The Italian recorder player conductor, Giovanni Antonini, studied flute and recorder in his native Milan, attending the Civica Scuola di Musica in that city and the Centre de Musique Ancienne in Geneva.
Followinh his studies, Giovanni Antonini became a leading recorder soloist, and has appeared with Gustav Leonhardt, Christophe Coin, and Katia & Marielle Labèque. He regularly appears at leading music festivals and has made several European tours, as well as trips to Malaysia, Japan, Canada, and the USA.
In 1985, Giovanni Antonini became a founding member of Il Giardino Armonico (The Harmonic Garden), an original instruments group founded in Milan by a select group of international-caliber period instrument players, all of whom graduated from various European universities and conservatories after specialized study in original instruments technique and interpretation and in musical research. Il Giardino Armonico was one of the earliest important original instruments ensembles in Italy, whose musical culture was not quick to embrace the "authenticity" movement. Antonini and Il Giardino Armonico have been credited with beginning to raise interest in period performance in Italy.
In 1989, Giovanni Antonini became one of the directors of the organization and began to conduct the ensemble. He has appeared with them as conductor and soloist on the recorder and Baroque transverse flute. The most important festivals, such as the Salzburg Easter and Whitsunday Festival regularly invite him. Antonini's conducting of Il Giardino Armonico has included performances of Baroque operas such as Monteverdi's L'Orfeo, Georg Frideric Handel's Agrippina, and Giovanni Battista Pergolesi's La Serva padrona. A recent tour of G.F. Handel’s Acis, Galatea e Polifemo took him to the Musikverein Vienna, Salzburg and Salamanca. He has directed their appearances on the Teldec and London (Decca) labels, winning leading recording awards, including the Diapason d'Or, Choc de la Musique, Grand Prix des Discophiles, the Gramophone Award, the Echo-Preis, the Cecila Award of Belgium, and the Fondazione Cini Award of Venice. Their very first recording, in 1992, won the Vivaldi Record Prize.
Giovanni Antonini is regarded as one of the leaders of the Italian period instruments movement. He enjoys a successful collaboration with the Kammerorchester Basel and several recordings together are planned. Their Beethoven CD (Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2) was released in 2005, when he also conducted the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment with Viktoria Mullova to great acclaim. His latest CD with Viktoria, of Antonio Vivaldi’s violin concertos, has won the prestigious Diapason d’Or 2005 for Baroque instrumental music. He is also a regular conductor of the Settimane Bach of Milan and has appeared as guest conductor with the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra in the Canary Islands, the Camerata Academica Salzburg, and the Galicia Symphony Orchestra. He conducted the oratorio Il martirio di San Lorenzo by Francesco Bartolomeo Conti at the Salzburg Festival, its first performance in modern times.
Sir Simon Rattle invited Giovanni Antonini to conduct the Berliner Philharmoniker in January 2004 in works from the Classical and Baroque periods: the Berliner Zeitung defined his interpretation as "simply ingenious". His return to both the Berliner Philharmoniker and the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie in Bremen last season (2007-2008) received great praise. Engagements this season (2008-2009) include an iGA tour of Europe with Magdalena Kožená, a tour with the Camerata Academica Salzburg and concerts with the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin and the Münchener Kammerorchester. Future engagements include concerts with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Zürich Tonhalle Orchestra and the Spanish National Orchestra.