Inspired by Bach : Nikolaus Harnoncourt

04.07.2024

"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. 

The Godfather of Early Music

"Art isn't a pretty accessory - it's the umbilical cord that connects us with the divine. It insures our humanity"                - Nikolaus Harnoncourt

"Kunst er ikke noe pent tilbehør - det er navlestrengen som forbinder oss med det guddommelige. Det sikrer vår menneskelighet"

Det er liten tvil om at Nikolaus Harnoncourt fint kler tittelen som Gudfar til den tidlige musikken. Han ledet an i det som kalles HIP bevegelsen - kort fortalt: Historically Informed Performance. Hans revolusjonerende endring av fremførelsespraksis var et paradigmeskifte de luxe. Han var ikke alene om dette, men helt klart en frontrunner med en enorm innflytelse på alt som kom i kjølevannet av dette tidsskillet - et før og etter!

I dette bildet hører også hjemme hans forhold til Herbert von Karajan, som var dirigent i tiden hans som cellist i Wiener Symphoniker, og som han var kritisk til som formidler av en faststivnet tradisjon - og i bildet hører også hans opposisjon til Bach- interpreten Karl Richter - og selvsagt og hans sjelsfrende og parhest Gustav Leonhardt i HIP bevegelsen.

Det tok sin tid og sine år - fra og bli utskjelt i det konvensjonelle klassiske miljøet blant europas ledende orkestre - til å bli en elsket gjestedirigent for orkestrene i Berlin, Wien og Amsterdams Concertgebouw. 

Harnoncourt ble en av tidenes store orkesterinterpreter av de store komponistene som Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms og Bruckner - og selv Nyttårskonserten fra Wien står igjen som et av høydepunktene for Harnoncourt som en av de mest respekterte Strauss fortolkere.

Selv er jeg definitivt ingen autografjeger, men under Mozart-jubileet i Salzburg 2006 - lot jeg prinsippene fare og stod som en nerd og ventet på han utenfor konsertsalen - når han kom kjørende ut i sin Mercedes med sin fru og fiolinist Alice ved sin side. Signaturen i programhefte ble sikret etter en av de sjukeste konsertene med Mozarts tre siste symfonier i hendene på The Godfather og Wiener Philharmoniker. 

The proof
The proof

Et kort historisk synopsis

"The venerated maestro, well-known as one of the pioneers of early music and historically informed performances. His was an intellect that was constantly in search of experimentation and just listening to a few minutes any of the dozens of recordings he left behind will be inevitably won over.

His career spanned over 60 years from the time he kicked things off as a cellist, until December 5, 2015 when he officially announced his retirement. He led a number of major orchestras including the Vienna Philharmonic, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, the Concertgebouw Orchestra and his operatic output included major works from Mozart, Monteverdi, Handel and Beethoven. He also has a recording of Verdi's Aida and Gershwin's Porgy and Bess.

The German-born conductor was also rather outspoken, leaving behind tremendous insight on his work and inspiration."

- OperaWire

To me, Shakespeare is very contemporary, and I don't see Michelangelo as an old sculptor. Bach and Monteverdi are not of their own times, but rather universal. But that, of course, applies to only few artists.

- Nikolaus Harnoncourt
For me, security and beauty and not compatible. When you seek beauty, you have to forget security, and you have to go to the rim of catastrophe. There you find the beauty. If a musician makes a mistake, a crack, because he risks everything to get the most beautiful thing and he fails, then I thank him for this failure because it is only with this risk you can get the beauty, the real beauty. The real beauty is not available at all. If you seek security, you should make another profession.

- Nikolaus Harnoncourt

Et lite akademi inn i Harnoncourts kunnskapsformidling -

via case-studiet Brandenburgkonsertene 5 & 6

Harnoncourt & Leonhardt

Das kantatenwerk komplett

J. S. Bach - Das Kantatenwerk is a classical music recording project initiated by the record label of Telefunken in 1971 (the first recordings had been made in December 1970) to record all 193 sacred Bach cantatas. The project was entrusted to Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Gustav Leonhardt. Each conductor had his own instrumental ensemble, based in Austria and the Netherlands respectively.

Semibrevity - A blog about early music pioneers

"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."

