Nikolaus Harnoncourt


Born: December 6, 1929   Died: March 5, 2016  
Perhaps no single musician has ever achieved such high accomplishment across such a broad span of repertory as Nikolaus Harnoncourt. His first professional job was as cellist for the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. Almost immediately, however, Harnoncourt sought to specialize in performing music of the past upon historically correct instruments; he was one of the first professional musicians to do so. Over the course of a stunningly influential Read more career, Harnoncourt gradually worked forward into more modern repertories. His many awards include repeated top recording medals from at least six European countries, and a Grammophone Award for Special Achievement in 1990. His decades of recordings on the Teldec label fully encompass seven centuries of music history.

Harnoncourt considered his own life strongly influenced by an adolescence under the shadow of Nazism. He was born Nikolaus de la Fontaine und d'Harnoncourt in Berlin; his aristocratic family moved south to its ancestral mansion in Graz, Austria. After years of hardship under the Nazi regime, the Harnoncourt family fled to Salzburg in 1945. There he found his calling, and began studying the cello under Paul Grummer. No less a figure than Herbert von Karajan accepted Harnoncourt into the Vienna Symphony in 1952. However, his path was destined elsewhere. While in college, Harnoncourt became fascinated by the original Baroque instruments languishing in antique shops, and wondered why professional musicians didn't use these brilliant artifacts to produce the music of their time.

In 1953, Harnoncourt and his wife Alice founded the Concentus Musicus Wien, the first professional Baroque orchestra. They took players from the symphony, trained collaboratively for four years on early instruments, and exploded onto the European scene in 1957. Their first recording project was the Purcell Viol Fantasias, followed by a series of highly acclaimed recordings of the major works of Bach. In the 1970s, Harnoncourt and Gustav Leonhardt collaborated on a massive recording project of all Bach's cantatas. Meanwhile, Harnoncourt and Concentus Musicus romped through much of the Baroque literature, including Monteverdi's operas, Telemann, Rameau, and Fux. Later, he broadened his repertory to include Haydn and Mozart with Concentus Musicus, as well as masterworks from the nineteenth century operatic and symphonic repertory (including a million-selling cycle of Beethoven symphonies) with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, the Berlin Philharmonic, and the Concertgebouw Orchestra. He taught as professor of performance practice at the Salzburg Mozarteum (1972-1993), and wrote three full-length books on the subject closest to his heart. Read less
The Sound of Martin Luther / Munrow, Harnoncourt, Masur, Hilliard Ensemble
Release Date: 11/04/2016   Label: Warner Classics  
Catalog: 558209   Number of Discs: 2
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Bach: Great Cantatas / Harnoncourt, Concentus Musicus Wien
Release Date: 08/26/2016   Label: Warner Classics  
Catalog: 556696   Number of Discs: 7
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Schubert: The Symphonies / Harnoncourt, Royal Concertgebouw
Release Date: 09/12/2005   Label: Warner Classics  
Catalog: 4623232   Number of Discs: 4
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Johann Strauss: Der Zigeunerbaron / Harnoncourt, Coburn, Schasching, Hamari, Vienna Symphony Orchestra
Release Date: 05/04/2009   Label: Warner Classics  
Catalog: 4691250   Number of Discs: 2
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Mozart: Coronation Mass / Harnoncourt
Release Date: 04/15/2016   Label: Warner Classics  
Catalog: 554602   Number of Discs: 1
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