Reinhard Goebel founded Musica Antiqua Köln in 1973. The ensemble devoted itself to playing Baroque music on period instruments, with a particular penchant for playing neglected or overlooked repertoire. Many of their best albums have sold well without featuring music by well-known composers. These releases also appear to have boosted the (posthumous) careers of composers such as Heinichen, with their concerti album from 1993, and the Veracini Overture album from 1994. Goebel has not only shown courage in programming unconventional repertoire, but has also been known to take risks in his approach to relatively well-known works. For instance, his ensemble plays the last movement of Bach's third Brandenburg concerto at a then unrivaled, breakneck tempo. Furthermore, Goebel had sound musicological evidence that the piece should be played that way.
The original core ensemble included Goebel and Hajo Bass on violin, with Eva Bartos on viola da gamba. However, the constituency of the ensemble has changed over the years, with only Goebel remaining constant. Bartos only appears on Musica Antiqua Köln recordings until 1977, and was replaced by Jonathan Cable and Charles Medlam. By 1980, Jaap ter Linden appears most frequently as either cellist or gambist, and by the mid-1980s, he is replaced again by Phoebe Carrai. Goebel's partners on violin have included Hajo Bass, Manfredo Kremer, and Florian Deuter among others. Many players who have left the ensemble have enjoyed spectacular careers afterward, including harpsichordists Andreas Staier and Robert Hill, violinists Hajo Bass and Manfredo Kraemer, as well as Charles Medlam, and ter Linden playing bowed bass instruments, and Wilbert Hazelzet playing flute.
In 1990, Goebel developed tendinitis and was forced to abandon his solo playing career. The last album on which he played as a soloist was his 1990 recording of the Rosenkranz sonatas by Heinrich Biber. After 1990, he continued to direct the ensemble, and eventually returned in a limited capacity by playing his violin left handed. The ensemble continued to tour and record very actively, but their best work came from the period before Goebel injured himself. It disbanded in 2007.