La Petite Bande (Belgium) was founded in 1972 by Sigiswald Kuijken at the request of the record company Harmonia Mundi (Germany) in order to record Lully's "Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme", under the direction of Gustav Leonhardt. The orchestra takes its name and constitution from Lully's own orchestra at the court of Louis XIV. All its members are internationally renowned specialists in the early music field.
Although originally La Petite Bande was not meant to become a permanent orchestra, the success of the recordings was such that they began to give concerts regularly. Having initially concentrated mainly on French music, the orchestra's repertoire has expanded over the years to include music by the Italian masters and that of Bach, Handel, Gluck, Haydn, Mozart and others.
The 17-part CD series "Cantatas of J.S. Bach" (ACCENT) will be finished by the end of 2012. Sigiswald Kuijken applies the latest findings in Bach research: no choir, but rather a vocal quartet together with a minimal instrumental scoring. In this way, the fine musical texture of these cantatas can be much better (and more naturally) revealed.
La Petite Bande has recorded instrumental as well as vocal music, including operas and oratorios from the Baroque and Classical periods. La Petite Bande currently makes recordings for Accent, Challenge, Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, Denon, Seon/Virgin and Hyperion.
La Petite Bande has performed in a multitude of international festivals and concert series, in Europe, Japan, Australia, South America and China.
Since 1997, La Petite Bande has been in residence in the City of Leuven.
Sigiswald Kuijken was born in 1944 close to Brussels. He studied violin at the conservatories of Bruges and Brussels, completing his studies at the latter institution with Maurice Raskin in 1964. He came into contact with early music at a very young age, together with his brother Wieland. Studying on his own, he gained a thorough knowledge of specific 17th- and 18th-century performance techniques and conventions of interpretation on violin and viola da gamba This led to the introduction, in 1969, of a more authentic way of playing the violin, whereby the instrument was no longer held under the chin, but lay freely on the shoulder; this was to have a crucial influence on the approach to the violin repertoire and was consequently adopted by many players starting in the early 1970s.
From 1964 to 1972, Sigiswald Kuijken was a member of the Brussels-based Alarius Ensemble (with Wieland Kuijken, Robert Kohnen and Janine Rubinlicht), which performed throughout Europe and in the United States. He subsequently undertook individual chamber music projects with a number of Baroque music specialists, chief among which were his brothers Wieland and Barthold and Robert Kohnen, as well as Gustav Leonhardt, , Frans Bruggen Anner Bylsma and René Jacobs.
In 1972, with the encouragement of Deutsche Harmonia Mundi and Gustav Leonhardt, he founded the Baroque orchestra La Petite Bande, which since then has given innumerable concerts throughout Europe, Australia, South America, China and Japan, and has made many recordings for a number of labels (including Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, Seon, Virgin, Accent, Denon, Hyperion, Challenge, ...).
In 1986 he founded the Kuijken String Quartet (with François Fernandez, Marleen Thiers and Wieland Kuijken), which specialises in the quartets and quintets (with Ryo Terakado as first violist) of the Classical period. Recordings of quartets and quintets by Mozart and Haydn have appeared on Denon.
Since 1998 Sigiswald Kuijken occasionally brings together two generations Kuijken (his daughters Veronica and Sara and his brother Wieland) to perform string quartets of later periods (Debussy, Schumann, Beethoven, Schubert) often combined with Lieder by Marie Kuijken, soprano and also daughter of Sigiswald, and Veronica Kuijken, piano. Recordings of the two generations have been made for Arcana and Challenge Records.
In 2004 Sigiswald Kuijken reintroduced in practical performance the Violoncello da spalla (shoulder cello, very probably the instrument Bach had in mind when writing his six cello solos): concerts and recordings of Bach, Vivaldi, ...
From 1971 to 1996, Sigiswald Kuijken taught Baroque violin at the Koninklijk Conservatorium in The Hague and from 1993 to 2009 at the Koninklijk Muziekconservatorium in Brussels. In addition, he has for many years been in demand as a guest teacher at a number of institutions (including the Royal College of Music in London, Salamanca University, the Accademia Chigiana inSiena, the Conservatoire of Geneva, the Musikhochschule of Leipzig).
Since 1998, Sigiswald Kuijken occasionally conducts “modern” symphonic orchestras in romantic programs ( Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms, Mendelssohn).
On 2 February 2007, Sigiswald Kuijken received an honorary doctorate of the K.U. Leuven.
He was granted in February 2009 the prestigious "Life Achievement Award of the Flemish Government".