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Gustav Leonhardt

4th April at 19,00, Museum of Riga History and Navigation, Hall of Columns

Gustav Leonhardt Gustav Leonhardt

For almost 50 years, Gustav Leonhardt - harpsichordist, organist and, most recently, conductor - has counted among the most respected specialists in both the theory and practice of early music. Acclaimed for his numerous recordings of music ranging from keyboard masterpieces of the early Baroque to Mozart's sonatas, Leonhardt has played a critical role in bringing period-instrument performance into the mainstream of classical music life. Among his recent contributions to the VIVARTE catalogue are a three-CD set of Telemann's Paris Quartets, a collection of works performed on the historic organs of Austria, and a collection of toccatas and suites for harpsichord by Weckman and Froberger.

Gustav Leonhardt made his debut in as a harpsichordist in Vienna in 1950. After studying musicology there, he served as professor of harpsichord at the Academy of Music from 1952 to 1955. He was professor of harpsichord at the Amsterdam Conservatory from 1954. He was also active as a church organist there.

Gustav Leonhardt made his first recordings of solo harpsichord music by Bach in the early 1950's. These quickly established his reputation as an outstanding Bach interpreter. In 1954, with his Leonhardt Baroque Ensemble, he collaborated with the English counter-tenor Alfred Deller in recordings of Bach's Cantata BWV 54 and BWV 170. This early essay in historically aware performance style (HIP) - the ensemble included his wife Marie and Eduard Melkus (violins), Alice Hoffelner (viola), Nikolaus Harnoncourt (cello), and Michel Piguet (oboe) - may be justly considered an important torch-bearer in the new paths soon to be taken in Baroque interpretations. Since then Leonhardt has performed and recorded all the major solo harpsichord music of Bach. He made numerous tours of Europe and North America, mainly appearing as harpsichordist. He also led his own Leonhardt Consort (replacing the Baroque Ensemble) on tours from 1955. An interesting curiosity about Gustav Leonhardt is that he was the main actor in Jean-Marie Straub's movie "Diary of Anna Magdalena Bach" (1967), playing and performing and above all personifying Johann Sebastian Bach.

In addition to his extensive recording activities, Gustav Leonhardt has done much to promote awareness of performance practice issues in the presentation of early music. As professor at the Amsterdam Conservatory since 1954 and as organist at Amsterdam's Nieuwe Kerk, Leonhardt has made the Netherlands a key centre in the period-instrument movement. Indeed, it may be said that Gustav Leonhardt has inspired an entire generation of early music artists, including Bob van Asperen (early keyboards and organ), Barthold Kuijken (transverse flute and recorder), and Anner Bylsma (cello), through his teaching and playing.

His early interest in the organ and harpsichord led Leonhardt to study with Eduard Müller at the Schola Cantorum in Basel. He also studied musicology in Vienna, where he became professor of harpsichord at the Vienna Academy of Music. He was awarded the Erasmus Prize in 1980 and received honorary doctorates from universities in Dallas (1982) and Amsterdam (1983), and also from Harvard University (1991). He published an important study of J.S. Bach's The Art of Fugue and is the editor of the first volume of the Sweelinck Edition (Keyboard Works).

In 1971 Gustav Leonhardt and Harnoncourt jointly undertook a project, completed in 1990, to record all Bach's sacred cantatas. Leonhardt's performances, in which his Leonhardt Consort provided the orchestral nucleus, are elegantly shaped and often more restrained in expression than those of Harnoncourt.

Gustav Leonhardt edited Bach's Die Kunst der Fuge, pieces by Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, and other works.

Born: May 30, 1928 - Graveland (near Hilversum), Holland


Baha muzikas fonds, Hipokrata iela 35-32, LV-1079, Riga, Latvija, talr.: 29208181, e-pasts: