Il Seminario Musicale (= ISM) was founded in 1985 by Gérard Lesne, who brought together singers and instrumentalists who share his interest in Italian and French music of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
The players perform on period instruments and strive to recapture the inventiveness and narrative character of baroque music in works by composers such as Monteverdi, Cavalli, Scarlatti, Antonio Vivaldi, Bononcini, Antonio Caldara, Galuppi and Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, François Couperin, Charpentier, Brossard, among others.
The Ensemble changes to meet the requirement of each work performed. Its basic members make up a rich and varied continuo group (theorbo, cello, bassoon, double bass, organ and harpsichord) which accompanies one or more solo singers, but its forces can be expanded by adding anything from a string quartet to the kind of small orchestra needed for performing chamber opera. The Ensemble is directed jointly by the continuo group and the singers.
Il Seminario Musicale has recently performed in he main Baroque festivals in France and elsewhere in Europe: Germany, the UK, Belgium, Austria, Poland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Norway, Finland and Sweden, and has toured extensively in many countries, including Canada, Japan, Singapour, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia.
The Ensemble Il Seminario Musicale has achieved great success with tenty-one recording dedicated to A. Vivaldi, Monteverdi, A. Caldara and George Frideric Handel, Charpentier and F. Couperin, Bononcini and Galuppi, Alessandro Scarlatti, Stradella, G.B. Pergolesi, Brossard: "Academie Charles Cros" for the Stabat Mater - A. Vivaldi, "Victoire de la Musique 1994" for the Leçons de Ténèbres du Vendredi - Charpentier, "Victoire de la musique 1996" for the Leçons de Ténèbres du Jeudi et Vendredi - Charpentier, "Victoire de la Musique 1997" for the lamentations du Mercredi saint - Jommelli, "Premio internazionale del disco per la Musica Antica Italiana" by the Fondazione Giorgio Cini Venezia for the motets by Galuppi.
Since 1990, the ensemble has been based at the fondation Royaumont. The ensemble Il Seminario Musicale receives funding from the Ministry of Culture and the Conseil Général of Val d'Oise and is sponsored by the Fondation d'entreprise Hewlett-Packard France. The French government body AFAA-ministère des affaires étrangères contributes towards the development of Il Seminario Musicale's activities outside France.