Founded in 1985 in Cologne, Germany, Concerto Köln has released more than 50 CDs, everything from Bach and Vivaldi to operas by Gluck and Mozart. Yet Saturday at Emmanuel Church, the ensemble was making its Boston Early Music Festival debut, with a program of concertos by Handel, Vivaldi, Telemann, and Evaristo Felice dall’Abaco. Why it had not previously played in Boston remained as much a mystery after the concert as before.
The premise behind Concerto Köln is that of “cooperative collaboration”; the group operates without a permanent conductor. But there’s no lack of direction in its Berlin Classics recordings of Bach’s Orchestral Suites and Handel’s “Water Music,” which are kinetic, graceful, transparent in texture, and firm in their dance pulse. At Emmanuel, concertmaster Mayumi Hirasaki cued the proceedings with facial gestures, head shakes, and body movement; eye contact among the 14 performers was evident throughout, making “cooperative collaboration” not just a premise but a rewarding reality.