Brandenburgkonsert nr. 3

Richter

Karajan

Harnoncourt


Harnoncourt & Richter

Playing Bach, Was He a Pioneer or a Reactionary? Slik lyder overskriften i en stor artikkel i The New York Times fra januar 2021 som setter Karl Richter i perspektiv med en nylig utgitt CD boks med stort sett Bach. Artikkelen fortsetter med dette frasparket under om Harnoncourt og hans musikalske karakterdrap på Richters Bachtolkning.

It was Karl Richter's Bach that pushed Nikolaus Harnoncourt over the edge.

Harnoncourt had founded the pioneering period-instrument Concentus Musicus Wien in 1953. But he was still making a living as a modern-instrument cellist in the Vienna Symphony Orchestra in 1969, when Richter conducted him in the St. Matthew Passion.

"They think they see the Thomaskantor himself at work," Harnoncourt wrote in his diary, fuming at the sleepy, ignorant Vienna audience that idolized Richter and referring to the title Bach once held as the choral cantor and director of music at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig."

They think they see the Thomaskantor himself at work.

"Bach-Richter," Harnoncourt called him - and the name wasn't inappropriate, so fully had Richter become associated with Bach through dozens of recordings as a conductor, harpsichordist and organist, made primarily for the Archiv imprint of Deutsche Grammophon and now brought together in a 100-disc box set.Harnoncourt, who transformed the way generations of later listeners heard Baroque music, could not stand this "profound connoisseur of style," his sarcasm snapping at the work of a man who had himself once been hailed as a revolutionary."

Harnoncourt & Karajan

From An Interview with Nikolaus Harnoncourt

- Norman Lebrecht

"It was Karajan who, in 1952, picked him from 40 aspirants to play in the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. At the audition, with Alice at the piano, he played the first movement of the Dvorak concerto. "I heard later that Karajan said immediately, 'That one – I like the way he sits down. I'll take him.' " They remained on friendly terms until Karajan took command of Berlin, Salzburg and the Vienna State Opera.

"I still don't understand why our relations went bad," he says. "Perhaps it was due to his advisers. Karajan loved to perform Bach, but every time he produced a choral recording it would be compared to mine, not always favourably. I wrote to him once, and got a very nice reply, but it remained impossible for me to work in Salzburg.""

Harnoncourt & Stockholm

Adolf Fredriks kyrka
Adolf Fredriks kyrka

Harnoncourt kastet sitt blikk mot Stockholm og Adolf Fredriks Bachkör & Anders Öhrwall - også kalt "Körwall" - og Eric Ericsons kammarkör. Det ble flere legendariske innspillinger. Ikke minst Bachs motetter med Bachkören og Öhrwall. Adolf Fredriks kyrka ble for egen del et pilegrimsmål for flere konsertbesøk - som en sen natts biltur til Stockholm etter kveldsprøve i Oslo domkor - for å være klar til Bachs h-mollmesse med Öhrwall dagen derpå - en begivenhet vært turen!

Som en parentes, gjestet Oslo Bach Ensemble Adolf Fredriks kyrka - et ensemble som var en glede å ha i mitt utøvende liv noen år. Öhrwall gjestet oss som dirigent for ensemblet i Oslo med blant annet Bachs kantate BWV 106 Actus Tragicus på programmet - en  uforglemmelig prøve og konsert i Oslo domkirke. Slik veves korhistorie på kryss og tvers med internasjonale størrelser som har satt dype spor innenfor Bachs musikalske univers.

Alle de store kordirigentene er nærmest programforpliktet til å gi sine versjoner av Bachs motetter, og det finnes et vell av berømte innspillinger opp gjennom historien. Et tidsskille var da Anders Öhrwall og Bachkören i Stockholm kom med sin innspilling i 1980 sammen med Nikolaus Harnoncourt og Concentus musicus Wien. En slik schwung og et rytmisk fyrverkeri i disse motettene var revolusjonerende. 

Anders Öhrwall - en korlegende

Polar Music Prize - 1994

Trykk på bildet for mer info om Polar Music Prize til Nikolaus Harnoncourt

Nikolaus Harnoncourt ranks today as a pioneer of the revival of interest, during recent decades, in early music performed on authentic instruments. But he is also an independent ground-breaker who is constantly discovering new dimensions of the classics.