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Harnoncourt, Nikolaus

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Artist: Conductor / Genre: Classical

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      17.04.2001 23:10
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      I owe my interest in early music almost entirely to Harnoncourt. It is difficult to believe that he is over seventy. Today, lovers of baroque music are spoilt for choice. There are numerous period instrument groups, many outstanding, often several recordings of very obscure pieces, and as many approaches to that music as there are performers. This was not the case thirty to forty years ago. Instead of being played on subtle gut strings, and delicate wooden flutes, at historcially informed tempi and pitches, in numbers corresponding to the original performances, what little baroque music that was performed was performed by ensembles and orchestra that also played Mahler, Wagner and Brahms, without any noticable change in approach. Harnoncourt, although there were others like him before him, was the first performer to bring historically accurate performances, brilliant ones at that, to anything approaching mainstream classical audiences. He was responsible for reminding us how staggeringly amazing Bach's cantatas are, embarking on a complete recording of the extant works. I saw him perform at the Proms two summers ago, with his ensemble the Consentus Musicus Wien. What impressed me most, and what continues to impress me in his recordings, was the tight, tight control he exercized over the orchetra (they were playing Haydn). The result was electrifying. For a taste of his skills, I recommend one of the earlier Bach cantata recordings, if possible one featuring Paul Esswood, and his recent recording of Almira by Haydn.

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