I Fiamminghi, the Orchestra of Flanders, is one of the best-known specialty orchestras of the world, and is particularly well known for its championing of very recent music. The name "Fiamminghi" (Italian for Flemish) is a reference to the Renaissance era. At that time, a new and brilliant composing and playing style originated among Flemish musicians and became popular in the Italian courts and chapels.
The orchestra was founded by Rudolf Werthen, a Belgian violinist who had recently broken into the ranks of internationally known conductors by substituting for maestro Klaus Tennstedt during a European tour when Tennstedt became indisposed. Werthen, winner of the 1971 Queen Elisabeth of Belgium Violin Competition and the first Kreisler Competition, was then known as the "last heir" of the Franco-Belgian school of violin. Werthen founded I Fiamminghi as a string orchestra intended to use the Franco-Belgian approach and thus transmit it to a younger generation of players through his own teaching and that of France Springuel, I Fiamminghi's cello soloist. I Fiamminghi became known for its rich sound, warm sonority, virtuosic playing, and expressive, individual interpretation.
The orchestra recorded, during its first decade, with SOF, RGIP, BMG and Koch International record labels. It has played with such stellar guest soloists as Jean-Pierre Rampal, Barbara Hendricks, Katia and Marielle Labèque, Hermann Prey, Bruno-Leonardo Gelber, Heinz Holliger, and José van Dam, and toured widely throughout the world.
In 1992, the government of Flanders appointed Werthen and I Fiamminghi as the Cultural Ambassador of Flanders, citing its "quality and international reputation." In that year, I Fiamminghi added winds and percussion to become a full orchestra.
I Fiamminghi mainly performs Romantic era and later music, with a strong emphasis on music written after the end of the brief international vogue for serial music. When playing Romantic music, it strives to use the authentic performing techniques of the particular time of the composition of the music (from Beethoven and Schubert through Wagner to Mahler).
In 1994, I Fiamminghi and Werthen signed an exclusive contract with the American record company Telarc. On that label they have recorded 20th century repertory, including music of Hovhaness, Kancheli, Vasks, Pärt, and Argentine tango master Astor Piazzolla, as well as special arrangements of older composers such as Flemish master Orlando de Lassus.
I Fiamminghi maintains the Academia Fiamminghi, a special school for talented young instrumental players.