Ensemble Soleil

Current Touring Program

Moorish arches An Evening with Ensemble Soleil
Crosscurrents - Spain and Italy at the dawn of the Renaissance. A concert celebrating the development of the viol in Europe against the backdrop of noteworthy events of 1492 -- discovery of the New World, final defeat of the Moors at Grenada, and expulsion of the Jews from Spain. Music of Cabezon, Diego Ortiz, and Italians Bassano, Rossi and Farina for viole da gamba, early guitar, violin and harpsichord. 


Viheula, an early guitarWGBH Radio Interview with Richard Knisely and Ensemble Soleil performing and speaking on the culture and music surrounding crosscurrents between Spain and Italy from events that began in 1492. Renaissance and early Baroque music by Diego Ortiz, Cabezon, Luys de Narvaez, Henestrosa, Giovanni Bassano, Giovanni Paolo Cima, Dario Castello, Orazio Vecchi, and Tarquinio Merula.

Soleil Soundscape

Hall of Mirrors at VersaillesMusic from the palaces of the 17th C

Hear an excerpt of music from the splendid 17th century - Antonio Bertali's, "One Thousand Florins" in a WGBH interview by Robert J. Lurtsema with Peter Tourin, Jean Twombly, Margaret Angelini, Peter Lehman, theorbo, and Giomar Turgeon, violin and a clip from Couperin's "La Sultane" with Paul Johnson, bass viol and Kevin Bushee, violin.

Early Music - Lively, Inventive and bringing the past alive

The year 1492 marked more than Columbus' departure from Spain to the New World. It was also the year of the fall of Granada, marking the end of Muslim rule in Iberia. If you have ever visited this area of Spain, you can still see the beautiful Moorish arches in the buildings of that era.

And 1492 is also remarkable for the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, leading to the diaspora, the great migration of many artists with their crafts and instruments leaving Spain for Italy, France, the Low Countries, and England.

Research reveals that the ledgers of Henry VIII list a number of Jewish musicians of Spanish descent who enriched the musical life at his court. In Italy, in the early 16th century, a set of viole da gamba (literally "viols of the leg") based on those of Spain, were ordered by Isabella d'Este from renowned Italian instrument builder Lorenzo da Pavia for the court of Mantua. It is against this rich cultural heritage that we present "An Evening with Ensemble Soleil" - crosscurrents between Spain and Italy at the dawn of the Renaissance.


Ensemble Soleil's repertoire begins with the origin of the viol and early violin and traces their development through the 18th century. From Italy we include the music of the great 17th century composers like Arcangelo Corelli, Antonio Vivaldi, Biagio Marini and Salamone Rossi, heard here in our program "Violins and Viols on Both Sides of the Alps" for four violins, four viols, organ and theorbo led by guest artist Dana Maiben.

Elsewhere in Italy were the Venetian composers of beautiful antiphonal music for St. Mark's cathedral, and further north, the English Eccentricities of William Byrd and William Lawes for large consort of viols. Later in the 17th century, Austria's Heinrich I.F. Biber composed the splendid "Mensa Sonora III" heard here live from our concert "Of Courts and Kings", featuring violins, viol, harpsichord and theorbo.

Additional music from the European continental courts includes diverse works featuring viols and violins by Schmelzer, Schenck, Telemann, and the great J.S. Bach. Our repertoire culminates in the highest development of music for the viol at the court of the le Roi-Soleil - the Sun King - with music by Louis and Francois Couperin, Marin Marais, and Jean-Philippe Rameau.

Ensemble Soleil's Performance Arts Events, Glimpses in Time, add new dimensions to traditional concerts, giving audiences a historical context for the music. From 1997 to 1999 Ensemble Soleil was privileged to become Artists in Residence at Colby-Sawyer College through grants from the New Hampshire Humanities Council and the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts.