Philippe Herreweghe was born in Ghent and studied the piano at the Conservatory there before going on to study medicine and psychiatry. While still at medical school he founded the Collegium Vocale of Ghent and attracted the attention of Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Gustav Leonhardt who subsequently invited him to collaborate in their recordings of the complete Cantatas of Bach.
In an endeavour to do adequate justice to a repertory ranging from the Renaissance (Ensemble Vocal Européen) to modern and contemporary music, Philippe Herreweghe felt the need to create several ensembles of variable composition with whom he has made nearly sixty recordings for harmonia mundi. In 2000 the Collegium Vocale celebrated 30 years of a career devoted entirely to Bach and his forerunners; together with the Chapelle Royale, whose specialties are French Baroque music and classical and romantic vocal works, this ensemble has frequently collaborated with the Orchestre des Champs-Élysées.
Philippe Herreweghe has appeared as guest conductor of ensembles like the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, the Flanders Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra. He was the Artistic Director of the Saintes Festival from 1982 to 2002. He was named Musical Personality of the Year in 1990, European Musician of the Year in 1991, Cultural Ambassador of Flanders with his Collegium Vocale in 1993. Philippe Herreweghe was awarded the order of Officier des Arts et Lettres in 1994, and named Doctor Honoris Causa of Louvain University in 1997. In 2003 he was appointed Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur, and in October of that same year he was knighted by the King of the Belgians.