Born in Berlin on 6 December 1929 as Johann Nikolaus Graf de la Fontaine und d'Harnoncourt-Unverzagt, the noted musicologist, conductor and early music pioneer Nikolaus Harnoncourt grew up in Graz, studied in Vienna and began his career as a cellist with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, but went on to receive international acclaim for his recordings.
He founded Concentus Musicus of Vienna with his violinist wife Alice, and was an enthusiast for the use of original instruments in early music. From 1971 until 1990 he worked with Gustav Leonhardt on the Teldec Bach cantata project. Later his repertoire widened to include music from the nineteenth century and twentieth century.
He worked with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, the Vienna Philharmonic, Vienna State Opera and the Concertgebouw Orchestra.
Nikolaus Harnoncourt died in Sankt Georgen im Attergau on 5 March 2016, aged eighty-six.
A selection of M&V articles about Nikolaus Harnoncourt
DVD Spotlight. Characteristic Schubert - 'Alfonso und Estrella', appreciated by Robert Anderson. '... splendidly sung and played ...'
Ensemble. Sing ye to the Lord - Roderic Dunnett was at the 2009 Hereford Three Choirs Festival
CD Spotlight. Consistently Solid - Kurt Masur and others conduct Mendelssohn, reviewed by Howard Smith. '... too often short on graciousness, charm or buoyancy.'
Record box. Lightness of interpretation - Harnoncourt conducts Haydn, reviewed by Patric Standford
Symphonies and letters - Tess Crebbin reports on a new release by 'The Archangel', plus other BMG projects
Reminiscent retrospectives - Women in music, with Jennifer Paull