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For some time it has been speculated that Sigiswald Kuijken, founder and leader of the Belgian period instrument orchestra La Petite Bande, might decide to dissolve the ensemble and retire, but instead, at the request of the other musicians, Kuijken has opted for only a gradual reduction in involvement and has asked harpsichordist and organist Benjamin Alard to help him organize the upcoming season. As a result, La Petite Bande is scheduled to accompany Alard in the organ concertos by George Frideric Handel in April 2013.

The orchestra takes its name from the orchestra at the court of Louis XIV and was originally assembled for a recording of Jean-Baptiste Lully‘s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, under the direction of Gustav Leonhardt. The success of that recording caused the ensemble to begin presenting regular concerts, even though it was not originally intended that La Petite Bande would become a permanent orchestra.

Initially concentrating on French music, the orchestra’s repertoire has greatly expanded over the years to include music by the Italian masters of the Baroque as well as Bach, Handel, Gluck, and even Haydn and Mozart. Today, just as when first established in 1972, all members of La Petite Bande are internationally renowned specialists in the field of early music.

La Petite Bande will complete its series of “Bach Cantatas for the Liturgical Year” for Accent Records by the end of 2012. For these recordings, Sigiswald Kuijken has chosen to employ a vocal quartet, rather than a larger chorus, together with a minimal instrumental scoring, in order to better reveal the fine musical texture of the cantatas. With respect to its recent performances and recording of the St. John Passion (BWV 245), one journalist noted that “all of the details of interpretation resulted in a sound of such great unity that one is led to believe that there might well be no other option.”

In spite of its very successful program of concerts and recordings, however, La Petite Bande cannot survive without significant government support, and the recent negative assessment of their application for an additional four years of underwriting puts the future of La Petite Bande in doubt. An online petition, urgently requesting that the international community of early music supporters informs the Flemish Government of its appreciation of the unique artistic message of La Petite Bande, is available here.

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