"...like a ray of sunshine penetrating the gloom of a cathedral..."
This 17th-century description of the sound of the cornetto demonstrates the same fascination with which modern audiences respond to this remarkable instrument. (The cornetto is a lip-vibrated, wooden, finger-hole horn, usually curved and octagonal in cross section, which went out of use in the early 19th century.) Thought in the 17th century to be the ideal instrument both for its uncanny ability to imitate the human voice and for its extreme agility, the cornetto was often paired with trombones to form a wind "concerto". Such an ensemble existed in Bologna for over 200 years under the name "Il concerto palatino della Signoria di Bologna". In 1987 Bruce Dickey and Charles Toet formed an ensemble borrowing this historical name and dedicated to reviving the music of these instruments with all of their "vocality" and virtuosity.
The names Bruce Dickey and Charles Toet are practically synonymous with the modern revival of the cornetto and the Baroque trombone and are largely responsible for the enormous advances that have been made in the last 20 years in the playing standards on these instruments. Playing together for some 25 years, they have together trained a whole generation of cornetto and trombone players, many of whom are regular members of Concerto Palatino.
Expanding from a core of two cornetti, three trombones, and organ, Concerto Palatino performs the glorious music for brass of the 17th century. They frequently collaborate with other leading ensembles, in particular Cantus Cölln (Konrad Junghänel), the Belgian vocal ensemble Currende, Tragicomedia (Stephen Stubbs and Erin Headley), the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra (Ton Koopman), and the Bach Collegium Japan.
Concerto Palatino places a high priority on unearthing neglected gems of music history and giving them a place in the concert hall and record catalogs alongside the works of established masters. Thus, in addition to highly acclaimed recordings of Schütz, Gabrieli, and Monteverdi, they have made premiere recordings of the Marian Vespers of Francesco Cavalli, the Missa Maria Concertata of Christoph Strauss, and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina's Missa sine nomine preserved in a manuscript of J. S. Bach. Their numerous recordings for EMI Reflexe, Accent, and harmonia mundi France have received high acclaim and numerous awards.
Concerto Palatino gives concerts with programs involving a wide range of forces, from 2 cornetti and 3 trombones to polychoral groupings with solo singers and up to 15 instrumentalists.