The Moscow “Alta Capella” Early Music Ensemble (art director Ivan Velikanov) is the first Russian early music ensemble playing brass wind instruments of Renaissance and Baroque period. The ensemble members are graduates and students of the Moscow Tchaikovsky State Conservatory. The goal of the ensemble is to help Russian public in discovering music that has been practically never performed in our country, namely, the European sacred and secular music of the 14th – 17th centuries, both vocal and instrumental. We play exclusively on authentic copies of period instruments (esp. cornets and sackbuts), seeking to absorb the spirit of this music by means of its historically accurate reconstruction, by giving up the music experience of the last three centuries.
The name of the ensemble goes back to the 14th – 15th centuries when “alta capella” meant any combination of the so-called “grossi” instruments, that is, loud winds. Later on, the predominant meaning of the word “alta” became “high” rather than “loud”, in the sense of playing from a high or eminent place, but also of playing for notables, highly positioned persons; also, playing a “high”, that is sacred, music. For us, all those meanings are relevant, and altogether they reflect quite well the stylistic diversity and the time span of our repertoire, which includes:
- medieval sacred and secular music that may be performed by an ensemble including winds (troubadour and trouvère songs, open air dances);
- Landini and Guillaume de Machaut;
- composers of the Franco-Flemish School (aka Burgundian and Dutch): Dufay, Binchois, Ockeghem, Josquin des Prez and others till Orlando Lasso;
- Renaissance consort music (first of all Italian, but also English);
- three centuries of Lutheran music (from Johann Walter and Pretorius till J.S. Bach);
- and also any other Early Baroque ensemble music of various composers throughout Europe, such as Biber in Austria, Adam Michna in Czechia, Lulli and Charpentier in France, Purcell in England, and many others.
The ensemble gives more and more time to the music of the Middle Ages. Included to the repertoire are pieces from the Cantigas de Santa Maria, the Libre vermell de Montserrat, the Selden book codeces. The Alta Capella musicians have created over 10 concert programmes including Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque music. Among them are: The Bible in the 17th century music (Heinrich Schütz and his contemporaries), In Castle and in Square (Performance of the troubadours and knights epoch), Venice 100 years before Vivaldi, Music and dances of the Italian atrium (in collaboration with the Time of Dance historical dance ensemble), L’orgue des troubadours (сhants of crusades, pastourelles, lais, virelais, ballate, laude, cantigas), From the times of Da Vinci.
The ensemble members took part in summer early music courses (prof. Bruce Dickey; Urbino, Italy, 2010), in international master-classes of prof. Martin Lubenow (Germersheim, Germany, 2010), prof. William Dongois and prof. Stefan Legée (Tchaikovsky State Conservatory, 2010), prof. Wim Becu (Akademie für Alte Musik Bremen – Internationale Sommerakademie Mozarteum; Salzburg, Austria, 2011), in 2nd and 4th Open Academies of Baroque Music (prof. Andrew Lawrence-King and prof. Marco Beasley, St. Petersburg, 2012, 2013). The Alta Capella Soloists won the International Young Artist’s Presentation competition (honoured with the title “IYAP Selected Promising Ensemble 2012”) and took part in the Laus Polyphoniae festival with the In Stile Moderno programme (Antwerp, Belgium, 2012).
The ensemble members are organizers of the International music and dance festival La Renaissance (Moscow, 2011–2016). The festival programmes included lectures and master-classes at the Tchaikovsky State Conservatory, joint concerts with the Alta Capella, the Time of Dance historical dance ensemble (artistic director Natalia Kaidanovskaya), soloists of the Questa musica vocal ensemble (artistic director Maria Grilikhes). Among participants: Jean Tubéry and La Fenice, William Dongois, Stefan Legée, Véronique Daniels, Angélique Mauillon, Jean-Pierre Pinet, Jean-Fronçois Novelli, Marc Mauillon (France), Wim Becu (Belgium), Guillermo Pérez (Spain), Isacco Colombo and Viva Biancaluna Biffi (Italy), Barbara Segal and Andrew Lawrence-King (Great Britain), Benjamin Bagby (USA–France), Manfred Cordes and the University of the Arts Bremen students (Germany). Within the Festival’s framework the “Vespers of the Blessed Virgin Mary” (Vespro della Beata Vergine; 1610) by C. Monteverdi was performed for the first time in Russia (2014) as well as stage version of the 14th cent. medieval poem “Roman de Fauvel” (2015).
