Gustav Leonhardt

Biography

Born: May 30, 1928; Amsterdam, Netherlands   Died: January 16, 2012; Amsterdam, Netherlands  
Though participants in the "authentic performance practice" movement might insist otherwise, the search for the old is really a search for the new. This statement certainly captures the spirit that Dutch keyboardist Gustav Leonhardt began bringing to his early music performances in the 1950s. His style was characterized not by a rigorous observance of rules, but by the intuitive, almost spiritual connection it tried to establish with the music -- Read more a kind of authenticity that sought validation not so much from a rigorously academic accuracy (though Leonhardt is by no means historically careless) as from its having an "authentic" effect on the listener.

Born in Amsterdam in 1928, Leonhardt learned cello and piano before entering the Schola Cantorum in Basel to study organ and harpsichord with Eduard Müller. After graduating in 1950, he undertook a year of musicological studies before accepting a position at the Vienna Academy. Shortly thereafter, he returned to his home town, where he assumed a position at the Amsterdam Conservatory that he would keep for decades thereafter.

His first public performance took place in 1950, when he performed J.S. Bach's The Art of the Fugue for a Viennese audience. This marked the beginning of a legendary and influential career that would take him to performance venues all over the world, setting stylistic and interpretive standards for keyboard music dating from the early 1500s to the late 1700s. His treatment of the works of Couperin, Froberger, and Frescobaldi were pivotal in affecting a shift in Baroque performance practice from the motoric to the malleable.

Beginning in the 1950s, he also established the Leonhardt Consort, a group applying his same performance ideals to chamber works; during his career he also demonstrated great skill in conducting early choral and operatic works. Along the way, he tutored an entire generation of the most vibrant and stylistically varied early music figures, including Christopher Hogwood, Pierre Hantaď, and Ton Koopman.

When Leonhardt speaks of "correct" style, certain parameters are clear, while others leave much to be read between the lines. The use of the proper instrument, for example, is crucial to Leonhardt: one should not play a piece from a particular country and a particular time on an instrument from a different region and century (and of course it goes without saying what problems he might have with playing eighteenth century music on a twentieth century Steinway). His discussion of style, however, is quite flexible -- or at least elusive: "I cannot say it's a secret, but it's almost impossible to describe in words....Essentially, it must be based on a dynamic wish." Though he does consult primary sources to justify his sound -- which falls somewhere between the rubato sound of Landowska and the robotic sound of her immediate successors, he insists that the truest "rules" about the music he plays are to be discovered through the playing itself. Read less

There are 43 Gustav Leonhardt recordings available.

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Formats & Featured

Biography

Born: May 30, 1928; Amsterdam, Netherlands   Died: January 16, 2012; Amsterdam, Netherlands  
Though participants in the "authentic performance practice" movement might insist otherwise, the search for the old is really a search for the new. This statement certainly captures the spirit that Dutch keyboardist Gustav Leonhardt began bringing to his early music performances in the 1950s. His style was characterized not by a rigorous observance of rules, but by the intuitive, almost spiritual connection it tried to establish with the music -- Read more
WORKS ALBUMS
TITLE/COMPOSER
LABEL
Chorus: Angenehmes Wiederau
Recitative: So ziehen wir in diesem Hause hier (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass)
Aria: Willkommen im Heil (Bass)
Recitative: Da heute dir, gepriesner Hennicke (Alto)
Aria: Was die Seele kann ergotzen (Alto)
Recitative: Und wie ich jederzeit bedacht (Bass)
Aria: Ich will dich halten (Bass)
Recitative: Und obwohl sonst der Unbestand (Soprano)
Aria: Eilt, ihr Stunden, wie ihr wollt (Soprano)
Recitative: So recht! ihr seid mir werte Gaste (Tenor)
Aria: So wie ich die Tropfen zolle (Tenor)
Recitative: Drum, angenehmes Wiederau (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass)
Chorus: Angenehmes Wiederau
Vereinigte Zwietracht der wechselnden Saiten (Chorus)
Recitative: Wen treibt ein edler Trieb (Tenor)
Aria: Zieht euren Fuss nur nicht zurucke (Tenor)
Recitative: Dem nur allein soll meine Wohnung offen sein (Soprano, Bass)
Duet: Den soll mein Lorbeer schutzend decken (Soprano, Bass)
Ritornello
Recitative: Es ist kein leeres Wort (Alto)
Aria: Atzet dieses Angedenken (Alto)
Recitative: Ihr Schlafrigen, herbei! (Tenor, Bass, Soprano, Alto)
Kortte lebe, Kortte bluhe! (Chorus)
Bach, JS : Cantata No.127 Herr Jesu Christ, wahr' Mensch und Gott BWV127 : I Chorus - "Herr Jesu Christ, wahr' Mensch und Gott" [Choir]
Bach, JS : Cantata No.127 Herr Jesu Christ, wahr' Mensch und Gott BWV127 : III Aria - "Die Seele ruht in Jesu Händen" [Boy Soprano]
Come ye sons of art, 1694, ode for Queen Mary (excerpts)
Come ye sons of art, 1694, ode for Queen Mary (excerpts)
Duo: D'abord je donne de bons gages
Ariette: Dans mon jeune age
Trio: Quand je songe au bonheur - Quatuor: Ah vous voila mon cher epoux
Duo: Dans mes regards
Sextuor: Pour une femme qu'il est doux
Duo: Amants qui vous plaignez
Ariette: Certain coucou, certain hibou
Finale: O Dieu des arts
Symphony No.5 in B minor Wq182 (H661): Allegretto
Symphony No.5 in B minor Wq182 (H661): Larghetto
Symphony No.5 in B minor Wq182 (H661): Presto
Cello Concerto in A major Wq.172 / H.439 (Cadenzas: Anner Bylsma): I. Allegro
Cello Concerto in A major Wq.172 / H.439 (Cadenzas: Anner Bylsma): II. Largo con sordini, mesto
Cello Concerto in A major Wq.172 / H.439 (Cadenzas: Anner Bylsma): III. Allegro assai
I. Allegro
II. Adagio
III. Allegro


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