Ars Antiqua Austria was founded in Linz in 1989 with the aim of introducing audiences to the roots of specifically Austrian baroque music played on period-instruments. The music performed at the imperial court in Vienna at this period shows the strong influence of Italy and later of French forms, while Spanish court ceremonials also shape the character of the works. The typical Austrian sound of the period also betrays the influence of the many Crownlands. The political and social boundaries of Austria in the baroque era were far wider than in the 20th century. Elements of Slav and Hungarian folk music mingle with alpine sounds and can be heard in the art music of the period. The Austrian sound also reflects the temperament and character of the Austrians of that period - a unifying element in the melting-pot of many different cultures: the joie de vivre of the South, Slav melancholy, French formality, Spanish pomp and the Alpine character of the German-speaking regions. This fusion of court- with folk music and a strong element of dance music form the typical Austrian sound.
The core of Ars Antiqua Austria comprises 8 musicians directed by Gunar Letzbor. The ensemble is readily augmented to accommodate a still wider repertoire..
During its early years ARS ANTIQUA AUSTRIA gave numerous concerts while researching the achievements of Austria`s baroque composers in depth. Thanks to Gunar Letzbor's unflagging commitment, many works received their first performance in modern times. Enthusiastic reviews welcomed CDs of music by Weichlein, Biber, Conti (together with the mezzosoprano Bernarda Fink), Viviani, Mealli, Arnold, Caldara, Aufschnaiter, Vilsmayr, Vejvanovsky, Schmelzer, Muffat and of course J.S.Bach.
In 2000 Ars Antiqua Austria commenced a cycle of concerts in the Vienna Konzerthaus on the theme of Austrian Baroque music. Beginning in 2001 the ensemble is playing a leading part in a concert series with more than 90 concerts called "Sound of Cultures - Culture of Sound". Ten different programmes will being repeated in Vienna, Prague, Bratislava, Cracow, Venice, Ljubljana, Mechelen, Budapest and Lübeck.
Recent tours have taken the ensemble to the Festival de la Musique Baroque at Ribeauville; Berlin Festival of Ancient Music; Festival Printemps des Arts at Nantes; Mozartfest at Würzburg with an opera production together with Michael Schopper; Tage alter Musik at Herne, Festival de Musique de Clisson et de Loire Atlantique, Folles Journées de Nantes, Musée d'Unterlinden Colmar, Monteverdi Festival Cremona, Festival Baroque du Sablon, Salzburger Festspiele, Vlandern Festival, Festival Bach de Lausanne, Bologna Festival, Vendsyssel Festival, Concerti della Normale Pisa, Resonanzen Wien, Klangbogen Wien…
ARS ANTIQUA AUSTRIA's recording of Viviani's "Capricci Armonici" received a Cannes Classical Award 2002.