Cappella Coloniensis, founded in 1954, was the first orchestra in the world to make music according to historical performance practices. Its developmental phase during the first years – when it was necessary to find musicians able to deal with the new ways of playing, to purchase appropriate instruments and especi- ally to accustom audiences to the new sounds of early music – was followed by concert tours around the world in the 60s and 70s.
Whether in the USSR, the Middle and Far East and Japan, or in Europe and North and South America, Cappella was enthusiastically received and feted as an ambassador of Germany. Amongst the important conductors that have stood in front of Cappella Coloniensis during its 50 year existence are Ferdinand Leitner, William Christie, John Eliot Gardiner and John Rifkin, to name only a few, and from 1997 increasingly often Bruno Weil. With him Cappella Coloniensis was twice awarded the Echo-Klassik Prize of the German Recording Industry. They created widely regarded CD recordings of the Weber operas “Der Freischütz” and “Abu Hassan” as well as the opera “Endimione” by Johann Christian Bach. On top of that, they created a worldwide sensation with the first ever performance of the Parisian version of Richard Wagner’s “Flying Dutchman” in the Philharmonie Essen in June 2004 and with the premiere of the surviving fragments of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s opera “Demofonte” in the Düsseldorf Tonhalle in May 2007.
To be an orchestra of the avant-garde – that was Cappella Coloniensis’s ambition when they were founded by the WDR (West German Radio) more than fifty years ago. Its founding fathers can hardly have sus- pected they would start a movement that would have such enduring, even revolutionary implications for the entire musical world. Bringing music to life in the way the composer heard it in his head and heart on the very day it was created is a task that has fascinated musicians and listeners throughout the world ever since.
Now that historical performance practice has become established, in which Cappella Coloniensis through the WDR played a decisive part worldwide, the WDR has terminated its sponsorship after more than fifty years of dedicated support. Cappella Coloniensis now stands on its own two feet, continuing the work of the last decades with great enthusiasm.
The choice of programme, from the early Baroque to the Romantic, was always groundbreaking in their work and it remains so today. Cappella Coloniensis carries on with these developments and takes a pioneering role by giving exemplary performances of the great Romantic works. One of their aims is also to continue to give attention to their Baroque and Classical roots.
An important principle remains the use of historically determined instruments and the playing techniques they require. With their experience in Baroque music, the musicians of Cappella Coloniensis – in con- trast to some orchestras using modern instruments – approach the Classical and Romantic periods from the correct perspective historically, leading to astonishing innovations in these periods of composition. In this way they produce an unmistakable sound, clearly different from other orchestras in its transparency and musical expression.
Comparable to an old painting that is freed from the dust of centuries and shines forth in its original splen- dour, Cappella Coloniensis restores the original tone colours and power to the music of past epochs. So unplayed works – and also those frequently heard – can be heard in unheard of ways.