Founded in 1999 at the initiative of the then director of the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, Dr. Peter Reidemeister, the name of the La Cetra Baroque Orchestra Basel is taken from Antonio Vivaldi's violin concerto op. 9 "La Cetra" - the lyre. This is representative of the core repertoire of the orchestra, the Italian instrumental music of the 18th century. But La Cetra's focus is not only on works for which the term "orchestra" is used for the first time - at the beginning of the 17th century with music by Claudio Monteverdi and his contemporaries - but encompasses the full spectrum of the Baroque and early Classical repertoire from Albinoni to Zelenka and of course works of Haydn, Mozart and early Beethoven.
Since its foundation, La Cetra has rapidly risen to rank among the world's leading early music ensembles. It’s regular partnership with the Theater Basel in productions such as Monteverdi's operas L'Incoronazione di Poppea (2003) and Orfeo (2008), Cavalli's La Calisto (2010), Handel's Ariodante (2012), Purcell's The Indian Queen (2014), Charpentiers Médée with Magdalena Kožená in the title role and Vivaldi's Juditha Triumphans (2015) with the Basel Ballet, together with its own «La Cetra in Basel» Series have firmly established La Cetra’s presence and place in Basel. Following productions of Melancholia (2016) and Handel's Alcina (2017), La Cetra Barockorchester Basel participated in a new production of Purcell's King Arthur in the 2018/2019 season. In 2019/20 La Cetra will be heard at the Theater Basel in the ballet production «Gloria!» with music by Vivaldi and Pergolesi.
The 2019/20 season is the fifth of the «La Cetra in Basel» concert series offering Basel audiences the opportunity to discover both familiar and unknown repertoire and to share in the international successes of the orchestra and the vocal ensemble. Notable Swiss premieres have included Vivaldi's La fida ninfa, Catone in Utica and L'Olimpiade, Handel's Parnasso in festa and Caldara's La Concordia de' pianeti. Handel's Messiah as a „sing-along“ every other year is as popular as ever. La Cetra is a regular guest at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and tours and guest performances have taken the orchestra to concert halls and festivals throughout Europe, as well as to China and South Korea.
La Cetra owes its dynamic growth in large part to Andrea Marcon, Musical Director since 2009. As an award-winning harpsichordist and organist, he is in demand worldwide as an expert on early Italian music and works as a guest conductor with orchestras such as the Freiburger Barockorchester, the Berliner Philharmoniker and many other major European symphony orchestras. Since 2012 La Cetra Baroque Orchestra Basel works hand in hand with the La Cetra Vocal Ensemble, established at the initiative Andrea Marcon and under the direction of Carlos Federico Sepúlveda.
La Cetra enjoys collaborating with acclaimed singers such as Maria Espada, Franco Fagioli, Ann Hallenberg, Roberta Invernizzi, Magdalena Kožená, Carlos Mena, Patricia Petibon and Andreas Scholl as well as instrumentalists such as Nicola Benedetti, Giuliano Carmignola and Maurice Steger and is proud of its close collaboration with such rising stars as Vassilisy Berzhanskaya and Anna Aglatova or the countertenors David Hansen and Kangmin Justin Kim. Over the years, La Cetra has also enjoyed close musical collaborations with conductors such as Gustav Leonhardt, René Jacobs, Jordi Savall and Attilio Cremonesi.
In 2011 the orchestra made its debut with Deutsche Grammophon with two Mozart recordings followed In 2012 by "Nouveau Monde" with Patricia Petibon followed. With the world premiere recording of Antonio Caldara's La Concordia de' Pianeti in 2014 with Franco Fagioli, among others, La Cetra has presented a new musical discovery. The 2016 Grammy-nominated CD entitled "Monteverdi" led La Cetra together with Magdalena Kožená to concerts in Germany, Luxembourg, England and Spain. In August 2016 a new recording of Handel's Parnasso in festa was released on the Pentatone label. In 2019 two highly acclaimed recordings were released: "Mr Handel's Dinner" with Maurice Steger on harmonia mundi and a recording of Jean-Marie Leclair violin concertos with Leila Schayegh on Glossa.
La Cetra’s credo - based on thorough research, an intensive exchange on every facet of historical instrumental performance practice and a close examination of the context in which the works were originally performed - is to serve one purpose: to make the experience of so-called “Early Music” accessible to today’s audiences – with fresh, gripping and contemporary interpretations. For this, La Cetra was awarded the European Prize for Early Music in 2009.