The Collegium Vocale is a vocal ensemble known for its authentic performances of Baroque and pre-Baroque music. Under the direction of Philippe Herreweghe, the group has recorded over 100 albums, and has performed with many orchestras and period-instrument ensembles.
The name "Collegium Vocale" is a generic term for a vocal ensemble with connections to a center of learning or other scholarly background. This is the best-known of several groups using the term as their name, so to avoid confusion, it is often identified as the one founded in Ghent, Belgium, by Herreweghe in 1970. He founded it apply the fruits of research into actual performance practices of the Baroque to vocal music performance. It was the first choir founded with an "authentic performance" purpose. Some of the issues involved include the proper use (or non-use) of such coloristic devices as vocal vibrato, and the appropriate and fluent use of ornamentation.
The Collegium quickly achieved a reputation for its historically informed performances of older music and found itself in demand by the leading conductors and orchestras in the early music movement. These included Gustav Leonhardt, Ton Koopman, and Nikolaus Harnoncourt, who were eager to match their period-instrument ensembles with a chorus founded on the same principles in recordings of the great Baroque repertoire. This tradition has continued with conductors such as Sigiswald Kuijken, Paul Van Nevel, and René Jacobs. Collegium Vocale has frequently appeared with original instrument groups such as the Vienna Concentus Musicus and La Petite Bande, as well as modern instrument ensembles like the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam and the Vienna Philharmonic.
The Collegium has not restricted its repertoire to the Baroque. It also frequently performs great polyphonic music of the Renaissance, has extended its repertory to the Classical and Romantic eras, and, on rarer occasions, to music of its own time. However, it still remains best known for its performances of German Baroque music, especially that of Johann Sebastian Bach.
Collegium Vocale has recorded widely on such labels as Harmonia Mundi, Virgin, Ricercar, Accent, and Telefunken (now Teldec). Herreweghe founded his own label, Phi, in 2010 on which it mainly records. However, it is still found on other imprints; the Collegium, under Reinbert de Leeuw, released the album Liszt: Via Crucis in 2019 on Alpha Classics.
In 1993, the Collegium was appointed "Cultural Ambassador of Flanders" by the Flemish regional government in recognition of its wide touring activities, which have taken it to Asia and both North and South America in addition to frequent visits elsewhere around Europe. Since 2017, the group has hosted Collegium Vocale Crete Senesi, a summer festival in Tuscany, Italy.