graziani. Stefano Cerrato's ability highlights the cantability of the melodies and suggests that it is "easy" music. Instead it's not easy at all, and it employs a vast repertoire of technical elements, anticipating the next generation of virtuoso cellists. Even the sound performance is excellent, thanks to the balance between the parts and the choice, in few movements, to leave the continuo to the essentiality of the solo cello of Demaria. A great merit also goes to the recording sound, which is very rich and natural."
- Carlo Francesco Conti, La Stampa, 17 January 2018
- Pizzicato review:
Italian Carlo Graziani composed concertos and sonatas for cello, including the Six Sonatas op. 3, now recorded by Asti's cellist Stefano Cerrato and the continuo ensemble 'Armoniosa' on Rubicon Classics (Rubicon RCD1018). Cerrato gives himself completely to the music and plays it with vitally and exuberant fantasy, so that the nearly one and a half hour long program becomes real listening pleasure.
- Remy Franck, Pizzicato, November 2017
- MusicWeb International Recording Of The Month
... These sonatas by Graziani are excellent pieces of music, which will give much joy to all lovers of the cello, and certainly not only to them. Cerrato's performances are technically impressive, but his interpretations are not merely demonstrations of his technique or of the requirements of these sonatas. This is music making of the highest level and this set is something you will return to. I should not forget to mention Cerrato's outstanding partners Marco Demaria and Michele Barchi.
This is a splendid set. The fact that these sonatas are little known is an additional reason to label this production Recording of the Month.
- Johan van Veen, MusicWeb International, November 2017
- The Strad review:
Giovanni Platti's (c.1697-1763) Trio Sonatas, written for the unusual combination of violin, cello and continuo, were composed largely at the behest of Count Rudolf Franz Erwein, a keen and accomplished cellist. They incorporate expressive melody, resourceful craftsmanship and finely wrought counterpoint, but tend to lack harmonic variety and depend overmuch on sequence. The Cerrato brothers are well matched, technically assured partners and realise their 'period' interpretations with flair, musicianship and style. They converse fluently in imitation, shape phrases with unanimity and include tasteful ornamentation as appropriate. Their continuo support ranges from just a cello through various combinations to a 'full set' of cello, harpsichord and chamber organ.
Though a trifle close and occasionally bass heavy, the natural, vivid recording provides a pleasing ambience, but the organ occasionally obscures some of the solo passagework, notably in the B flat major Allegro. Most enjoyable are the three minor-key works, particularly the G minor with its contrapuntal Allegro and powerfully propelled finale; nevertheless, the final fugue of the B flat major is a contrapuntal tour de force and the A major holds some surprises at the conclusion of its opening movement and in its action-packed finale. Overall these characterful performances put as strong a case as can be made for Platti's trio sonatas without needless hyperbole.
- Robin Stowell, The Strad, October 2017
- KLASSIK.COM (Germany) review:
Recovering the melodiousness
The Ensemble Armoniosa brings Giovanni Benedetto Platti's TrioSonatas to sparkle. From the first to the last note. Fascinating, which different sound's levels the musicians of the ensemble Armoniosa discover and release in the TrioSonatas of the Italian composer.
The charms of the musical composition can be so exquisite, because the violinist Francesco Cerrato, the cellist Stefano Cerrato and the other musicians (Marco Demaria, Cello, Michele Barchi, harpsichord, Daniele Ferretti, organ) painstakingly illuminate every detail. It is particularly striking that, unlike the trend of historically orientated specialists, especially from Italy, the ensemble is increasingly researched, made more and more playful, and the re-discoveries of (instrumental) singing are taking place: the cantilenas breathe the elegance and elegance of the line unfold with an always substantial sound of the finest edible melt. The Cerratos are not purists, but they form the singing lines, which they know how to decorate airily, sometimes also with a vivid vibrato, so that the violin and the cello come close to human singing, but also play the very richest qualities of the string instruments the sound.
Reliability and spiritual expanse
The Ensemble Armoniosa has a compelling way to create tremendous moments of tension with dynamic means. Rarely, other performers in works of the middle eighteenth century discover passages which, through dynamic withdrawal, act as a recreation, from which the action then emerges. The Ensemble Armoniosa deserves the utmost recognition for such interpretative boldness.
Room for breathing
Such moods and contrast effects, however, do not appear to be placed on the music, but developed out of it. The ensemble performs stylistically versed, plays on dissonances, emphasizes the tension, rounds phrases tastefully, creates the most elegant, softest punctures, pulls the notes bitingly and with slaps, creates opulent, enthralling increases, celebrates lyric melody and gives the Music has a lot of space to breathe, even in the rhythmically gripping passages, which unfold a properly rocking groove. From the "sewing machine" baroque of the 20th century and terraces dynamics you are lucky to be light years away - here everything is in tension-filled movement… The ensemble Armoniosa works out with very fine flexibility and close coordination of the solo voices with the continuo very precise and colored.
