Nikolaus Harnoncourt

A giant of classical music in the 20th century, Austrian composer and conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt rediscovered some of the great historical compositions and became recognised as a charismatic and highly influential maestro. Born into a wealthy family of Austrian aristocrats, he studied cello at the Vienna Music Academy and played in the Vienna Symphony Orchestra under Herbert Von Karajan, but his interest in the history of classical music led him to form the ensemble Concentus Musicus Wien to perform one of the first operas - Monteverdi's 'L'Ofero'. It started a mission to re-introduce the forgotten pre-Baroque compositions using period instruments, and he went on to become a conductor in 1970 and spend nearly two decades recording Bach's cantatas with harpsichordist Gustav Leonhardt. In the 1980s he staged all of Mozart's operas and his interpretations of Beethoven's symphonies with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe proved highly popular and sold over a million copies. He won the Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance in 2001 for his version of Bach's 'St Matthew Passion' and changed direction by recording Anton Bruckner's 'Symphony No. 9' in 2002 and performing music from George Gershwin's 'Porgy and Bess'. One of his final major projects was to work with Chinese pianist Lang Lang on a performance of Mozart's concertos and sonatas, before his death in 2016 aged 86.

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