Inspired by Bach : Gustav Leonhardt


"Intet nytt under solen", Bach er og har vært inspirasjonskilde for svært mange skapende mennesker - uavhengig av kunstform og sjanger. Albert Schweitzer mente alt fører til Bach, i forståelsen at Bach var et vendepunkt som alt pekte frem mot før, og alt i ettertid pekte tilbake til. 


Gustav Leonhardt var en nederlandsk dirigent, cembalist og organist. Han grunnla i 1955 Leonhardt-Consort og ble kjent som tolker av Johann Sebastian Bachs musikk. Sammen med Nikolaus Harnoncourt regnes Leonhardt som en av pionerene for historisk oppføringspraksis. Han ble gjesteprofessor ved Harvard University i USA i 1969. Sammen med Harnoncourt gjennomførte han et prosjekt som laget innspillinger av samtlige kantater av Bach.

Den litt lengre:

The Real Story 

By Allan Kozinn, Jan. 17, 2012 The New York Times 

Gustav Leonhardt, the Dutch harpsichordist, organist and conductor who was a pioneer in the world of period instrument performance and research into Baroque performance styles, died on Monday at his home in Amsterdam. He was 83.

The New Church in Amsterdam, where Mr. Leonhardt was organist, announced his death in the newspaper NRC Handelsblad.

Both as a keyboard soloist and as the founder and director of the Leonhardt Consort, Mr. Leonhardt made hundreds of recordings that, along with those of Nikolaus Harnoncourt, August Wenzinger and a handful of others, were the defining discography of the historical performance movement in the 1950s and '60s.

He systematically recorded Bach's keyboard music, sometimes revisiting works like the "Goldberg Variations," which he recorded in 1952, 1965 and 1979.

With his Leonhardt Consort, founded in 1955, he performed a broad selection of the Baroque chamber, orchestral and dramatic repertory, and helped revive works by Rameau, Lully, André Campra and other Baroque composers. But the group's most important project was a collaboration with Mr. Harnoncourt and his Concentus Musicus of Vienna on a complete traversal of Bach's church cantatas for the Telefunken (later Teldec) Das Alte Werke series.

The cycle, started in 1971, took nearly two decades to complete. Installments were released in boxed sets that included full scores of the cantatas. He later recorded Bach's secular cantatas as well, for the Alpha label.

Mr. Leonhardt's wife, Marie Leonhardt, a noted Baroque violinist, was the concertmaster of the Leonhardt Consort. She survives him, along with three daughters and a sister, the fortepianist Trudelies Leonhardt.

Even as the period instrument movement grew and younger performers like Christopher Hogwood, Trevor Pinnock, William Christie, Roger Norrington and Nicholas McGegan established ensembles in Europe and the United States, Mr. Leonhardt remained influential.

Mr. Leonhardt was born in the Netherlands on May 30, 1928. He began his musical studies at the piano when he was 6, and the cello when he was 10. His parents and his brother and sister were avid chamber music players, and when he was a teenager his parents bought a harpsichord for Baroque music performances. Mr. Leonhardt, as the family keyboardist, took up the instrument and made it his specialty.

In 1949 he enrolled at the Schola Cantorum, in Basel, Switzerland, to study organ and harpsichord with Eduard Müller. After a year he moved to Vienna to study conducting and musicology, spending most of his time in libraries, he said, copying musical manuscripts and treatises by hand. He made his debut as a harpsichordist in Vienna in 1950, performing Bach's "Art of the Fugue." He also met Mr. Harnoncourt and began playing with his group.

Leonhardt & Harnoncourt

"Harnoncourt and Leonhardt first met in 1950, in a corridor of the Vienna Music Academy, where Harnoncourt was studying cello with Emanuel Brabec. At the time Leonhardt was known simply as a Dutchman who spoke good German; which was not surprising, as his mother was Austrian, had been brought up in Graz and, oddly, knew Harnoncourt's mother because they had both attended the same school!

Their first conversation was less than auspicious: they argued about Die Kunst der Fuge, which Leonhardt insisted could only be properly played on the harpsichord. Harnoncourt obviously didn't agree, for at that stage he had already spent more than a year learning that piece with his Vienna Gamba Quartet (established in 1949 with Eduard Melkus, Harnoncourt's future wife Alice Hoffelner, and Alfred Altenburger). This difference of opinion was, however, not an obstacle to their becoming close friends.

