Nikolaus Harnoncourt Announces Retirement

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John F
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Nikolaus Harnoncourt Announces Retirement

Post by John F » Tue Dec 08, 2015 5:04 am

Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Early-Music Pioneer, Announces Retirement
By Michael Cooper
December 7, 2015

The great Austrian conductor and early-music pioneer Nikolaus Harnoncourt announced his retirement this weekend, as he celebrated his 86th birthday. Mr. Harnoncourt — who founded the Concentus Musicus Wien in 1953, teamed up with Gustav Leonhardt to record nearly 200 of Johann Sebastian Bach’s cantatas for Teldec, and became a much-sought-after conductor of later music as well — announced his retirement in a handwritten note, copies of which were placed in the programs at a Concentus Musicus concert in Vienna. “Dear audience,” Mr. Harnoncourt wrote in the letter, which was in German. “My bodily strength requires me to cancel my future plans.”

He wrote of the “unbelievably deep relationship has developed between us on the stage and you in the hall,” added that “we have become a happy community of pioneers,” and urged audiences to remain faithful to that spirit.

Mr. Harnoncourt, who was born in Berlin to an aristocratic family and raised in Graz, Austria, began his career as a cellist. After founding the Concentus Musicus Wien with his wife, Alice, he delved into work with period instruments and Renaissance and Baroque performance traditions. During his long career, he led a famous cycle of Monteverdi operas; developed lasting relationships with the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, and the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras; and played a wide variety of repertoire — including, at the age of 80, Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess.”

He was not afraid to be loquacious in rehearsals, he recalled in a 2003 interview with The New York Times. “When I sat in an orchestra, I always had this great question in my head, Why?” he said. “I think a musician has a right to get an answer to this question.” ... etirement/
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Re: Nikolaus Harnoncourt Announces Retirement

Post by Lance » Tue Dec 08, 2015 2:04 pm

The man has contributed hugely to the world of classical music. I hope he is well enough to enjoy this part of his life. When the body tells one "it is time," then, it is time! I admire him for recognizing this and bowing out gracefully. I have enjoyed many of his recordings.
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Re: Nikolaus Harnoncourt Announces Retirement

Post by IcedNote » Tue Dec 08, 2015 2:25 pm

Sad to see this! Long, great career, though, so how sad can one be for him?

Also...less competition for my new gig now. :mrgreen:

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Re: Nikolaus Harnoncourt Announces Retirement

Post by jbuck919 » Tue Dec 08, 2015 11:32 pm

Although I now think he already over-reached himself with his strange ideas about presenting Beethoven (modern instruments but reduced number of strings), let alone Porgy and Bess, he was an early hero of mine. Frankly, I discovered Bach beyond the keyboard works through his Teldec (then Telefunken) recordings, and they are among the few LPs I still possess, even though they have been issued--without the Bach Gesellschaft scores--on CD, and long surpassed in performance quality by many other groups. Aside from HIP, many people don't realize what a revolutionary idea it was to prepare a complete Bach cantata set, now that there have been so many of them. Prior to his major Bach choral works, there was nothing remotely authentic in an interpretive sense going back to Mendelssohn, though I know that some people still love the Otto Klemperer version of the St. Matthew Passion. (Karl Richter was closer, but still treated this music as a proscenium-stage large chorus oratorio, as do most modern big-concert-hall performances.)

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Re: Nikolaus Harnoncourt Announces Retirement

Post by rogch » Wed Dec 09, 2015 4:28 pm

Not very surprising, but very sad. After i heard the news i listened to some of his recordings again. And they still sound so original and fresh. In some ways he obviously had very clear ideas about what he wanted. But it seems like the orchestras often were inspired when they played for him.

The first time i heard Harnoncourt that i know of was actually a review of his recording of Dvorak's 9th symphony. Until then i could not stand Dvorak and i did not think Harnoncourt had conducted this kind of music at all. But i was very pleasantly surprised, i had never heard that symphony played that way before. And i have had similar experiences with many Harnoncourt recordings. Some of them i like better than others, but the versions are very often inspired and original.

It's remarkable how well some of his old baroque recordings have aged. There are so many excellent modern baroque ensembles, but many of Harnoncourt's pioneer recordings have stood the test of time.

And there are so many good recordings with modern orchestras as well. Actually i like some of the recordings some of the critics hate: Mozart's 40th symphony with the Concertgebouw Orchestra, his Figaro from Salzburg on DVD, his Bruckner 8th, Verdi's Requiem and others. His Dvorak is very popular. His Ma Vlast is more controversial. But i listened to it yesterday and the orchestral sound of the Vienna Philharmonic on that recording is really special.

Not to mention his Divertimento for strings by Bartok with The Chamber Orchestra Of Europe. A spectacular version.
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Re: Nikolaus Harnoncourt Announces Retirement

Post by stenka razin » Wed Dec 09, 2015 8:01 pm

A great music master, who shall be missed.

Mel 8)

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