Collegium Vocale Gent was founded in 1970 on Philippe Herreweghe’s initiative by a group of friends studying at the University of Ghent,. They were one of the first ensembles to use new ideas about baroque performance practice in vocal music. Their authentic, text-oriented and rhetorical approach gave the ensemble the transparent sound with which it would acquire world fame and perform at the major concert venues and music festivals of Europe, the United States, Russia, South America, Japan, Hong Kong and Australia. Since 2017 the ensemble runs its own summer festival Collegium Vocale Crete Senesi in Tuscany, Italy.
In recent years, Collegium Vocale Gent has grown organically into an extremely flexible ensemble whose wide repertoire encompasses a range of different stylistic periods. Its greatest strength is its ability to assemble the ideal performing forces for any project. Music from the Renaissance, for example, is performed by a small group soloists. German Baroque music, particularly J.S. Bach’s vocal works, has been a speciality of the group and is still the jewel in its crown. Today Collegium Vocale Gent performs this music with a small ensemble in which the singers take both the chorus and solo parts. Collegium Vocale Gent is also specializing in the Romantic, modern and contemporary oratorio repertoires, performed with the symphonic choir up to 80 singers.
Besides using its own baroque orchestra, Collegium Vocale Gent works with several historically informed instrumental ensembles to perform these projects, including the Orchestre des Champs Elysées, Freiburger Barockorchester and Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin. It also works with prominent symphony orchestras such as deFilharmonie (Royal Flemish Philharmonic), the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, the Budapest Festival Orchestra and Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. The ensemble has worked with Ivor Bolton, Marcus Creed, Reinbert de Leeuw, Iván Fischer, René Jacobs, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Kaspars Putnins, Jos van Immerseel, Paul Van Nevel, James Wood and many others leading conductors.
Under Philippe Herreweghe’s direction, Collegium Vocale Gent has built up an impressive discography with more than 100 recordings, most of them with the Harmonia Mundi France and Virgin Classics labels. In 2010, Philippe Herreweghe started his own label ? (phi) together with Outhere Music in order to give himself full artistic freedom to build up a rich and varied catalogue. Since then some 20 new recordings with vocal music by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Dvorak, Gesualdo, Haydn or Victoria have become available. In 2016 two new recordings appeared: Igor Stravinsky’s Threni & Requiem Canticles (LPH020) and Carlo Gesualdo’s Sixth Book of Madrigals (LPH024). Meanwhile the ensemble recorded Leos Janacek’s Rikadla with Reinbert de Leeuw on the alpha label (ALPHA 2019).
Collegium Vocale Gent enjoys the financial support of the Flemish Community, the city of Ghent and Belgium’s National Lottery.