Concerto Köln was founded in 1985 by graduates from several European Colleges of music. Its young members all specialize in performing on period instruments and came together with the aim of rediscovering 17th- and 18th century orchestral and operatic music on the basis of historical performing practice.
The group is organised along somewhat unusual lines, inasmuch as it receives no state funding and is a self-governing body. Depending on the works performed and the forces involved, it also operates without a conductor in its desire to create a close, chamber-like sense of ensemble. The group's artistic director is its leader, Werner Ehrhardt, although this does not preclude other members of the ensemble from taking on specific functions, the ultimate aim being to draw on the artistic ideas of every single player. Members also organise their own seminars and, at the same time, pursue independent careers as chamber musicians.
Concerto Köln has already appeared to immense acclaim in many musical capitals and at numerous well-known festivals. The group is particularly interested in reviving unknown or rarely performed works, and to this end joined forces with Deutschlandfunk (a German radio) in 1992 to found the Festtage Alte Musik Köln (Cologne Festival of Early Music). The first festival was devoted to W.A. Mozart's contemporary, Joseph Martin Kraus. The lectures, concerts and parallel exhibition met with enthusiastic support and widespread acclaim. The 1993 festival focussed on Spanish Classical composers in the persons of Arriaga, Soler, Pons, Moreno and Boccherini.
Since 1994 the festival has been run in association with Deutschlandfunk's successor, Deutschlandradio. In that year, the focus was on Gaetano Brunetti and the "Return of a Great Court Composer", while the 1995 festival was devoted to Pietro Antonio Locatelli. In 1996 it was again an unjustly neglected composer - Antonio Rosetti - who was the subject of attention. In 1995 Concerto Köln was awarded the Critics' Prize for Music for its contribution to the early music revival.
Concerto Köln has taken part in a lot of important festivals and has performed in every part of Europe (France, Germany, Greece, Algeria, Switzerland, Austria, England, Holland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Belgium), South America and South Asia (Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka).
The group has collaborated with a lot of well-known soloist, such as Andreas Staier (pianoforte), Rainer Kussmaul (violino), Anner Bylsma (violoncello), Saskia Kwast (arpa) and important conductor such as René Jacobs, Philippe Herreweghe, Frans Brüggen, Gustav Leonhardt, Volker Renike, Gerd Albrecht and Gerhard Schmidt-Gaden.
Concerto Köln has recorded for different label such as Harmonia Mundi France, Capriccio, Sony, Fnac. Now the ensemble is under exclusive contract to Teldec Classic International. Their very first recordings on the Teldec label - concerti grossi by P.A. Locatelli, symphonies by Rosetti and keyboard concertos by W.A. Mozart, Salieri and Stepàn with Andreas Staier as soloist - were all acclaimed by the musical press. The ensemble's most recent release is a recording of symphonies by Johann Baptist Vanhal and Felix Mendelssohn's string symphonies.