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One of Italy's best-known orchestras, the Santa Cecilia is going from strength to strength under the inspired leadership of Sir Antonio Pappano.
Founded in 1908, the Orchestra of the Academy of Santa Cecilia is one of Italy's best-known orchestras. It was the first orchestra in Italy to devote itself exclusively to the symphonic repertoire, and premiered important 20th century masterworks such as Respighi’s Pines of Rome.
The orchestra is part of the Academy of Santa Cecilia, one of the world's oldest musical institutions. It was founded in 1585 by the papal bull, Ratione congruit, issued by Pope Sixtus V in 1585. Today, it is the only example of an Italian academy originating in the Renaissance that has evolved into a functioning modern academy and symphonic concert organisation of international renown.
Santa Cecilia – or Saint Cecilia – is the patron saint of music. The first report of a music festival held in her honour was in Normandy in 1570. Her feast day became an occasion for concerts and festivals that inspired music from the likes of Purcell, Charpentier, Handel, Gounod and Benjamin Britten.
In the 19th century, all of Europe's major exponents of music were enrolled as honorary associates of the Academy. They included Donizetti - pictured, Rossini, Paganini, Mendelssohn and Berlioz. Among the crowned heads of Europe who were honorary members was Queen Victoria.
The Orchestra boasts a venerable Mahler tradition. Their strong ties with the composer commenced when he went to Rome to conduct the then recently established orchestra on two separate visits in March 1907 and April 1910.
Among the outstanding music directors of the Orchestra have been: Igor Markevitch (1973-1975), Giuseppe Sinopoli (1983-1987), Daniele Gatti (1992-1997), pictured, and Myung-Whun Chung (1997-2005).
Since 2002, the orchestra has been housed at the Auditorium Parco della Musica designed by Renzo Piano, who also designed the Shard in London. The complex is situated in the north of Rome where the 1960 Olympics were held. The largest of the three concert halls is the Sala Santa Cecilia, which seats 2800. The auditoriums are structurally separate to ensure soundproofing, but joined at the base by a common lobby.
The Parco is reportedly the world's most visited music facility with more than a million visitors each year. The structures have been given several nicknames such as blobs, beetles, scarabs, turtles, and computer mice.
During construction, excavations uncovered the foundations of a villa and oil press dating from the 6th century BC. The architect Renzo Piano redesigned the facility to accommodate the archaeological remains and included a small museum to house items that were discovered.
Sir Antonio Pappano has been Music Director of the Orchestra and Chorus of the Academy of Santa Cecilia since 1 October 2005. Under his leadership, they have enjoyed extraordinary success, building an international reputation for themselves.
With Sir Antonio Pappano at the podium, the Orchestra has appeared at some of the most prestigious international music festivals including White Nights in St. Petersburg, the Lucerne and Salzburg Festivals. It has also performed in some of the world’s best-known venues, including the Royal Albert Hall.
In 2007, Pappano was named an Active Accademician of Santa Cecilia and in December 2008 he was honored with the title of Commander of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic. The most recent honour is his knighthood for his services to music in the 2012 Queen’s New Year’s Honours List.