According to Marie Leonhardt, during those early days Harnoncourt and Leonhardt spent time together almost every day, playing and arguing about music late into the night. Harnoncourt reported that "we played many, many concerts together", until Leonhardt moved permanently to Amsterdam in 1955. Presumably these concerts were in churches and smaller locations in Vienna, as there's no record of Harnoncourt and Leonhardt ever having played together at the Musikverein, where Leonhardt made his solo debut (with Die Kunst der Fuge, on the harpsichord) in the Brahms-Saal on 7 April 1951."

He was soon engaged to teach the harpsichord at conservatories in Vienna and Amsterdam. He commuted between them until 1955, when he gave up the Vienna post. He also taught at Harvard in 1969 and 1970.

Mr. Leonhardt's studio — where he insisted on never having more than five students at a time — produced several important harpsichordists and early-music conductors, among them Mr. Hogwood, Ton Koopman, Bob van Asperen, Alan Curtis, Pierre Hantaï and Skip Sempé.

Arven etter Gustav Leonhardt

Generasjonen som var hans elever - og som har gitt grunnlag for uttrykket

A veritable who's-who of early music excellence

No less important than his work was his teaching: Bob van Asperen, Alan Curtis, Richard Egarr, Pierre Hantaï, Ketil Haugsand, Philippe Herreweghe, Christopher Hogwood, Ton Koopman, Davitt Moroney, Martin Pearlman, Christophe Rousset, Skip Sempé, Andreas Staier are a veritable who's-who of early music excellence.

Mr. Leonhardt began his recording career in Vienna in the 1950s, when American labels like Vanguard's Bach Guild subsidiary, abetted by the strength of the dollar, discovered that the nascent period-instrument world in Vienna, Basel and London made Europe a fountainhead of inexpensive recordings that could feed a growing interest in Baroque music in United States.

Among his first recordings were collaborations with the countertenor Alfred Deller on music by Bach, Purcell, Matthew Locke, John Jenkins and Elizabethans. He also made recordings with his new Leonhardt Consort, at first concentrating on composers like Biber and Scheidt, who were little known then.

"We didn't give many concerts, because the public for such repertoire was still quite small," Mr. Leonhardt said in a 2003 interview with the online magazine "But it was all a revelation to us, and if I listen now to the records we made then, it surprises me that although I can find things to criticize, I find nothing to be ashamed of."

Back in Amsterdam, Mr. Leonhardt was appointed organist of the Waalse Kerk and later the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), both of which have historic instruments. He continued to teach, and he edited the Fantasies and Toccatas of the Dutch Baroque composer Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck for the complete edition of that composer's work, published in 1968.

He also had a brief screen career, portraying Bach in Jean-Marie Straub's "Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach" (1968), a role that did not involve any dialogue but required him to perform, bewigged, in locations where Bach worked. He gave his last public performance on Dec. 12 at the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris.

As a harpsichordist and organist, Mr. Leonhardt pursued a straightforward style in which ornamentation was judicious rather than showy. And although he was dismissive of conducting — he described it as "too easy," because it does not involve the risk of playing or singing a wrong note — he did just that in annual appearances with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra for many years.

He was also the founding music director of the New York Collegium, mainly a figurehead position that required few conducting appearances and petered out after a season or two. Even so, musicians in the orchestra who worked with him described the experience as "life changing." One of them, the cellist Myron Lutzke, said in an interview, that Mr. Leonhardt had a way of "drawing sound from the instruments with a kind of effortless power, and without any of the ego that we're perhaps more used to approaching music with."

A correction was made on Jan. 19, 2012:

An obituary on Wednesday about the harpsichordist, organist and conductor Gustav Leonhardt misspelled several names. One of the musicians who, like Mr. Leonhardt, made influential recordings on period instruments in the 1950s and 1960s was August Wenzinger, not Wenziger. The man with whom he studied organ and harpsichord at the Schola Cantorum in Basel, Switzerland, was Eduard Müller, not Miiller. And one of the churches in Amsterdam where Mr. Leonhardt has been organist is Waalse Kerk, not Waasle Kerk.

Last recital on December 12th 2011

A month ago, on December 12th, Dutch early-music giant Gustav Leonhardt gave his last recital at the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris and all engagements for 2012 were cancelled. Yesterday, on January 16th, he died aged 83. 

Giving in to raucous demand, the exhausted Leonhardt played an encore at his last recital, the 25th Variation from the Goldberg Variations. Now Bach finally gets to meet him. 

Encores until the night becomes a new day