At 7pm on Thursday 3 April 2003, 3MBS broadcast the first episode of The Early Music Experience.

We began in festive style with the first two programs on 3 & 10 April featuring music from the Medici wedding of 1589: the six intermedi – performed between the acts of Girolamo Bargagli’s play La pellegrina – composed to celebrate the marriage of Grand Duke Ferdinano de’Medici of Tuscany to Christine of Lorraine. This lavish mix of instrumental sinfonie, solo songs and large-scale choral madrigals was a collaborative effort from a group of composers, including Cristofano Malvezzi, Luca Marenzio, Jacopo Peri and Giulio Caccini. The latter pair were to develop further this form of dramatic musical entertainment over the next twenty years, ultimately resulting in the emergence of the first operas.

To mark the twentieth anniversary of The Early Music Experience we’ll be returning to the Florentine intermedi in a special three-hour edition of the program on Thursday 6 April. In 2003, we broadcast the impressive 1986 recording of the 1589 intermedi by Andrew Parrott and the Taverner Consort & Players. Twenty years on, I thought we’d hear a recent, lavish project from the French ensemble Pygmalion, that combines music from 1589 with similar musical entertainments produced in Florence over the following two decades. Pygmalion’s director, Raphael Pichon, has devised an imaginary set of intermedi based on the myths of Apollo and of Orpheus and with music from Caccini’s Il Rapimento di Cefalo (1600), Peri’s L’Euridice (1600), Gagliano’s La Dafne (1608), as well as the intermedi of 1589.

Join me in celebrating twenty years of The Early Music Experience with the sumptuous music of late Renaissance Florence which, as one contemporary put it, ‘gave varied pleasure both to the mind and to the senses of all who witnessed it’.

– Mark Shepheard