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Nikolaus Harnoncourt

From Academic Kids

Nikolaus Harnoncourt or Johann Nicolaus Graf de la Fontaine und dHarnoncourt-Unverzagt, (born December 6, 1929) in Berlin. He is an Austrian conductor, known for his historically accurate performances of music from the classical era and earlier.

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Harnoncourt at the New Year's Concert [1] (http://www.3sat.de/musik/40746/)
in Vienna (Musikverein, January 1, 2003)

Harnoncourt was born in Berlin, was brought up in Graz and studied music in Vienna. His mother Ladislaja Grfin von Meran, Freiin von Brandhoven, was the granddaughter of the styrian Archduke Johann. His father Eberhard de la Fontaine Graf d'Harnoncourt-Unverzagt studied Engineering, to work in Berlin. From his first marriage he had two children. Two years later after Nikolauss birth, his brother Philipp Harnoncourt was born. The family eventually moved to Graz, where the father got a post in the state-government (Landesregierung) of Styria. Nikolaus Harnoncourt founded Concentus Musicus Wien with his wife, Alice Hoffelner, in 1953 while playing cello with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. That group was dedicated to authentic performances on period instruments, and by the 1970s his work with it had made him quite well known.

He subsequently performed with many other orchestras using modern instruments, but still with an eye on historical authenticity in terms of tempi, dynamics and so on. He also expanded his repertoire somewhat, continuing to play the baroque works which had made him famous, but also championing the Viennese operetta repertoire. In recent years, he has made a benchmark recording of the Beethoven symphonies, with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.

In 1971, Harnoncourt started a joint project with the conductor Gustav Leonhardt to record all of Johann Sebastian Bach's cantatas. The project was eventually completed in 1990, and (barring a couple of cantatas, nos. 51 and 199) was the first and only cantata cycle to utilise an all-male choir and soloist roster. In 2001 a critically acclaimed and Grammy Award winning recording of Bach's St. Matthew Passion conducted by Harnoncourt was released, which included the entire score of the piece in Bach's own hand on a CD-ROM.

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