Founded in 1999 in Basel, Switzerland, the period instrument orchestra La Cetra borrows its name from the title of Antonio Vivaldi's violin concertos Op. 9, published in Amsterdam in 1727. The title refers to the ancient Greek instrument, the lyer, or kithara, a type of zither played by Apollo and Orpheus.
The core of the ensemble is made up of teachers and graduates of the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, the Early Music institute in the Musik-Akademie Basel, from which the orchestra receives orginisational support. The orchestra remains independent, however, in artistic, financial and membership matters.
La Cetra draws on its permanent company of musicians to present concerts of varying orchestral settings. In a short period of time the ensemble earnt its excellent reputation: numerous concerts under the direction of Gustav Leonhardt, Jordi Savall, Attilio Cremonesi, Geoffrey Lancaster and René Jacobs were enthusiastically received. Invitations to festivals in Salzburg, Vienna, Paris and Prague, including the Innsbruck International Festival of Early Musik, shortly followed.
The repertoire of the orchestra stretches from French suites of the 17th Century to the great symphonic works of the early 19th Century. The homogeneous training of the strings and the high quality of the winds combine to create an ensemble sound colour that, besides the obviously necessary mastery of technique, incorporates a dynamic differentiation and tonal polish, creating the orchestra's distinct, individual signature.
The concert activity of La Cetra has increased to an astonishing amount since its conception: adjacent to its participation in dance and opera productions in the theatres of Basel, Lucern and Poissy/Paris, La Cetra increasingly receives invitations to the most significant festivals in Europe.
La Cetra's first CD production with works by G.A. Brescianello (2004) immediately received the "Diapason découverte"; the premiere recording of Concerti da camera by F. Venturini, released in May 2006, was awarded the "Choc du Monde".