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Fuoco e Cenere is exceptional not only in its choice of repertoire, which spirals from medieval times to our own century, but foremost in its desire to kindle passions and memories that outlast the concert experience. The interpretations of Fuoco e Cenere magnify image and expression of superb musical and poetic texts enbling them to shock the public by their beauty.
The recordings of Fuoco e Cenere reflects the diversity of it's repertoire: Fantasy in Blue featuring the mezzo soprano Rinat Shaham was hailed as a "veritable knock-out" by the French daily Le Monde. In 2004 the ensemble dedicated a CD to music inspired by the music of Petrarch, celebrating the 700th anniversary of the poet's birth with the French mezzo Guillemette Laurens. Also issued a CD of Marcello's psalms "Estro Poetico Armonico", his Salmi di Davide – "a cd that will stand the test of time – absolutely recommended".
Fuoco e Cenere is led with brio by viol player Jay Bernfeld, widely acclaimed as soloist and chamber musician. His highly original performances of landmarks of the viola da gamba literature have received extravagant praise in the international press.
The rich cultural life of his native of New York afforded Jay Bernfeld a rare apprenticeship. As a young musician he was greatly inspired by performances of Oistrakh, Horowitz and Rubinstein… Yet the world of Opera would rest forever hos grand passion. As a teenager, he witnessed hundreds of performances of Price, Sutherland, Callas and other legendary singers. He expresses a special admiration for Renata Tebaldi, whose beauty of voice, dramatic sense and love for her public prove an everlasting inspiration for Jay Bernfeld.
An avid pedagogue Jay Bernfeld has given master classes on the viola da gamba as well as instrumental and vocal techniques in Italy, Norway, France, the United States and at the Leipziger "Bachtage" on the theme of "Bach and France". At the invitation of David Stern, the director of the European Academy at Aix en Provence, he gave master classes on baroque vocal styles and also assisted Maestro Stern at the Rouen Opera for it's production of "the marriage of Figaro". With Stern, he has also given performances of Haendel's Hercules at the prestigious theater of Herodicus Atticus in Athens, and pursued their cycle of Haendel operas performing and recording both Semele and Jephtha. The creative team of Stern and Bernfeld prepared a pan European project under the auspices of the foundation Royaumont to celebrate the Mozart year with performances of his first opera "La Finta Giardiniera".
Fuoco e Cenere has participated frequently in France’s most prestigious festivals, such as the Festival d’Art Lyrique Aix en Provence and the Festival d’Ambronay, and has appeared on such important European stages as the Opera of Innsbruck and the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, Italy. The ensemble has also performed in Israel as well as at the Izmir festival. The ensemble performs regularly in the United States and Canada most notably for the Miami Bach Society, Amherst Early Music Festival and the Da camera Society.
In 2005, the ensemble's collaboration with Arion continued with Pièces de Mr de Caix d'Hervelois rarely heard works of the French composer of Louis XV's time. Also in 2005 the ensemble created "Lachrimae or Seven Tears" alongside the French counter tenor Philippe Jaroussky, as well as marathon concert experience highlighting the works of Scarlatti, Pergolese and other Neapolitan composers. Fuoco e Cenere has recently recorded Canta Napoli, a tribute to the spirit of Naples as revealed in its popular songs over four centuries with the talented young tenor Mathieu Abelli. In 2006 Fuoco e Cenere marked the Marais year with a concert in Brussels Bozar series.
In 2007, the ensemble pays homage to the 400 birthday of Opera with performances of Marco da Gagliano madrigal comedy La Dafne and And The Curtain Rises… with Guillemette Laurens, an evocation of the operatic spark which ignited such passion the world over.