I Solisti Italiani is a chamber string orchestra consisting of about 12 players, known particularly for their spirited readings of works from the Baroque and Classical periods. They have performed and recorded much Vivaldi over the years and have devoted nearly as much effort to the works of Handel, Mozart, Mendelssohn, and Rossini. They are strongly identified with music of the twentieth century as well, having had particular success with a recording of film score excerpts by Walton, Shostakovich, Herrmann, Morricone, and other notables in the genre. What is remarkable about the group is that it performs without a conductor. Despite that seeming encumbrance, the group has managed to concertize frequently and make numerous critically successful recordings.
I Solisti Italiani began, like many instrumental ensembles, as an offshoot of a larger one. The popular chamber orchestra I Virtuosi di Roma disbanded in 1979 upon the death of its leader of three decades, Renato Fasano. But the "disbanding" process was more of a metamorphosis, for the players split into two groups, one forming I Nuovi Virtuosi di Roma and the other becoming I Solisti Italiani. The latter had nearly immediate success, scoring numerous triumphs on the world's concert stages and quickly drawing comparison with its defunct parent group.
The ensemble gave its New York debut in October 1986 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, drawing high praise from The New York Times in a program of Vivaldi, Mozart, Rossini, Bartók, and Britten. Around this time I Solisti's earliest recordings were also scoring critical successes. Among them was the 1986 Denon release of Vivaldi's Four Seasons, which, because of its popularity, gained a second life in a rerelease in 1993.
The late '80s and early '90s were I Solisti's busiest time in the recording studio, as it turned out a spate of well-received discs, all on Denon, and mostly in its bread-and-butter repertory: there were several CDs of music by Vivaldi, and single issues by Rossini, Corelli, and Mendelssohn, as well as others. Perhaps the group's most popular album from this period was the aforementioned 1996 CD of film music that contained excerpts from Herrmann's Psycho, Walton's Henry V, a trio of Shostakovich scores -- Hamlet, The Gadfly, and Five Days and Five Nights -- and several others. In the new century I Solisti Italiani, if a tad less vital, has still remained active in both the concert and recording venues.