Skip Sempé is a world-renowned virtuoso harpsichord player, ensemble conductor, and the founder of the early music group Capriccio Stravagante. He has won acclaim as a solo harpsichord player with a striking control over the often inflexible tone of the instrument and as an authoritative and stylish interpreter of Baroque-era continuo realizations from figured bass.
Raised in New Orleans, Sempé studied music, organology, and art history at Oberlin College. He went on to study with Gustav Leonhardt in Europe. In 1986, he founded a Baroque and early music ensemble he named Capriccio Stravagante, an ensemble of from three to thirty players who share his dedication to strong sonorities, free expression in interpretation and embellishment of their parts, positive and dramatic audience presence, and Franco-Latin temperament, elements Sempé believes are the heart of Renaissance and much Baroque music. Sempé became especially well-known for his interpretations of music of the great French school of clavecin composers such as Rameau and Couperin, and for his lively, innovative playing of Scarlatti and Bach harpsichord music. He has played (as a soloist or accompanist or as leader of Capriccio Stravagante) at London's Wigmore Hall, the Athens Concert Hall, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, and major venues in Scandinavia, the United States, Canada, France, Britain, Germany, Austria, Italy, and Holland. Festival appearances include Aldeburgh, Barcelona, Aranjuez, Montpellier, Nimes, Montreux, Schleswig-Holstein, Boston, Utrecht, Bremen, and the London Lufthansa Festival. His growing fame as a creative basso continuo accompaniment player (along with the strong colors produced by the cellist and other players who join with doubling the bass line) led him to create extensions of Capriccio Stravagante, the Capriccio Stravagante Renaissance Orchestra and the Capriccio Stravagante Opera.
Sempé has recorded for the Arion, Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, and Astrée labels, and his recorded repertoire includes Monteverdi madrigals, consort music of William Byrd, vocal music of Purcell, instrumental music of Buxtehude, harpsichord music of Chambonnières and Lully, Bach concertos, and operas of Lully. His recorded performances have won the Grand Prix du Disque de la Nouvelle Académie du Disque Française Charles Cros, the Diapason d'Or, Gramophone's Critics' Choice and Editor's Choice Awards, the Stereo Review Best of the Month, the Penguin Guide Yearbook Award, the Top 10 Classics USA, and the CD Classica Scelte d'Editore of Italy.