Bruce Dickey is one of a handful of musicians worldwide who have dedicated themselves to reviving the cornetto – once an instrument of great virtuosi, but which lamentably fell into disuse in the 19th century. The revival began in the 1950s, but it was largely Bruce Dickey, who, from the late 1970s, created a new renaissance of the instrument, allowing the agility and expressive power of the cornetto to be heard once again. His many students, over more than 30 years of teaching at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, have helped to consolidate and elevate the status of this once forgotten instrument. For his acheivements the Historic Brass Society awarded him in 2000 the prestigious Christopher Monk Award for “his monumental work in cornetto performance, historical performance practice and musicological scholarship.” In 2007 he was honored by British conductor and musicologist Andrew Parrott with a “Taverner Award” as one of 14 musicians whose “significant contributions to musical understanding have been motivated by neither commerce nor ego.”
In the course of his long career as a performer and recording artist he has worked with most of the leading figures in the field of early music, including the legendary pioneers of historically informed perfomance, Gustav Leonhardt, Frans Brüggen and Nikolaus Harnoncourt. He was a member for over ten years of Jordi Savall’s Hesperion XX , and has frequently and repeatedly collaborated with Ton Koopman, Andrew Parrott, Philippe Herreweghe, Konrad Junghänel and many others. For the last twenty years, he has focused on the group he founded together with Charles Toet, Concerto Palatino. The group takes its name from a historical ensemble of cornettists and trombonists which existed in the city of Bologna for over 200 years under the name, Il concerto palatino della Signoria di Bologna. Following in the footsteps of these former virtuosi, their aim is to restore these instruments to an active and respected place in concert life, and to cultivate a love of their music among audiences and players alike.
Bruce Dickey can be heard on countless recordings, both as a soloist and together with Concerto Palatino. His first solo CD (“Quel lascivissimo cornetto…”) on Accent with the ensemble Tragicomedia was awarded the Diapason d’or. His newly released one, “La bella minuta” has been called, “simply a brilliant recording”.
In addition to performing, Bruce Dickey is much in demand as a teacher, both of the cornetto and of seventeenth-century performance practice. In addition to his regular class at the Schola Cantorum he has taught at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, the Accademia Chigiana in Siena, and the Early Music Institute at Indiana University, as well as master classes in the United States, Canada, Europe and Japan. He is also active in research on performance practice, and has published, together with Michael Collver, a catalog of the surviving cornetto repertoire, and, together with trumpeter Edward Tarr, a book on historical wind articulation. In 1997, together with his wife Candace Smith, he founded Artemisia Editions, a small publishing house which produces editions of music from 17th-century Italian convents. In 1981, Bruce Dickey moved to Italy, partly to be closer to the origins and source materials for his instrument and its music.