Early Music Orchestra and Choir
• Founded 1991
Often appears with
The historical-performance ensemble Collegium 1704 has been in the forefront of the early music scene in Eastern Europe since its founding in 2005. The group has championed the music of Czech composers Jan Dismas Zelenka and Josef Mysliveček, and is named for the year in which Zelenka came on the scene in Prague, but it has also given notable performances of music by Bach, Handel, and other composers from Western Europe. The moving force behind Collegium 1704 and its associated vocal group, Collegium Vocale 1704, is harpsichordist Václav Luks, who was born in 1970 and studied at the Pilsen Conservatory and the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague before becoming part of the first Czech generation to travel freely to the West. He undertook research and performance studies in early music at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Switzerland, and then concertized in Europe and the Americas before joining the Akademie für alte Musik in Berlin as a horn player. Luks returned to Prague in 2005 and set about transforming Collegium 1704, which had existed as a student chamber group since 1991, into a world-class historical-performance ensemble. The group re-emerged with the Bach-Prague-2005 Project, a set of performances of Bach's vocal works.
Collegium 1704 and Collegium Vocale 1704, which have consistently attracted top-notch instrumental and vocal soloists, began to attract critical attention with performances in France of Zelenka's Missa votiva, ZWV 18, a work that, like Beethoven's String Quartet No. 15 in A minor, Op. 132, was written as a prayer of thanksgiving for recovery from illness. These performances led to the group's signing by the French label Zig-Zag Territoires, for which they recorded another album of Zelenka before moving to the Accent label in the early 2010s. Among the highlights of their tenure there has been a recording of Bach's Mass in B minor, BWV 232. Collegium 1704 and Collegium Vocale 1704 have also recorded for the Czech national label Supraphon. Luks, who has remained an enthusiastic player of small-ensemble music, issued a set of Zelenka ensemble sonatas with players from Collegium 1704 on Accent in 2017.