October 07, 2014

Nikolaus Harnoncourt honoured with ECHO Klassik's Lifetime Achievement Award

The pioneering conductor is just a couple of months shy of his 85th birthday and as energetic as ever.

Germany's prestigious classical music awards, ECHO Klassik, today honours the Austrian conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt with its Lifetime Achievement accolade for 2014.

The 84-year-old maestro has been a leading light of the early music revival and historically informed performance movement since he founded the period-instrument ensemble Concentus Musicus Wien as a cellist in 1953. His magnum opus, the complete Bach cantata cycle recorded for Teldec was a pioneering series launched in 1971 with the late harpsichordist Gustav Leonhardt, and completed in 1990. But his expertise ranges from the early Baroque — he made his conducting debut at La Scala in 1970 with Monteverdi's Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria (his sumptuous Monteverdi recordings, available in a new boxed set have lost none of their impact over the decades) — to the Viennese waltzes of Johann Strauss II (reissued in a new 7-CD boxed set); which he performs with a crisp, authentic sound and, he insists, "without the sugar-coating".

"Nikolaus Harnoncourt has granted music a new life through his persistence and inexhaustible diligence, transforming the seemingly 'outmoded' into historically informed performance," said the ECHO Klassik jury. "He has paved the way to an enlightened, less complacent and ever-questioning approach to composers and their works. He enables music-lovers all over the world to hear what has been previously unheard in our time, and inspires in his performers and audiences alike a thoughtful, conscious approach to music."

With his 85th birthday just two months away, Harnoncourt is currently on tour in Germany and Austria with his Concentus Musicus ensemble performing Mozart.