The French-Italian historical-performance group Gli Incogniti (The Unknowns) did not try to be self-deprecating with their name, taken from that of the Accademia degli Incogniti, a 17th century gathering of Venetian intellectuals.
It refers as well to the group's occasional tendency to explore little-known repertory by the likes of Nicola Matteis and Johann Rosenmüller. However, it is Vivaldi, freshly done, who has taken Gli Incogniti to the top of the charts.
Gli Incogniti were founded by French violinist Amandine Beyer in 2006. A native of Aix-en-Provence, Beyer took modern violin classes in Paris, emphasizing contemporary music in her studies. But a recommendation from a friend led her to the Schola Cantorum in Basel, Switzerland, and to the teaching of Baroque violinist Chiara Banchini. That proved decisive for Beyer's style, although she has continued to play contemporary music on a modern violin. Beyer plays without a chin rest, uses gut strings, and adopts various other historical techniques; her style varies across the wide variety of Baroque music she plays. She founded Gli Incogniti in 2006, and the group, composed of veterans of various other continental historical-performance ensembles, gave its first concert that year in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
Gli Incogniti made their recording debut a year later with an album of Bach violin concertos; they have recorded for Outhere, Zig Zag Territoires, and Harmonia Mundi. A 2008 album featuring Vivaldi's Four Seasons violin concertos and other concertos was both critically and commercially successful, topping French classical charts for several weeks and earning Gli Incogniti the first in a series of awards in France and Germany. The group has toured widely in France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Romania, Poland, Switzerland, China, Japan, and the U.S. Their 2016 release, Un orage d'April (An April Storm), once again showed their ability to apply fresh approaches to extremely familiar material; among the compositions by Johann Pachelbel on the album was the Canon in D major. Later that year, Gli Incogniti released an album of Vivaldi concertos for two violins and orchestra, pairing Beyer with Italian Baroque violinist Giuliano Carmignola.