The two laureates of 1980, the conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt and the organist and harpsichordist Gustav Leonhardt, were both deeply involved with music of the past, notably with the interpretation and performance of music of the Baroque period. Through the study of old instruments, scores and historical sources they reached a new vision of the interpretation of Baroque music. Their performances became a model for the style of other performers of the music of the 17th and 18th centuries, the Baroque and early-Baroque. Notably the cantatas of J.S. Bach and the musical dramas of Claudio Monteverdi became available to a large audience through their new interpretations.
Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1929-2016) was trained as a cellist in Vienna and was a member of the Wiener Symphoniker. In 1953 he founded his own company ‘Concentus Musicus Wien’. In that period he started collecting Renaissance and Baroques instruments and studying the matter of performing ancient music. Subsequently he devoted himself to conducting and interpreting the work of Bach and Monteverdi and led courses and studies in interpretation. During the years he broadened his scope to the Classic and Romantic composers. Harnoncourt taught his ideas on music for many years as Professor in the Performing Practice at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. Nikolaus Harnoncourt passed away on 5 March 2016.
Gustav Leonhardt (1928-2012) studied the harpsichord, organ and musicology in Basel. As harpsichordist he made his debut in Vienna, where he also started teaching. He was Professor of Harpsichord at the Amsterdam Conservatory and organist of the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam. He was a specialist in the harpsichord work of J.S. Bach, but Mozart sonatas were also on his repertoire. Since 1950 Leonhardt gave concerts all over the world, as a soloist and with his ‘Leonhardt Consort’. He conducted performances of Monteverdi and Rameau opera’s. His recording project of the complete religious Bach cantatas together with Nikolaus Harnoncourt in the years 1971-1990 is world-famous. In 1967 he played the role of Johann Sebastian Bach in Jean-Marie Straub’s film Chronik der Anna Magdalena.
Nikolaus Harnoncourt used his prize money for a facsimile edition of works by Mozart: the violin concerto in A major, KV 219; the Aria for tenor, KV 431; the Aria for soprano, KV 528, and the Piano concerto in F major , KV 459. This edition was produced by Bärenreiter Verlag, Kassel.
Gustav Leonhardt did not allocate the money of his Erasmus Prize to music, but to the Oudezijds 100 Society in Amsterdam. This society in the red light district in the centre of Amsterdam addresses the issue of drug-addicts, prostitutes, refugees and the homeless.
Award Ceremony of Harnoncourt and Leonhardt
Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Gustav Leonhardt received the Erasmus Prize together in 1980.
Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Gustav Leonhardt received the Prize for their role in the interpretation of Baroque musique.