Sad loss: An early music giant died today

Sad loss: An early music giant died today


norman lebrecht

August 13, 2014

Frans Brüggen, one of the pioneers of the period instrument movement and a leading international conductor, died this morning at the age of 79. He had been intending to celebrate his 80th birthday in October with his Orchestra of the 18th century.

I saw him last a year ago in Warsaw. He looked so frail and emaciated in his wheelchair at breakfast in our hotel that we wondered whether her would be able to perform. But his leadership was unimpaired and the concert was one of those pinpoint performances that last forever in the memory.

Frans started out as a recorder virtuoso, making his first recordings on Philips before forming the ensemble and recording copiously.

He was married to the art historian Machtelt Israëls; they had two daughters. His death was announced by the orchestra.


Red a portrait of Brüggen by Joel Cohen here.

bruggen young


  • David Hutchings says:

    How sad. His Bach was inspired. It certainly inspired me to think of new ways of playing and largely opened me to the idea of period instruments while I used to shriek away badly at those pieces on my modern flute.

  • Sixtus says:

    Back in college I took a Baroque-performance-practice course with him. It was like being plugged into the heart of the European historical-performance movement. What I learned then has formed the basis of my perception of performance practice issues of all musical periods, even the late Romantic, where my main interests are. Such are the effects of a great teacher.

  • Richard Cumming-Bruce says:

    It’s been a particularly bad year for great conductors: Abbado; Burgos; Maazel; now Bruggen. How very sad. I heard Bruggen only a couple of years ago when he looked frail, but got some of the finest performances of a Haydn Symphony (no 93 in D Major) I’ve ever heard. His love for the piece shone through in every gesture, and the woodwind in particular was both precise and inspired.

  • Jan de Jong says:

    A truly great musician is gone. I never heard him playing recorder in concert, but I treasure his recordings. As a conductor he continued to send his breath, from then on into the orchestra. I feel privileged to have attended so many concerts with him, among those my first Hohe Messe.
    If there is one concert that I will never forget, it is the Eroica with the Orchestra of the 18. C.
    May he rest in peace. Condolences to all his musical friends, in the first place those of the Orchestra of the 18 C who lost their founder, chief conductor, coach and friend for more than 30 years.

  • Neil McGowan says:

    An inspirational trail-blazer in every way. He shunned quackery and silly fads – being led always by a relentless desire to make music sound more beautiful and natural in every way. He wasn’t interested in “early music” – he was interested in music.

    It is always sad to lose a seminal figure like Brüggen – but his generous teaching and immense number of recordings leaves a legacy that will long remain to entrance, amaze and galvanise us.