Les Violons du Roy (“The King’s Violins”) takes its name from the celebrated court orchestra of the French kings. It was founded in 1984 by Bernard Labadie, now styled “founding conductor,” and continues under music director Jonathan Cohen to explore the nearly boundless repertoire of music for chamber orchestra in performances matched as closely as possible to the period of each work’s composition. Its minimum fifteen-member complement plays modern instruments, albeit with period bows for Baroque and Classical music, and its interpretations are deeply informed by the latest research on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century performance practice. The repertoire of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries receives similar attention and figures regularly on the orchestra’s programs.
Les Violons du Roy has been a focal point of Québec City’s musical life since it was founded in 1984, and in 1997 it reached out to enrich the cultural landscape of Montréal as well. In 2007, the orchestra moved into its permanent home base in Québec City’s Palais Montcalm while continuing to build on the worldwide reputation it has acquired in countless concerts and recordings carried by medici.tv, Radio-Canada, CBC, and NPR along with regular appearances on the festival circuit. Les Violons du Roy has performed dozens of times throughout Canada as well as in Germany, the U.K., Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Spain, the United States, France, Israel, Morocco, Mexico, Norway, the Netherlands, Slovenia, and Switzerland, in collaboration with such world-renowned soloists as Magdalena Kožená (2006 and 2014), David Daniels (2001 and 2004), Vivica Genaux (2007), Alexandre Tharaud (2011, 2014, and 2016), Ian Bostridge (2011), Emmanuel Pahud (2012), Stephanie Blythe (2013), Marc-André Hamelin (2015), Philippe Jaroussky (2017), Anthony Marwood (2017), Isabelle Faust (2018), and Julia Lezhneva (2018). The orchestra has performed at the Berlin Philharmonie and iconic venues in London, Paris, and Brussels, with two performances on invitation at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.
Since Les Violons du Roy’s first trip to Washington, D.C., in 1995, its U.S. travels have been enriched with numerous and regular stops in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Its seven appearances at Carnegie Hall include three with La Chapelle de Québec featuring the Messiah, the Christmas Oratorio, and the St. John Passion under Bernard Labadie, founder and music director of the choir, and another featuring Dido and Aeneas under Richard Egarr. Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles has hosted the orchestra three times, once with La Chapelle de Québec in the Messiah, again under Bernard Labadie. Les Violons du Roy is represented by Opus 3 Artists and Askonas Holt.
The thirty-two recordings released thus far by Les Violons du Roy have been met with widespread critical acclaim. The twelve released on the Dorian label include Juno Award–winning recordings of Mozart’s Requiem with La Chapelle de Québec and of Handel’s Apollo e Dafne with soprano KarinaGauvin. A dozen more have appeared through a partnership between Les Violons du Roy and Quebec’s ATMA label, including 2008 Félix Award winner Water Music, 2006 Juno Award winner Piazzolla with conductor Jean-Marie Zeitouni, and three releases under the baton of Mathieu Lussier including a CD of Vivaldi violin concertos and another of Mozart’s horn concertos. Further recordings on Erato, Naïve, Hyperion, Analekta, and Decca Gold include mezzo Vivica Genaux with arias by Handel and Hasse; C. P. E. Bach’s cello concertos with Truls Mørk; Marie-Nicole Lemieux performing opera arias by Mozart, Haydn, Gluck, and Graun; Bach and Mozart piano concertos with Alexandre Tharaud; Haydn piano concertos with Marc-André Hamelin; arias by Handel and Philip Glass with Anthony Roth Costanzo; and albums with soloists Valérie Milot and Diane Dufresne.