Since its foundation (2009) the Alta Capella ensemble takes an active part in cultural life of Moscow with solo performances (the Tchaikovsky State Conservatory, the Kolomenskoe and the Tsaritsyno Museum-reserves, the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, the State Institute for Art Studies concert-halls, Open Stage Project, the Moscow Kremlin’s Armoury Chamber, Moscow Chamber opera theatre named after B. Pokrovsky, “Zaryadye” Park’ Media Center and “Zaryadye” Hall). The ensemble was participant of festivals: the Moscow Bach Festival “From Christmas to Christmas” (2009), “Background and Top” (2010), “Alexandriyskaya carousel” (Petergof, 2011), 19th Yehiam Renaissance Festival (Israel, 2011), 4th Festival d’Orgue de Brunoy (France, 2011), 16th International festival “EARLYMUSIC” (St. Petersburg–Gatchina, 2013), International festival “Organ plus in Tsaritsyno” (Moscow, 2013, 2014, 2015), Music festival dedicated to the 600th anniversary of Aristotele Fioravanti (2015), “Shakespeare in Tarusa”, “JAZZOVOROT 7,5” and 3d International Christmas festival of sacred music “ADVENT” (2016), XVIII International Festival “Arts Square” (St. Petersburg, 2017), “Travelling to Christmas 2017-2018” (Moscow), “Better Together” (Moscow, the State Tretyakov Gallery, 2018), “In memory of the Prince. Dedication To Andrei Volkonsky. 1933–2008” (Moscow, 2018), 7th Contemporary Art Festival “Tsiolkovsky Fest” (Kaluga, Museum of the history of cosmonautics, 2019), Summer International Arts Festival “Age of Music in the Polenovo Estate” (2019), Music and Art Festival of Sviatoslav Richter Foundation (Tarusa, 2019, 2020), 7th “La Clé des Portes” music festival (France, 2019). In the 2019/2020 and 2020/2021 seasons Ivan Velikanov and ensemble members performed early music programmes in the State Philharmony halls of Samara and Rostov, in the City Theatres of Anapa and Novorossiysk, in the Krasnoyarsk Khvorostovsky opera and ballet theatre.
The ensemble collaborates with such outstanding musicians as Alexei Lyubimov, Anatoly Grindenko, Dmitry Sin’kovsky, Dmitry Stepanovich, Andrey Nemzer (with whose participation the ensemble released its first CD “Fili mi, Absalon. Heinrich Schütz and his Italian contemporaries”, 2011). Alta Capella performed world premieres of modern composers’ pieces made specially for the ensemble (Early music of today programme, the Moscow “School of Dramatic Art” Theatre, 2010), its concerts became authentic preambles for the premiere of opera “Franziskus” by S. Nevsky at the Bolshoi Theatre (New stage, 2012), for exhibitions at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts — “Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde” (Museum Night programme, 2013), “Caravaggio and his Followers” (2015) and “The Cranachs. Between Renaissance and Mannerism” (2016), at the State Tretyakov Gallery — “Roma Aeterna. Masterpieces of the Vatican Pinacotheca. Bellini, Raphael, Caravaggio” and at the ARTPLAY Design Center — “BOSCH. Visions Alive” (2016), with its participation the first theater project premiere “GES-2 Opera” of the V–A–C Foundation took place (2019). In 2014–2017 the ensemble carried out sets of concerts at the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre Atrium and at the Evangelical-Lutheran Stt. Peter and Paul’s Cathedral in Moscow (in 2018 the second CD “Heinrich Schütz. Die sieben Worte Jesu am Kreuze” has been released including live recordings from 2017-2018 concerts at the Cathedral). In 2018 the ensemble took part in the Quartet 4×4 project on Culture TV channel with the Renaissance-jazz programme.
The ensemble celebrated its 10-year anniversary with a joint performance with colleagues – Moscow ensembles of early music in the Moscow Conservatory (Rakhmaninoff Hall); the release of a new CD was timed to coincide with this event, which included video recordings of different years concert programmes (2011-2019).