- Florian Schreiner, KLASSIK.COM (Germany), September 2017
- CLASSICA (France) review: "... Le panache avec lequel les musiciens de l’Ensemble Armoniosa s’emparent de ces partitions gomme ces inégalités. L’abondance des motifs en imitation et des fugatos (mouvements rapides), les arcs mélodiques en tierces parallèles (mouvements lents) attestent de leur parfaite cohésion. On est aussi sensible à la chaleur et la rondeur des timbres qui se dégagent des instruments anciens, même si davantage de charme ressort de la musique de chambre avec hautbois du compositeur."
- Jérémie Bigorie, CLASSICA (France)
- Early Music review: "Several previous encounters with the chamber works of Giovanni Benedetto Platti (c. 1697-1763) have a favourable impression fully confirmed by this new CD [Platti: 6 Trio Sonatas for Violin, Violoncello and Continuo] of trio sonatas. Born in the region of Padua, Platti was educated in Venice, where his father served as violist at San Marco. In 1722 he went with a group of Italian musicians to Würzburg, where he was offered a place in the service of the prince-bishop of Bamburg and Würzburg. On the archbishop's death two years later the orchestra was disbanded but Platti managed to find employment with the archbishop's brother in nearby Wiesentheid, where it seems most of his music was composed. After the court orchestra was re-formed in 1729 Platti returned to Würzburg, where he would remain until his death in 1763. There he came into contact with Tiepolo, who included Platti in one of his frescos forming a part of his re-decoration of the palace.
Platti composed 22 trio sonatas, of which the six performed here have been published. With the exception of the Sonata in C minor, WD 694 (the numbering comes from the Wiesentheid library that is home to Platti's manuscripts), which has only three, all have four movements, including the odd one employing dance forms. They tend to strike a balance between older Baroque forms and newer galant tendencies. Unsurprisingly it is the minor key works that are more likely to adopt the former, though the B-flat Trio ends with a well-worked fugue culminating in a particularly satisfying stretto. Arguably the most satisfying sonata is the G minor (WD 691), which opens with noble, flowing Largho (sic) with considerable contrapuntal intricacy, before proceeding to a terse Allegro making much play on imitative sequences, another Largho, a heart-easing movement with effective use of suspensions and a brisk finale not without some quirky moments to add spice. Also worthy of special note is the opening Adagio assai of the Sonata in D (WD 680), an expansive melody that sounds like a quasi-operatic aria. But Platti's writing in general is highly accomplished and appealing. If there is a fault it is perhaps an over-reliance on sequences.
The performances by the Italian ensemble Armoniosa are very attractive, being accomplished technically, thoughtful and unfailingly musical. I was especially taken by the readings of some of the slower movements, where there is much affecting cantabile playing. Full marks, too, for the stylish ornamentation the players apply to repeats (most movements are binary form). One curiosity is the use of both harpsichord and organ as keyboard continuo at the same time, which presumably accounts for the thickening up of the bass texture. I write 'presumably' as it is difficult to tell just how much this happens, since the harpsichord is so backwardly balanced that it frequently cannot be heard. Still, this is a fine CD of music that is assuredly worth investigating.
- Brian Robins, Early Music Review, June 2017
- TIROLER TAGESZEITUNG review: "... The Ensemble Armoniosa from Asti did not let any notes or sounds fall into the wind. The cellist Stefano Cerrato, who played wonderfully the early Classic Sonata by Graziani, and the violinist Francesco Cerrato, with one of the Rosenkranz Sonaten by Biber, are outstanding "virtuosi", and also with the continuo of Michele Barchi (harpsichord) and Marco Demaria (violoncello) they are a fully experienced "Team", as they demonstrated at the end with the Vivaldi's Follia."
- Tiroler Tageszeitung, May 2017
- MUSICA review:"Armoniosa's main strengths were the cohesion of the players' sounds and their ability to produce a soft and bright timbre. Armoniosa carefully avoided any of the harshness normally associated with using the original instruments. The performance was enhanced by the use of agogic technique, which led to a production that felt both natural and bright throughout. The quality of the music was perfectly suited to the group's name, Armoniosa- as it was harmonious, persuasive, dreamlike, yet always very pleasant."
- Claudio Bolzan, MUSICA, April 2017 (Italy)
- "... Armoniosa has set itself the goal to belong to the top. You can see that on this recording."
- Uwe Krusch, Pizzicato (Luxembourg)
- TOCCATA MAGAZINE review: "The interpretation is fascinating, elegant, light and flaky. The music seems pulsating, nuanced, lively and technically clean. And this interpretation sparkles with a liveliness and sensuality, as the music from Italy does very well. Platti, so played - is simply cool!"
- Robert Strobl, on TOCCATA MAGAZINE (Germany)
- MUSICALIFEITEN review: Within the new "Discography Comparisons" this recording comes 2nd after Rachel Podger. If in comparison with Vivaldi's "average" violin concerto we are here talking more about experiment and phantasy [or fancy] then these vital, brillant young Italians prove it.
