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Capriccio Stravagante at 30

Capriccio Stravagante’s début concert was performed in Paris on the evening of 23 May 1986, just around the corner from where I live today.

The program: ‘The Generation Before Bach’, with instrumental music of Biber, Farina, and Muffat, and cantatas of Tunder and Bruhns.

We could not yet dream of what three decades of dedication to music and to fine musicians would bring.

It has been a long journey, from the instrumental chamber music with Capriccio Stravagante to the larger repertoire of the Capriccio Stravagante Renaissance Orchestra and Capriccio Stravagante Les 24 Violons. The adventure has always entailed considerable risks, since we never copied anyone or anything.

Thirty years of magical meetings with magical musicians and magical repertoire.

Thirty years of rehearsals, tours, concerts - from Italian country churches to the Amsterdam Concertgebouw -, travel agents, airports, train stations, taxis, hotels, instrument makers, concert agencies, concert organizers, collaborations with guest ensembles, work permits, administrative nightmares, photographers, press agents, journalists.

Dozens of prizewinning recordings, the result of thousands of hours of recording sessions - with some of the finest recording producers in the world -, editing, scores, parts, writing, translating, proofreading. Twelve for Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, seven for Astrée, three for Alpha, followed by fourteen for Paradizo, our own label.

And, we now have Terpsichore, our annual festival held in historic venues in the center of Paris - once again, just around the corner.

Capriccio Stravagante’s ‘house style’ was initially considered artistically questionable and musically ‘perhaps a bit over the top’, but, over a period of many years, it came to represent a renewed standard of interpretation. Perhaps some skill was involved, but nothing ever exists without an element of luck.

Two consecutive generations of young musicians have maintained that some of their greatest inspiration came from our ‘somehow very memorable’ recordings. It is particularly touching that those very generations are now key members of the various Capriccio Stravagante ensembles.

I have always refused the title ‘director’. What is important is collaborating with other fine musicians. I like to remember that the most important venue for ‘young talent’ is indeed in the distinguished company of ‘old masters’. After all, that is exactly where I began myself.

In the coming seasons we will concentrate on the large projects with the Capriccio Stravagante Renaissance Orchestra and Capriccio Stravagante Les 24 Violons, with repertoire including the Renaissance Mass Cycles, the Monteverdi Vespers, French Baroque repertoire and Bach’s religious works.

Thanks and congratulations to all the musicians, concert organizers, friends, record labels and journalists who provided sensitive reviews and so many prestigious recording awards. These people are far too numerous to mention here, but I am quite confident that they know exactly who they are.

How fortunate we are to be able to celebrate having had each others company for these three decades of adventurous musical endeavors, combined with our ‘movable feast’ of remarkable talents and friendships.

Skip Sempé, Paris, 23 May 2016

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     Capriccio Stravagante is world-renowned for their memorable interpretations of Renaissance and Baroque music. Founded in 1986 by Skip Sempé, the ensemble of three to seventy performers now incorporates Capriccio Stravagante, the Capriccio Stravagante Renaissance Orchestra and Capriccio Stravagante Les 24 Violons. The diverse vocal and instrumental formations feature the finest European, American and Canadian musicians. Their extensive discography includes music by Byrd, Monteverdi, Purcell, Bach, Buxtehude, Handel, Telemann, Lully and Couperin, as well as the recent prizewinning recordings for the Paradizo label. These recordings have made a considerable contribution to Capriccio Stravagante’s acceptance as the foremost interpretive force in Renaissance and Baroque repertoire to have emerged in decades.

     Capriccio Stravagante’s calendar of several dozen concerts per season have included débuts and returns to London's Wigmore Hall, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, BOZAR Music in Brussels, the Versailles Opéra Royal, the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, the Villa Medici in Rome, the Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin; the Festivals of Aldeburgh, Aranjuez, Barcelona, Montpellier, Nîmes, Printemps des Arts / Nantes, La Folle Journée in Nantes, Saintes, Bilbao, Lisbon and Tokyo, Montreux, Schleswig-Holstein, Bremen, Berkeley, Boston, Utrecht, Bruges, Regensburg, Lufthansa / London, Zermatt, the Leipzig Bach Festival and Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s Styriarte Festival in Graz; the Konzerthaus Berlin, the Cité de la Musique, the Théâtre de la Ville in Paris, the Théâtre du Capitole / Toulouse, the Athens Concert Hall, and tours of France, Great Britain, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Italy, Holland, Scandinavia, the United States and Canada.

     Since the very beginning, the combination of nonchalance and power which are the trademarks of Skip Sempé and Capriccio Stravagante’s live performances and recordings have been rewarded with outstanding critical praise worldwide.

     Since the very beginning, the musicians have shared an individual and collective dedication to unlimited liberty of expression, outstanding power of instrumental sonority and vocal excellence. Their success is the result of the selection of superb, one-of-a-kind artists chosen and catalyzed by Skip Sempé. Their qualities encourage the daring virtuosity, audience contact, charm and spontaneity of Latin temperament essential to all that is Renaissance and Baroque. Capriccio Stravagante's two dozen recordings on the Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, Astrée, Alpha, Teldec and Paradizo labels have received over forty international awards. Together, their concert appearances and recordings affirm Skip Sempé’s dedication to the strategic planning of repertoire, artists and programming, having featured Julien Martin, Josh Cheatham, Olivier Fortin, Pierre Hantaï, Sophie Gent, Doron Sherwin, Collegium Vocale Gent, Vox Luminis, Capella Cracoviensis, Choeur Pygmalion with Raphaël Pichon, Chanticleer, Les Voix Humaines, Studio de Musique Ancienne de Montréal, Helsinki Baroque Orchestra, B’Rock and Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin.

     Capriccio Stravagante has expanded their kaleidoscopic variety of sound and programming with the long-awaited concerts and debut recording of the Capriccio Stravagante Renaissance Orchestra. This group is the largest and most luxurious gathering yet assembled for the performance of masterpieces from this Golden Age of musical creativity. The Renaissance Orchestra offers virtuoso performers on highly distinctive musical instruments whose playing techniques are completely unknown to classically trained instrumentalists and audiences. Complete with Renaissance violins, viols, recorders, cornetti, sackbuts, lutes, harps, harpsichords, virginals, organs, regals and percussion, the Capriccio Stravagante Renaissance Orchestra also features glamorous voices and consort singers with a focus on dramatic intent yet to be fully experienced in this repertoire.

     Following fifteen years of prizes and awards with three prestigious labels, Skip Sempé founded the Paradizo label in 2006. The label will release all of Capriccio Stravagante and Skip Sempé’s new recordings, assuring Capriccio Stravagante’s own tradition of presenting important new instrumental and vocal soloists.

     Capriccio Stravagante presented a series of concerts for BOZAR Music in Brussels, as part of Skip Sempé’s Artist in Residence project for 2006/07. The programs included music of Purcell, the French Baroque, Marais, Buxtehude, and “La Pellegrina” with the Capriccio Stravagante Renaissance Orchestra and Collegium Vocale Gent. For the 2010 Utrecht Early Music Festival, dedicated exclusively to French repertoire, Capriccio Stravagante performed a series of concerts as part of Skip Sempé's Artist in Residence project.

     Founded in celebration of the 25th anniversary season of Capriccio Stravagante, the new orchestra, Capriccio Stravagante Les 24 Violons made its debuts in Bremen, Utrecht, Gent and Versailles, with a world-premiere, live recording for the Paradizo label.