The Early Music Seminars of the Giorgio Cini Foundation were inaugurated in 1976 and for twenty years were directed by the harpsichordist Egida Sartori. In 1996 the direction passed to the harpsichordist and forte-pianist Laura Alvini, but was interrupted in 2004 due to her premature death.
At the end of 2006 the direction of the Seminars was offered to Pedro Memelsdorff and from May 2007 the Seminars resumed their activity, respecting the annual cadence (and biennial from 2016).
The new series of Seminars
The new series still aims at continuing the work started by Sartori and Alvini, introducing some important changes.
The first concerns the extension of the repertoire – until 2004 comprised between the 16th and 19th centuries – to the centuries of the Middle Ages, a real gap in Italian academic-music training that the new model of San Giorgio can help to fill.
The second consists in flanking each Seminar with a musicological and interdisciplinary study session of international scope, in the hope of consolidating – still in the spirit of Laura Alvini – a common venue for synergistic artistic and scientific research into the music of the past.
The third change is of a programmatic kind: we try to give not just to each seminar, but to all of them a profile, a common point of view. This was deduced from the basic themes promoted by the Foundation since its creation – points of contact between sciences and arts; cultural flows and influences between East and West; constant reformulation of the relationship between culture and criticism. Considering also the particular role of Venice in the history of European and Mediterranean musical culture, the chosen point of view can be summarized in the dichotomy transits and situations. By transits we mean the many repertoires of passage, exported from one place or cultural context to another, both in Europe and the Mediterranean and in the European enclaves overseas; by situations we mean the impacts of those repertoires of passage with local cultures.
The result is a series of initiatives with a wide historical and cultural range: from the study of the instrumental and vocal practices of the Italian, French, English and Eastern Mediterranean Middle Ages, to that of the Italian transit of polyphonic models of the French, German or Spanish 16th and 17th centuries, to that of the export of theatrical and musical traditions from modern Europe to the Caribbean colonies of the 18th century.
Each Seminar is structured in various appointments aimed at providing participants with different practical and theoretical skills and, at the same time, involving institutions and the Venetian public. These appointments can be summarized in four main categories: (a) international competition for the selection of scholarship candidates; (b) musical residency at San Giorgio; (c) final concert open to the public; and (d) spin-offs of some of these final concerts, replicated at partner institutions.
Approximately 150 scholarships have been awarded since 2007.
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The partner institutions
An important step in the organization of the Seminars occurred in 2016 with the activation of a framework agreement between the Giorgio Cini Foundation and the Fondation Concordance, based in Basel, Switzerland, whose mission is the support of research and production in the field of early music – including the stimulation of promising musical ensembles at the beginning of their professional careers. Thanks to the important support of Fondation Concordance, since 2016 the Seminars have become biennial.
In addition, collaborations with other Swiss institutions, including the Irma Merk, L. & Th. La Roche, and Saly Frommer foundations, all based in Basel, have been active since 2015 and have been providing scholarships for the participation of early music soloists and ensembles specifically in the Early Music Seminars.
Finally, in recent years collaborations have intensified with several academic institutions related to the Seminars of San Giorgio such as: Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, Villa I Tatti, The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, Universities of Tours, Harvard and Guadeloupe, the Centro Studi Santa Giacinta Marescotti in the Castello Ruspoli-Marescotti in Vignanello.
Collaborations with Venetian Institutions
Each Seminar is a valuable opportunity for collaboration with institutions in the City of Venice that are committed to preserving and promoting musical culture.
In the various editions since 2007, tour visits, conferences and lectures have been organized in important Venetian venues such as: Venice State Archives; Marciana Library; Querini Stampalia Foundation; Correr Museum; Veneto Institute of Sciences, Letters and Arts; Palazzo Grimani Museum; Early Music School of Venice; Jewish Museum.