Regarding Francesco Cerrato we are talking about the debut CD made by a young, enthusiastic and very good youthful ensemble who know the devices of the authentic line. They care for strong accents and useful [wholesome] contrast. Within the slow movements they take advantage of the ornamental options. As it should be, the continuo is shared by harpsichord and organ. Altogether a promising, refreshing and admirable debüt. To realize this you should listen, for example, to the last movement of no. 6, the second movement of no. 7 or the last movement of no. 2. Moreover everything has been wonderfully recorded.
- Jan de Kruijff, MUSICALIFEITEN
- Giovanni Benedetto Platti, Trio Sonatas for Violin, Violoncello and Continuo (MDG, 2016) Klassik Heute review: The sonatas are all very elegant, sometimes seductive and suggest a pleasing to playful tone. Imitatorically, the fast sets of assuming ease, expressive melody lines in the slow movements - all this speaks for Platti's Italian heritage. Coupled with an insensible sensitivity, Platti's sonatas in their departure from the strict counterpoint, but also to what is called the gallant style. The ensemble Armoniosa - based on original instruments and historically orientated - makes this music completely unpretentious for itself. It is true that some of the rhetorical aspects might be somewhat more elaborate, or a little more attention may be given to the emotional content of many sentences. But the clear articulation and excellent phrasing art, at all, the fine elasticity and the natural vocal expression in the play of the entire ensemble, taken for granted.
- Christof Jetzschke, KLASSIK-HEUTE.COM, 6th December 2016 (Germany)
- VIVALDI La Stravaganza Gramophone review: The exquisite chaconne from the final concerto of Vivaldi's La stravaganza may be worth the entry price alone. But this second set of 12 concertos for violin and strings with continuo - published, like the hugely influential 1711 set L'estro armonico, by Estienne Roger of Amsterdam - positively o'er brims with further musical delights. So it's hard to believe it was less well received than its predecessor, especially when performed by such persuasive advocates of Vivaldi's bravura originality as Italian period instrument band Armoniosa and violinist/director Francesco Cerrato.
Cerrato and Armoniosa enter, well, if not a crowded field then one distinguished more by quality than quantity, and among my enduring favourites are the suavely elegant Monica Huggett with the Academy of Ancient Music under Hogwood, the characterful Rachel Podger with Arte dei Suonatori and the ardently stylish Fabio Biondi with Europa Galante (Virgin, 7/11 - though the latter's is not a complete recording). But the new kids on the block - Cerrato founded Armoniosa only in 2012 - have convincingly staked their claim with this debut recording for MDG. Using both harpsichord and organ continuo for colouristic effects throughout, the general approach is however immediately apparent with the opening B flat major concerto. The strongly accented down-bows of the Allegro anchor a gentler flow enlivened by strong contrasts between solo and concertante episodes, presaging Cerrato's deliciously ornamented line in the Adagio before he cuts loose in the final stages of the closing Allegro with some typically Vivaldian high-register passagework.
And so it goes on. Armoniosa render the following dramatic E minor concerto (No 2) with the requisite chiaroscuro, connecting with the sfumato of the atmospheric slow movement of the A minor concerto (No 4), marked Grave e sempre piano. The relaxed expansiveness of the Largo of No 7 in C - the only four-movement concerto - is masterly and recalls La Serenissima's approach (Avie, A/09). The brisk antiphonal exchanges between the two solo violins in the D major No 11's Allegro create an electricity that dissipates in the following Largo, which features a particularly rich cello accompaniment. An impressive debut indeed.
- William Yeoman, Gramophone
- VIVALDI, La Stravaganza, Fanfare Magazine review: This is an extremely elegant, beautifully poised and nuanced rendering of Vivaldi's Op.4. It stands up to the great recent recordings of Vivaldi, notably by Avi Avital, and will be a brilliant addition to any enthusiast's shelf.
The works themselves are, not to be too obvious, highly Vivaldian. Works such as Op.4 are so acutely emblematic of Vivaldi's composition methods, innovations and approaches to timbre that they could stand as a 'typical' or 'representative' Vivaldi work: and, if you ask me, are delicious precisely for this reason. All those tessellated patterns and cycles of fifths we remember from the Four Seasons, and those virtuosic string flourishes with punchy continuo from the mandolin concerto: these are amply represented here on this enormous double-disc, and the variety here is a testament to both Vivaldi and the editors.
The performances are also exceptional. The first violin (Cerrato) is a truly wonderful player, with such delicate nuance in every phrase. His understanding of Vivaldi is exceptional, and he truly balances that festivity and solemnity always at odds in Vivaldi's corpus. I would buy this pair of discs just to hear him play. It is the most impressive rendering of Vivaldi's string work I have heard for a very long time.
In all, this is one to buy immediately, and not just if you like Vivaldi: if you fancy something richly detailed and complicated, but something moving and fun, then buy this over any other recent recording of Vivaldi or other Venetian Baroque. It is stunning.
- Dan Sperrin, Fanfare Magazine Review