Sad news: Nikolaus Harnoncourt is dead

The Harnoncourt family has announced the death of the great conductor, cellist and period instruments pioneer at the age of 86.

He retired from performing in December after a period of illness.

‘An exemplary human being’: First appreciation here.

Harnoncourt’s place in music history here.

Harnoncourt and Lang Lang here.

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  • A peerless performer, musician, and advocate for HIP practice has left us. Thankfully, in his case, we are liberally endowed with his recordings for posterity.

    Words cannot suffice to express our gratitude and humility.

  • A great and extraordinary musician. It is Impossible to overstate his influence and invidious to single out any one of his achievements, although (for me) his pioneering recordings of the Bach complete Cantatas, the B minor Mass and the Passions remain peaks amongst so many. He made us all rethink- reevaluate the work of that genius.

    • I would also gladly add his equally pioneering and legendarian Monteverdi cycles with Jean-Pierre Ponnelle and Pet Halmen from Zürich.

  • One of the greats. Not an attention seeker or celebrity conductor – but a genuine musician with deep understanding of traditions and style. Personally, I am grateful for the Beethoven symphony recordings and Schmidt’s Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln. RIP.

  • Lang Lang and Harnoncourt collaborated on two Mozart piano concertos. In a piece in Gramophone, September 2014 Lang Lang said: ‘Nikolaus doesn’t know this, but when I was working with other conductors they all wanted to know what he thought about this or that passage…’

    I’ve always thought that’s a rather fine tribute to him.

  • A wonderful, wonderful musician and a first rate human being. I’m very upset because I’ve seen him so many times in Vienna!!

    Farewell Maestro. I have your books and CDs!!

  • Maravilloso Harnon, explicando, dirigiendo… haciendo música. Un regalo para los oyentes.
    Yo pondría este regalo, esta lección excátedra como obligatoria en los conservatorios.

  • Oh gosh, Tommy, thanks for sharing that! So profound, so moving, so useless. Oh, and if Slipped Disc bores you, why are you here? My advice to you: Oh. Shut. Up.

  • The expression “sad news” has already been used 1,080 times here. Not very creative. I can see why classic music is in decline.

  • In addition to recordings already mentioned, I also love the late 70s Concentus Musicus Vivaldi “Four Seasons” with Alice Harnoncourt. Many original instrument groups claimed to strip away the romantic varnish that dulled baroque music, but that record really did. It was the first time I heard Vivaldi as aggressive, even mean. (Although varnished Vivaldi still has its place.)

  • Wonderful and accomplished man… thank you for a lifetime of music rewards, for your elevation of period instruments and for Idomeneo at StaatsOper.. gift to humanity… jeanne and ted sanders melbourne australia

  • In a recorded rehearsal NH once said to the orchestra: “Bitte glauben Sie mir, gleiche Noten sind der Tod jeder Musik.” To me that puts it in a nutshell what he stood for, and how his musicmaking differed from the mainstream of the times when he began his conducting carreer. I think it is hard to overestimate his influence on the orchestra culture at least in Europe. Anyone who doubts this may just compare recordings of any classical piece before and after NH’s influence. The way orchestras like BPO play Mozart today goes directly back to him. RIP.

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