One of the groups arising during the period-instrument boom of the 1980s was Cologne Concerto, also known by its German name, Concerto Köln. Founded in 1985 by recent graduates of various European conservatories, it almost immediately began touring its Baroque and Classical repertory around Europe, appearing frequently at major music festivals. In 1992, in collaboration with Deutschland Radio, the group founded the Cologne Festival of Early Music; each year, the festival focuses on the instrumental works and operas of a specific composer, including such neglected figures as Kraus, Vanhal, and Locatelli. Its recordings have ranged even more widely, from the likes of Dittersdorf and Durante through Bach, Vivaldi, and Mozart, and on even to Mendelssohn.
A self-governing organization, the ensemble receives no government subsidies. Its democratic notions extend to its lack of a permanent conductor; after first violinist Werner Ehrhardt, Martin Sandhoff was appointed artistic director in 2005. Members often go their separate ways as chamber musicians, but the group also brings in diverse collaborators, including a Turkish ensemble for a tour and recording fusing such eighteenth century pseudo-Turkish pieces as Mozart's "Overture to the Abduction" from the Seraglio with the authentic folk music that inspired it. The group has also partnered with soprano Cecilia Bartoli, Vivica Genaux, and Arsys de Bourgogne and released Airs D'Opéras Italiens (2007), Amoureuses (2008), and Johann Christian Bach: Mailälander Vesperpsalmen.